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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Rosenthal: What to do about Shohei Ohtani long-term: A complicated equation for the Angels [$]

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Ohtani’s current two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Angels expires at the end of the season. After that, he will be eligible for a final year of salary arbitration, effectively entering the process as two players, a pitcher and hitter. And after that, he will be eligible for free agency, again qualifying — assuming he stays healthy — as an unprecedented entry in the market, the equivalent of a rock star who simultaneously plays both lead guitar and drums.

The Angels, according to sources, had informal discussions regarding an extension for Ohtani late in spring training with his agent, Nez Balelo of CAA. Club officials expressed an understanding that to sign Ohtani, they would need to award him a record average salary, surpassing Max Scherzer’s $43.3 million. But the Angels, at least at that time, were reluctant to make the kind of long-term offer Ohtani almost certainly would command on the open market, sources said. Ohtani, coming off an MVP season, was at the peak of his value, much like Judge is right now with the Yankees. The talks never gained traction…

Even if Moreno is willing to go all-out for Ohtani, the choice would not simply be his alone. In January, Ohtani indicated to The Athletic’s Sam Blum that he did not want to discuss an extension until his current two-year deal was complete. The closer he gets to free agency, the less willing he might be to entertain such a deal, particularly if the Angels continue to flounder. The team currently is 29-33, 8 1/2 games out of first place in the AL West and 3 1/2 out in the race for the third wild card.

After Ohtani’s final start last season, which the Angels concluded with a 77-85 record, he told reporters, “I really like the team. I love the fans. I love the atmosphere of the team. But more than that, I want to win. That’s the biggest thing for me. So, I’ll leave it at that.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 14, 2022 at 01:21 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, shohei ohtani

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   1. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 14, 2022 at 01:38 PM (#6081681)
It is so difficult to properly value Ohtani ahead of what the free agent market will determine. If he's "only" a position player, who does he compare to? If he was "only" a pitcher, who would he compare to?

How long should a team assume he will perform both roles?

And what is the right value for the amount of revenue simply having Ohtani on your team generates? He is almost certainly the biggest draw in baseball. He is by far the number one guy I hear baseball fans say they want to plan a trip to a stadium to see. He is what MLB wishes some other big stars were (Trout, Judge, etc). He is worth millions just for who he is, and the uniqueness of what he does. Then you add the value in the field, and...well, he may not be the best player in baseball, but he is the most valuable player to a team in baseball from a business perspective.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 14, 2022 at 02:22 PM (#6081695)
I wonder if he'd be open to structuring it so that he gets X amount if he hits, and X+Y if he continues to pitch - incentives for innings pitched.
   3. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: June 14, 2022 at 02:41 PM (#6081703)
That's an idea, although it creates all sorts of perverse incentives. Whether he pitches or not isn't his call, and while you can grieve decisions that are made with the purpose of preventing a player from hitting an incentive, that's a headache and also not guaranteed to work. Also, I wonder if playing time incentives cause players to hide/downplay injuries? Hourly pay sure does (although there you're talking about illness less than injuries).
   4. Walt Davis Posted: June 14, 2022 at 03:23 PM (#6081718)
Wow, it doesn't seem like he's been in the league that long but here we are in season 5. The Angels have gotten a huge bargain to this point.

As a hitter he's good but hardly historic -- if he's pretty much limited to DH then he's JDM. (Ohtani 2018-22: 263/350/529, 137 OPS+; JDM 301/373/549, 141 OPS+) So that puts him somewhere in the $25 M range and he'll be turning 29.

Pitcher comps I'm struggling wiht a bit. Of course it depends on how many starts you can expect him to make while also DHing. The Angels haven't pushed it which made me think of Kershaw in his current form, making 20-25 starts a year. That might not be too bad of a comp if we use FIP (3.53 Ohtani, 3.41 Kershaw the last few years). Kershaw currently is getting 1/$17 but Ohtani is a better bet to stay healthy and the $17 is something of a bargain. Patrick Corbin was the next guy who came to mind though.

