You could argue the “Generational Talent” label gets thrown around a bit too liberally by sports fans who have a tendency to bestow it upon multiple players who decidedly belong to the same generation.
However, it’s hard to think of many people who’ve earned that moniker quite like Shohei Ohtani.
It would almost be disrespectful to describe Ohtani as a “generational talent” based on what he’s been able to achieve since making his MLB debut with the Angels in 2017; “lifetime talent” is probably the more accurate term to deploy when it comes to summing up the essence of the Japanese superstar.
It’s not a stretch to suggest the baseball world hasn’t seen a player like Ohtani since the days of Babe Ruth (another two-way player who could more than hold his own on the mound and in the batter’s box).
There’s really no use in comparing two guys who played baseball more than a century apart, but you could make the case that the 28-year-old ace and formidable hitter who unanimously won American League MVP Honors in 2021 has the potential to surpass the legacy of The Great Bambino when everything is said and done.
That might sound hyperbolic, but if you’ve been keeping tabs on the Angels phenom, you’re likely aware the last thing you want to do is underestimate his abilities; Ohtani possesses the kind of talent that makes you think “There’s no way he’ll be able to top that” on a virtually weekly basis only to go on to outdo himself yet again.
Ohtani’s contract with Los Angeles is set to expire at the end of 2023, and while there’s a slim chance the franchise manages to sign him to a new deal before he enters free agency, we’ll likely be treated to an unprecedented bidding war when everything is said and done—and the winner will probably get a bargain regardless of the outcome.
Why Shohei Ohtani deserves the biggest contract in MLB history (and then some)
In 2019, Ohtani’s teammate (and his WBC strikeout victim) Mike Trout inked what was then the largest contract in the history of professional sports when he firmed up a deal that will pay him more than $35 million a year over the course of ten seasons.
That signing transpired a couple of years before Ohtani’s breakout campaign in 2021, and based on his standout performance at the plate and on the mound, the Angels (who’ve largely failed to take advantage of the dynamic duo at their disposal), will have to shell out much, much more than that to retain his services.
It’s somewhat difficult to predict what Ohtani will demand if he becomes a free agent, but there’s plenty of speculation he could easily end up with a contract worth north of $500 million when everything is said and done.
It’s certainly nothing to scoff at, but that hefty some could still be an outright steal when you consider the MLB team that secures Ohtani’s services is theoretically signing two of the best players in the league for the price of one; it’s one thing to get you a man that does both, but it’s another to get one who does both of those things better than most of his peers.
Based on his current trajectory, it seems like the only real risk that comes with signing Ohtani to a long-term deal is the risk of injuries derailing his career.
It’s fair to wonder if the wear-and-tear that comes with his two-way role will catch up to him (especially when you consider he played four seasons in Japan before taking his talents to the MLB), and there are plenty of cautionary tales concerning baseball teams that ultimately regretted their decision to go all-in on a superstar (looking at you, Bobby Bonilla).
As a result, any team that pays Ohtani the record-breaking sum he’s destined to receive is taking a calculated risk—but it seems like it’s one that has the potential to pay off in a big way when everything is said and done.