Braves: Shohei Ohtani’s market will not be deterred by injury

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Despite suffering a torn UCL and undergoing Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career, it does not appear it will affect the enormous mountain of cash Shohei Ohtani is set to receive this offseason.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the bidding for Ohtani’s services is still expected to eclipse $500 million, and some sources even believe it could reach $600 million.

“The Ohtani extravaganza is barreling toward the finish line, and when he finally agrees to a deal, the number, sources said, will surge well beyond $500 million,” Passan writes. “One source said he believes Ohtani will receive a contract for at least $550 million. Another said the bidding could reach $600 million. Regardless of where it lands, it will shatter the record for the largest guarantee in North American sports history: the $426.5 million the Los Angeles Angels gave to Ohtani’s teammate, Mike Trout.”

There are a couple of reasons this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

First, Shohei Ohtani has the potential of being the best player to ever play the game if he can resume his pitching career once he recovers from injury. Tommy John surgery is certainly nothing to scoff at, especially given it is his second one, but with strides in modern medicine, we’ve seen guys come back even stronger after the proper time off.

Secondly, and perhaps even more notably, is the impact Ohtani will have financially on the club that signs him. I’ve talked about this topic profusely dating back to last year. Ohtani is like his own economy. He brings an entire country of fans with him, and whoever signs him will reap the benefits. Whether Ohtani lives up to the contract he inks on the field is irrelevant; the club is set to make gobs of gash just from having him around, something Ken Rosenthal discusses in his latest piece for The Athletic.

“Ohtani, 29, is more than that, a cultural phenomenon who transcends the game, the sport’s version of Taylor Swift, or at the very least, Lionel Messi,” Rosenthal writes “Maybe his free agency is all just a ruse, a leverage play to extract the most money out of the team of his choice — say, the Dodgers. But every team involved in the bidding surely envisions the two-way Japanese superstar triggering a marketing bonanza, a transformational opportunity for its brand. With Ohtani’s pitching future unknown, the business aspect will be at least part of the reason he likely commands a record-setting deal.”

So, how does this tie into the Braves?

This is a point that fans in Braves Country must understand. Going after a superstar like Shohei Ohtani isn’t up to Alex Anthopoulos. If it were, he’d already be in Atlanta. Anthopoulos is given a budget, and he operates within it to put the Braves in the best position to win a World Series.

Typically, that budget wouldn’t be large enough to fit in the type of contract Ohtani will demand. However, this quote from a league source in Rosenthal’s article is extremely important.

“This guy’s economic impact is amazing,” said one league source, who was granted anonymity in exchange for his candor. “Sophisticated billionaires who run these teams understand that they’re going to get a great ROI (return on investment) regardless.”

Liberty Media has done a much better job of giving the Braves the resources necessary to win, but make no mistake about it, their chief concern has always been the bottom line. A lot of mega free agents that hit the market could potentially diminish the club’s value, but not Ohtani. He would make the Braves a global brand for years to come, in the same breath as clubs like the Yankees and Dodgers. That’s the kind of impact he could have, and for a company that’s all about making money, that has to be extremely intriguing to ownership.

Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

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