But as awesome as Ohtani is, he's not THAT valuable so far. He's got 17 career combined WAR; about 4 WAR/650 as a hitter, about 3 WAR/25 starts as a pitcher so, if you get a full-ish season out of him, it's about 7 WAR. Obviously that's outstanding, it's Aaron Judge, it's Mookie ... but it's not Trout, Bonds, prime Pujols. How well will the pitching bit age? Almost nobody signs pitchers for 10 years.

#2 is an interesting idea. We have seen reliever contracts that have a "get paid a lot more if you become the closer" clause so there's some precedent. You'd still have to guarantee some years as a pitcher I assume -- so say you sign him for 8 years with the first 4 in the $35-40 AAV range and the next 4 in the $25 range (or it's long-term equivalent) with bonuses for GS. (That would take him through 36, tack on a 9th year if you need to.)

For those who think I'm underselling (and I might be), remember that this is largely signing a DH to a 8+ year contract and nobody does that. And it's signing a pitcher with just 45 career starts who missed all of 2019 (as a pitcher) to a 4+ year contract and that's not very common either. Obviously if he maks it through the rest of this year and next fully healthy and effective as a pitcher then those numbers go up.

Also don't get me wrong -- a 7-WAR player "should" be getting probably $50+ M per year. But none of them actually are or anything particularly close to it. Maybe Bauer and Scherzer have broken that barrier, maybe they haven't; maybe Judge will shatter it for hitters. But it's not clear to me that there's any reason to expect Ohtani in ages 29+ to out-produce say Mookie 29+ or what Correa was projected to do. As long as he's a good pitcher, Ohtani might be more valuable than Mookie at the same age but, once the arm goes, his value drops in half. And that equivalence to Judge et al is based on the idea that doing both has little effect on the chances of "full" seasons as a hitter and 25 starts a year.
   5. Nasty Nate Posted: June 14, 2022 at 03:37 PM (#6081722)
If an injury caused him to stop pitching permanently, how likely is it that he would play outfield? (Assuming if possible that the injury didn't prevent him from doing so.)
   6. Walt Davis Posted: June 14, 2022 at 03:45 PM (#6081724)
#3: I meant to add you can address those sorts of issues with either opt-outs or vesting options. So in my proposed 8 year deal: (a) an opt-out after year 4 so if he's still healthy as a pitcher, he can leverage that into a new 2-way player deal; (b) every season with 20+ GS gets him another guaranteed pitcher year ... so if he has that in year 1 then year 5 salary increases; etc.

But also, these incentives to limit playing time have been around for a long time and it's one area where teams have nearly always avoided screwing over the player, either continuing to trot them out there or paying them out anyway. It would be a one-time savings for any team -- nobody's gonna sign such a deal with them again if they were to screw over somebody as high profile as Ohtani. If anything, if Ohtani really is a major ticket draw, the Angels will want to trot him out to the mound as often as possible.

Plus I don't knoe if there's any way to avoid some sort of clause. Especially if he does want the super-big AAV -- nobody's gonna give him a guaranteed 10/$450, he's gonna have to take some sort of half-and-half contract that has options/incentives to take it to 10/$450 or sign for much less money without options/incentives.

Finally, it doesn't seem Ohtani himself would get worked up about this stuff. He clearly wasn't prioritizing the financial side in coming over here. I suppose the projections weren't that rosy after 2020 when he signed his 2/$8.5 M mini-buyout but imagine how big his arb salary would have been this year if he hadn't signed that deal. It will be interesting to see what the deal is next year.
   7. BDC Posted: June 14, 2022 at 04:24 PM (#6081733)
We have seen reliever contracts that have a "get paid a lot more if you become the closer" clause

I was wondering in some other thread about Ohtani becoming a closer at some point, if that was the best way to get the most from his arm. (Pure speculation.). It would certainly be interesting. You would lose the DH once he took the mound, but he'd either save the game in which case who cares, or blow the save and (in some circumstances) get a chance in the next half-inning to get the W for himself with his bat.

