If you've followed my coverage of Cardinals baseball at all, you probably knew this one was coming. But I promise, I still have good reasons for this. After seeing that Shohei Ohtani had signed for 10 years, $700 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers, I was stunned and completely fine that the Cardinals had not given him such a ridiculous number.
However, once more details about Ohtani's contract were revealed, I realized Ohtani's contract with the Dodgers might actually be a bargain rather than a complete overpay. With the $680 million that Ohtani deferred until 2034 and beyond, the present value of his contract is much less than initially thought. According to the MLB Commissioner's office, it's only worth around $460 million a year, which is the number that will be used to calculate the Dodgers' inevitable luxury tax penalties.
If we value Ohtani's contract at $460 million, which is what it's worth in present-day money, we see a much more reasonable contract number, one that the Cardinals could certainly afford. In fact, the reported $500 million that the Chicago Cubs offered was even more than the Dodgers' offer (Thank you Shohei for not even meeting with the Cubs, all of Cardinal Nation appreciates that).
Now, let's split Ohtani into two players, the hitter and the pitcher. After all, this is the only way to gauge the value of his contract. If Ohtani the hitter were making Bryce Harper's AAV of $26 million a year, he'd sign a 10-year $260 million deal. Harper's deal is viewed as a massive bargain today, but Ohtani's value as a hitter even exceeds Harper's. Looking at Harper's first 6 seasons in Washington, he recorded a 140 OPS+, while Ohtani recorded a 148 OPS+ in his run with Anaheim (one which included an abysmal 2020 season where he only batted .190). Ohtani improved drastically throughout his Angels run while Harper was fairly consistent. Both players also exhibit similar defensive inflexibility as Harper is now restricted to first base and DH while Ohtani is a pure DH when not on the mound.
This leaves Ohtani the pitcher at 10-years, $200 million. He won't pitch next season due to his UCL reconstruction surgery, so for the sake of this argument let's say 9-years $200 million. At an AAV of just over $22 million a year, that's again less annually than the Cardinals are paying Sonny Gray, and for Ohtani's track record as one of the top starters in all of MLB, again an absolute steal.
Sure, the Cardinals wouldn't have bolstered their 2024 rotation by adding him, but when it comes to a once-in-a-generation talent like Shohei Ohtani, exceptions can be made. I haven't even taken into account the business benefits Ohtani will bring to the Dodgers. In one fell swoop, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed one of the most talented baseball players ever for 10 years of potential championship runs, won over the hearts of baseball fans in Japan, and did it at an affordable price. Of course, any Major League team should be envious, including the Cardinals