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Shohei Ohtani has ‘earned the right’ to ‘explore free agency,’ his agent says

Shohei Ohtani
via MLB

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    Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani’s agent recently revealed he might explore the free agent market once his contract expires after the current season.

    Speaking to reporters on Monday, Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, hinted that while his client is open to exploring the free agent market after his contract with the Angels expires, they are still willing to negotiate, such as extending Ohtani’s stay on the team for spring training.

    I’ve always been open to it,” Balelo told reporters, referring to the extension, “But there’s several layers to this one, and Shohei’s earned the right to play through the year, explore free agency, and we’ll see where it shakes out.”

    When asked to clarify his statement regarding if the 28-year-old MLB superstar’s spring training deal with the Angels was unlikely, Balelo told reporters, “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – we’re taking one day at a time. I’m not putting the cart before the horse on this one.”

    Balelo also addressed recurring questions regarding Ohtani’s future, such as “what does he wanna do, where’s he gonna go, all of it.” He reiterated: “I’ve said this so many times and Shohei has said it as well – we really take it day by day, one day at a time.”

    The Angels’ two-way star is currently signed with the Los Angeles team for the 2023 season for $30 million, the highest one-year contract an arbitration-eligible player has ever signed.

    Since Ohtani would only be playing for the Los Angeles Angels for one more season, many sports media outlets are predicting that the Japanese-born player will receive a deal worth $400 to $500 million, or possibly even more.

    Speaking to Forbes, former Miami Marlins President David Samson speculated that, if he were an executive of a team, he would dedicate more of a team’s payroll toward a player as high of a caliber as Ohtani, especially since the MLB star excels both as a pitcher and batter, to keep him off the free agent market.

    I am going to do the math calculation and figure out the amount of sponsorship dollars we’re going to lose by not having Ohtani on the team. Then I’m going to calculate what I believe to be the attendance that (Ohtani) drives, so I can put a number to that. I’ll talk to baseball people about an allocation of payroll, where, if we’re at a $200 million payroll, can we pay him $50 million of it?

    Samson described Ohtani as a “top-of-the-rotation starter and a middle-of-the-order bat,” and argued that he should be considered equivalent to two players when it comes to his payroll.

    It’s very hard to win when one player is 20% of the payroll, but I get to count Ohtani as two players. Two $25 million players on a $200 million payroll team is perfectly reasonable. Listen, if (Mets pitchers) Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are worth $43 million (per year each), then Shohei Ohtani is worth $50 million. It’s not even close.

    Several potential teams for Ohtani to play with next have already popped up if he does enter the free-agent market after this season.

    Some of the teams that could likely pick up Ohtani include the San Francisco Giants, the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the latter of which has come up on several reports in the past few weeks.

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