Although … the first inning has not been great for Ohtani as a starting pitcher. He has a 5.77 career ERA in first innings, giving up 9 HR in 45 starts (four of those HR this season). So maybe he's not best cut out for single-inning appearances.

All very improbable I guess, but it's Ohtani so probability went out the window long ago :)
   8. Walt Davis Posted: June 14, 2022 at 05:03 PM (#6081740)
If an injury caused him to stop pitching permanently, how likely is it that he would play outfield?

Not good I'd say. He's a very athletic guy so I'm sure the skill is there right now. But to this point he has played the OF for only 8 innings with no starts. So if his arm fell off tomorrow then sure. If it falls off at 31 then there's not much value in sending a newbie out to a corner OF spot and hoping he can be average out there after a season or two at which point the speed is probably in decline anyway. Adding LF to his value set at 32 is not really gonna move the value needle much. (But sure, continuing the JDM analogy and adding Nelson Cruz to the mix, giving him 20-30 starts a year out there in his early 30s ain't gonna kill you and adds some roster flexibility.)

Of course he's Ohtani, the very special boy, so he can probably be Larry Walker in RF if he puts his mind to it.

EDIT: I always forget that Ohtani is RHP, I keep thinking LHB so LHP. That's why Kershaw and Corbin sprang to mind as pitching comps. I'm not sure it matters for comp reasons.
   9. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 14, 2022 at 05:07 PM (#6081742)
Finally, it doesn't seem Ohtani himself would get worked up about this stuff. He clearly wasn't prioritizing the financial side in coming over here.
Having now overcome much of the skepticism about his ability to handle both aspects of being a two-way player, Ohtani may not see a need to give anyone a discount. Five years experience may also affect his view on how much location matters in his selection of a team.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: June 14, 2022 at 05:46 PM (#6081748)
Back to money ... Freeman might be another decent hitting comp. From 23-27, he had a 147 OPS+ (10 points better than Ohtani) and 4.8 WAR/650 (about 1 win better, about half of that would be DH vs 1B positional adjustment). Freeman maintained that from 28-31. He got 6/$162 ($27 AAV) taking him through age 37 and that's at .5-1 win better than Ohtani the hitter. That's basically the same as the JDM comp -- Ohtani the hitter in his early 30s should probably get about the 2027 equivalent of $20-25 M today.
   11. The Duke Posted: June 14, 2022 at 06:36 PM (#6081757)
I'd just ride out the arb years and see where you are.
   12. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: June 14, 2022 at 07:28 PM (#6081771)
I was wondering in some other thread about Ohtani becoming a closer at some point, if that was the best way to get the most from his arm. (Pure speculation.). It would certainly be interesting. You would lose the DH once he took the mound, but he'd either save the game in which case who cares, or blow the save and (in some circumstances) get a chance in the next half-inning to get the W for himself with his bat.


That would be dicey to manage. Suppose he is on base when the 8th inning ends, or makes the last out? No time to get warmed up for the 9th.
   13. Karl from NY Posted: June 15, 2022 at 05:38 PM (#6081985)
Also don't get me wrong -- a 7-WAR player "should" be getting probably $50+ M per year.


Revenue sharing is why this doesn't happen. A 7-WAR player probably earns the team about $50M in revenue, but they only keep $30M after revenue sharing, so therefore that's what they offer that player.
   14. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 15, 2022 at 05:54 PM (#6081988)
Five years experience may also affect his view on how much location matters in his selection of a team.


Well if you are going purely on location, then he's pretty much in the best spot if you like nice weather. You can't really go past SoCal for year around good weather.

Now as for putting a playoff team together, he might want to consider moving 30 miles up the 5.
   15. Adam Starblind Posted: June 16, 2022 at 09:22 AM (#6082116)

That would be dicey to manage. Suppose he is on base when the 8th inning ends, or makes the last out? No time to get warmed up for the 9th.


You could use a different reliever under those circumstances.

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