Shohei Ohtani's contract should be a wake-up call for Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr.

Shohei Ohtani just signed a record-breaking deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mark Walter's benevolence should put the other owners to shame.
World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan
World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan / Eric Espada/GettyImages

Mark Walter, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, didn't care how much Shohei Ohtani cost him. He saw the prospective incomes that Ohtani brings a team through his international stardom. Asian networks, reporters, and advertisers will line up by the dozens to connect with the Los Angeles Dodgers' marketing group.

Rather than saving his money and resting on his billions, Walter took a leap and paid Shohei his worth. This contract, however unprecedented it may be, will set the future market. We won't see another Shohei Ohtani for years to come, but we will see players the caliber of Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Jacob DeGrom every so often.

Ohtani's on-field value is relatively easy to measure. In 2023 alone, Ohtani accumulated 10.0 bWAR. Each win above replacement is valued at approximately $10-$12 million, depending on the outlet you choose to value players. While Ohtani won't be able to pitch in 2024, he will still likely surpass 6.0 bWAR as a hitter alone. Therefore, he was paid a fair value with his contract based solely on his on-field performance.

The complicated aspect of Ohtani's value is what he brings a team in advertising and merchandising. Those two items alone could surpass $1 billion during the course of Ohtani's contract. Mark Walter, while he may be spending about $50 million a year to Ohtani due to heavy deferments, will make his money and then some in exchange for his generous offer to the world's best baseball player.

The Dodgers are paying Shohei more money on an average annual value each year than eight owners are paying for their entire teams in 2024. Also, Ohtani's ten-year, $700 million contract is worth more than the Oakland Athletics have spent on payroll in the past ten years cumulatively. The financial fun facts regarding Ohtani's contract could go on, but these facts alone show how mind-boggling his contract was.

Other owners across baseball should be put to shame after seeing the reports on Ohtani's contract.

Bill DeWitt and Co. should spend more money

During the Major League Lockout, the Los Angeles Times published a report on the MLB owners. In the article written by Mike DiGiovanna, he discussed who the owners were, the valuations of their franchises at that moment, and how the owners became the billionaires that they were.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' owner, Mark Walter, has a net worth of $3.4 billion as of 2020. He bought the Dodgers in 2012 for $2.15 billion, and as of 2020, the Dodgers were valued at $3.6 billion as a franchise. Walter is the CEO at Guggenheim Partners, a global financial firm based out of New York.

Bill DeWitt Jr. has been the owner of the Cardinals since 1996 when he bought the franchise from the Anheuser Busch family. He and his family are the primary owners, and Bill DeWitt III has become a more public face in recent years. DeWitt Jr. has a net worth of $4 billion, and the Cardinals are valued at $2.2 billion. The franchise's value increased by 1,369% from 1995 to 2020. However, most of DeWitt's money has come from his ownership of sixty-three Arby's franchises and his ownership of an investment firm.

DeWitt's net worth, while it isn't liquid cash, still sits 15% greater than the Dodgers' owner, Mark Walter. The fact that the Cardinals have spent a mere fraction of what the Dodgers have this offseason is laughable. Bill DeWitt Jr. should be willing to spend significantly more money this offseason, even pushing past the $200 million mark that for some reason appears to be a brick wall for Cardinals' ownership.

The first luxury tax threshold doesn't hit until a team reaches $237 million in payroll. The Cardinals, based on current estimates, aren't even spending $170 million next year. The team needs another high-end starting pitcher and probably a high-leverage reliever, and both of those players will cost tens of millions of dollars alone. The fact that DeWitt and St. Louis's ownership group isn't willing to open their wallets a little more speaks volumes.

Mark Walter is willing to spend more money than eight individual owners next year on one player alone. Meanwhile, the DeWitts are holding John Mozeliak back in free agency this offseason. Bill DeWitt Jr. and Bill DeWitt III should take a page out of Mark Walter's book and invest their own capital heavily in a team that has a rabid and loyal fanbase. The Cardinals haven't been truly competitive since 2015, and the fans deserve more from the owners of their favorite team.