Shohei Ohtani seems poised to make a decision soon, and the Chicago Cubs are one of the finalists to be his next team. Ohtani is the biggest name on the free agent market and will demand a lot of money. The two-time MVP has been linked to a few teams since the season has come to an end. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Ohtani sweepstakes are down to just four teams (subscription required). The Cubs seem ready to write a blank check as they are one of the finalists.
Ohtani has won two of the last three American League MVP awards and sandwiched a second-place finish between those. The two-way All-Star is coming off a season in which he homered 44 times in 135 games. In his career at the plate, Ohtani has 171 home runs along with 437 RBI and a .274 batting average. Even more impressive about the Japanese import is his career .922 OPS. In his six seasons at the plate, Ohtani has accumulated a 19.4 WAR.
The right-hander has a career 3.01 ERA and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings on the mound. Opposing batters are hitting just .200 off Ohtani through his first six seasons in the MLB, and his career WAR on the rise is an impressive 15.1. He has gone through a few injuries, but his impact on the mound should not be overlooked.
Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays and Angels are among the teams still bidding on Shohei Ohtani while the Mets, Rangers and Red Sox have turned their attention to other players, per @JeffPassan pic.twitter.com/yHOYR8qRI3
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) December 1, 2023
What Kind of Contract Will Ohtani Receive?
As mentioned, Ohtani is going to earn himself a massive payday. In the article mentioned earlier by Jeff Passan, it was reported that Ohtani could reach almost $600 million in total. Few teams can afford that contract, so only four remain on the list. The Cubs have to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, and Toronto Blue Jays for the right to have Ohtani play for them. However, the Cubs have money to spend. The luxury tax threshold for 2024 sits at $237 million, and Ohtani will take a big chunk of that. According to Spotrac, the Cubs are on the books for a projected $177,454,972.
Can the Cubs Afford It?
Assuming Ohtani wants a long-term deal, he could sign for around ten years. He will turn 30 during the season, so a deal into his 40s is definitely on the table. Giving him a deal between $550 million and $600 million would mean an AAV of $55-$60 million. Now, that could all change with deferred payments and even a longer deal, but for the sake of argument, let’s settle for a straight $55 million AAV deal. If that is the case for Chicago, they would have a total of $232,454,972 in payroll for the 2024 season. They would then have less than $5 million to go out and get some pieces to fill other needs without going over the luxury tax threshold.
The short answer is yes, the Cubs can afford the contract. Ohtani will most likely have deferred payments to take the load off each season, so there is affordability. The only question is whether or not the Cubs are willing to spend that much on one player.
Ohtani Injury Concerns
Ohtani is a generational player; Nobody is arguing that. However, some injury concerns come along with him. Ohtani has had a few injuries in his career. The end of 2018 saw Ohtani get His first Tommy John surgery. First being the keyword there. His second Tommy John surgery came this past season. The good news is Ohtani should be cleared to hit on opening day in 2024, the same way he was able to hit in 2019. His bat is incredibly valuable, but his two-way status is what earns him the massive contract. The elbow injuries are a big concern for a pitcher, and there is reason for concern when someone gets two surgeries.
Ohtani had to end his 2019 season early with knee surgery, too. His problem was a congenital issue as he was born with two kneecaps, so that was something he could not control at all. The good news is that it has not been an issue since the surgery, so there should not be much concern for another knee surgery. However, teams will have to keep it in the back of their minds.
Why the Cubs and Ohtani Are a Match
The Cubs have what it takes to land the superstar. Ohtani is a fit for every team. If Chicago wants to become immediate contenders and build off their 2023 season, signing Ohtani is an easy way to do that. Ohtani does want to play for a contender, so the Cubs will need to make an extra move or two as they have more needs to fill. With all that said, it seems like the Cubs are more than willing to break the bank to sign Ohtani.