Updated: Oct 8
Stephen A. Smith, known for his knack for stirring the pot, really got baseball fans going when he said Shohei Ohtani (LAA) doesn't deserve a massive $500 million dollar contract. The ESPN host, often criticized for his lack of baseball knowledge, faced some serious backlash for his commentary on the Los Angeles Angels superstar.
Smith went on a rant about Ohtani during a recent First Take episode, saying, "I don't want to hear any discussions about him (Ohtani) getting half a billion dollars…the fact is he can't pitch until 2025…you look at the Dodgers, you look at the Braves…when you look at various other teams, they've got nobody on their roster making 500 million dollars." Despite fans losing it over Smith's opinion on social media, I've got to admit, I'm on the same page – Shohei Ohtani isn't worth half a billion dollars.
There is an epidemic in the baseball market of Class A free agents being offered record-breaking long-term contracts. The adrenaline rush waking up around the holidays and seeing your favorite team locking a superstar to a 10-year contract worth around 250-300 million. Then reality hits when the season begins when that player underperforms, gets injured, and misses a season or two leaving fans disappointed. The worst part is, that player is getting paid a fortune while the fans are suffering.
There are several players such as Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, and Giancarlo Stanton that became a liability to their current teams.
Ohtani is definitely a spectacle for modern baseball fans. It's been ages since we've seen a player, maybe since Babe Ruth, put up such killer stats both at the plate and on the mound. Hitting over 30 home runs and striking out 200 hitters in a season? That's just mind-blowing and hasn't happened in a century. And let's not forget his 2023 American League MVP campaign, where he led the league with a whopping 44 home runs.
However, a recent second Tommy John surgery has raised legitimate concerns, potentially limiting his pitching career and positioning him predominantly as a designated hitter. Any team willing to offer such a significant contract for Ohtani must carefully evaluate him primarily as a pitcher.
Looking back at Jacob deGrom, who secured a 5-year, 185-million-dollar contract with the Texas Rangers during the 2022 offseason. Let's switch gears and talk about a similar situation involving starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (TEX).
This ace pitcher secured a 5-year, 185-million-dollar contract with the Texas Rangers during the 2022 offseason. Now, despite deGrom's recurring health woes, the Rangers still went all in and signed him for a massive deal. Drawing a parallel, if we look at a potential situation for Ohtani, wouldn't it be smart to carefully evaluate the player’s risk rather than hand him half a billion dollars?
Personally, I don’t think baseball players are worth half a billion dollars. It’s turned into a novelty that the value of major league players is becoming worth more than their potential on the field. When healthy, Ohtani’s talent would make a great piece for a winning ball club like the Dodgers or the Braves - but the piece isn’t the whole pitcher.
This isn’t the NBA where signing stars like Lebron James or Stephen Curry to long-term deals will guarantee a championship team. There are 26 players on an active Major League Roster. Spending half a billion dollars on only one player won’t guarantee a winning team.
Shohei Ohtani becomes a free agent following the 2023 MLB Season, which teams do you think he’ll be a right fit for?