Shohei Ohtani has just signed the largest contract in baseball history. 10 years for $700 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While there were other teams in the running, no one was closer to landing Ohtani than the Toronto Blue Jays. Everyone was in a frenzy. Learning that the Japanese superstar was in Florida at the Jays’ spring training facility, tracking a private jet flying from Santa Ana to Toronto, to news breaking that didn’t end up being true, it was so close but still so far for the Canadian club.
But, what would have happened if Ohtani did go there?
Firstly, let’s talk about if they could even have signed him. They had money in the budget for sure, but it was first estimated that whatever club landed Ohtani would need to pay between $500 and $600 million. The Blue Jays have an active total payroll of $128,964,255 for 2024 according to Spotrac. Their total is projected by their calculations to be over $190 billion. All to say, they could have afforded the $700 million that the Dodgers got Ohtani for. They definitely could have signed him, but it appears that staying in California was a bigger draw.
What does Ohtani bring them?
Adding Ohtani to any lineup instantly improves it. Regardless of hitting or pitching, he is a dual threat and has proved that throughout his time with the Angels. While he may not pitch much or at all in 2024 after coming off of elbow surgery, he can fit that designated hitter role and work himself into a rotation with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Blue Jays’ current DH. If he is able to pitch at all next season, he will not only strengthen their mound presence, but help the catchers improve too.
Last season, Ohtani had 151 hits in 497 at-bats and an average of .304. He hit 44 home runs, fourth best in the league. He also had 95 RBIs. Pitching-wise, he threw for 23 games and had 163 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.14. While those might not be his best pitching stats for a season, his batting average would put him as the fifth-best batter last season based on batting average for the Blue Jays and the ninth-best pitcher in terms of ERA.
So, not only does he bring that presence of someone who is so good at baseball it’s scary, but he brings relief to a Blue Jays roster that struggled with leaving players stranded on base. He could have pulled a very capable roster to their full potential. Think of Michael Jordan when he rejoined the Bulls in 1995. They were good, but they could have been better. Once he returned, they went 13-4 and clinched a playoff spot. Incredibly talented players have the potential to bring that drive and competitiveness to any roster they join.
What went wrong?
We won’t know all the details that led to Ohtani’s decision until he talks about it in the ensuing press conference that he alluded to in his Instagram post, but there are some large possibilities. One being that staying in California keeps him close to home geographically. Japan is still almost a 12-hour flight away from Los Angeles, but it’s a lot closer than Toronto would be. The other being that there is hope that his longevity will not be damaged after his elbow surgery. Spending $700 million on anybody (or anything, honestly) is a ginormous risk. What if it doesn’t play out? What if he can’t pitch like he used to? It is a valid concern, and maybe Toronto just didn’t want to leave any doubts on the table when they were thinking of drawing up the contract. They wanted to be confident, and they weren’t sure they could be. That feels like the most logical reason why. The money was there, the roster spot and opportunity were there, but maybe the confidence just wasn’t.