Shohei Ohtani Is a Dodger

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball’s version of Lebron James’ The Decision appears to have come to pass, with all-universe talent Shohei Ohtani announcing on his Instagram that he has found a new home in Los Angeles, this time with the Dodgers. The deal is for 10 years and $700 million.

While the full details of the contract’s “unprecedented” deferrals aren’t yet known, 10 years and $700 million is the mega-contract of all mega-contracts, besting the previous record by hundreds of millions of dollars. And like the Alex Rodriguez signing more than two decades ago, this will likely be the record for a while, including a possible Juan Soto deal next winter.

I doubt I have to describe just how good Ohtani, but ZiPS projects him to be in the MVP race most years that he’s healthy. And while his 2024 season won’t feature any trips to the mound, there are still another nine years on the contract!

ZiPS Projection – Shohei Ohtani, Hitter
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2024 .259 .359 .545 528 91 137 27 5 38 122 80 149 17 142 0 3.7
2025 .257 .359 .534 521 88 134 26 5 36 117 80 143 15 139 0 3.5
2026 .253 .354 .518 510 84 129 25 4 34 109 78 140 13 133 0 3.0
2027 .242 .344 .485 491 77 119 23 3 30 100 74 135 11 122 0 2.2
2028 .239 .341 .467 465 70 111 22 3 26 89 70 129 9 117 0 1.7
2029 .233 .335 .448 433 64 101 20 2 23 78 64 122 8 111 0 1.3
2030 .232 .332 .440 393 56 91 18 2 20 69 57 111 6 108 0 1.0
2031 .229 .328 .431 353 49 81 16 2 17 59 51 101 5 105 0 0.7
2032 .223 .321 .412 354 47 79 15 2 16 57 50 102 4 98 0 0.3
2033 .224 .321 .408 304 39 68 13 2 13 47 42 89 3 97 0 0.3

ZiPS Projection – Shohei Ohtani, Pitcher
Year W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ WAR
2025 12 5 3.41 25 25 145.0 116 55 19 47 159 124 3.1
2026 11 6 3.50 24 24 144.0 118 56 19 46 153 121 3.0
2027 11 5 3.53 23 23 137.7 116 54 19 43 142 120 2.7
2028 10 6 3.69 23 23 134.0 117 55 19 42 134 115 2.5
2029 9 6 3.83 21 21 122.3 111 52 18 38 118 111 2.1
2030 8 5 4.01 19 19 107.7 100 48 17 36 102 106 1.7
2031 7 5 4.13 17 17 98.0 93 45 16 34 90 103 1.4
2032 7 5 4.36 17 17 95.0 93 46 16 35 85 97 1.1
2033 5 5 4.60 15 15 78.3 79 40 14 31 68 92 0.7

The value of baseball stars is very largely tied to the perceived effects of teams winning games. When Andrew Zimbalist examined this question in Baseball and Billions, he found that very few players really drove revenue for teams beyond their on-field contributions. The exceptions — where baseball fame transcends the simple act of winning baseball games — are few and far between. Think Fernando Valenzuela when Fernandomania struck Los Angeles 40 years ago, an example Zimbailst pointed to. Or Nolan Ryan in the twilight of his career, or Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record, or the great home run race of 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Ohtani is that kind of player, in a way that other recent greats like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are and were not.

Now, as a result of the surgery that will keep him from pitching next year, ZiPS sees Ohtani as more of a $300 million – $400 million player. But here’s the thing: You can simply ignore that number. ZiPS is a generalized model; it isn’t really equipped to deal with special situations. And Ohtani is more than a special situation. He’s an event, capable of capturing the attention of fans across this country and the rest of the world just by taking the field. His baseball value may be $300 million – $400 million, but the Dodgers are surely looking past that to all the ways he can make their franchise the franchise for Ohtani fans (and make them a lot of money in the process).

My colleague Michael Baumann will have a more extensive reaction piece up soon.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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ccoeurmember
2 months ago

I suspect the Dodgers are projecting much more on-field value than ZiPS is.

Manco
2 months ago
Reply to  ccoeur

What if they aren’t? How much more could be projected for Ohtani? Either way, the only justification is the marketing he brings. Otherwise, it would only make sense to reach Bett’s contract or slightly higher, not nearly double.

ccoeurmember
2 months ago
Reply to  Manco

Betts and Freeman are both beating their ZiPS projections from the time of their deals by a mile, and they don’t seem to be on this generic aging curve that ZiPS applies. I don’t know, maybe they’re on to something?

CousinNicky
2 months ago
Reply to  ccoeur

Freeman Projected for 8.7 fWAR in 22 and 23, actual was 15
Betts Projected for 19.4 fWAR in 20-23, actual was 21.7 fWAR
Betts only just outdid his projections with his incredible 2023 season as his 20-22 seasons were lower than his zips projections at the time of his contract.

Freeman is blowing the doors off his, he went from all star 1B to MVP 1B in his age 32-33 seasons is incredible.

Maybe but its hard to think that Ohtani is improving as 30 year old on his best season ever at the plate. The easiest spot to continue improvement would be his K% which is still high at 24% in 2023, if he keeps the rest of stats near 2023 levels and lowers the K%, another elite season at the plate is expected.

ccoeurmember
2 months ago
Reply to  CousinNicky

Betts has comfortably beat his projection each year except ’21. Where did you get those numbers? I’m looking at Ben Clemens’ article “Mookie Betts Dodges Free Agency”

And I’m not suggesting Ohtani will hit better in ’24 than he did in ’23. But the projection is still very light. IMO, he’s up there in Judge, Alvarez, Soto territory as a hitter, but a much better baserunner than any of those guys, where this projection looks more like Kyle Tucker.