A blockbuster Ohtani deal will highlight this year's free agent class

Barring the stunner of all stunners, his free agency won’t impact the Orioles in any way. And he won’t even likely be linked to the club in any way. We’re talking about the $500 million man, Shohei Ohtani.

Even after a Tommy John surgery, his first procedure in the fall of 2018, he is about to get the biggest free agent contract in baseball history. If he doesn’t, that would be another stunner.

Ohtani should be able to pitch again, but that would be for the 2025 season. Whichever big dollar team signs him is getting someone that won’t be a two-way player next year.

If he returns to his top form on the mound later, a team could be getting a player that is the equivalent of signing both one of the best hitters and pitchers in the game.

During his major league career – his first year with the Angels was 2018 when he was voted American League Rookie of the Year – Ohtani ranks seventh in the majors in OPS+ and eighth in ERA+. An All-Star easily on the mound and at bat. The player he most compares to in history is Babe Ruth, who pitched just a few games after his age 24 season. Ohtani turned 29 in July.

The only player keeping Ohtani from having won three straight MVP awards – he won his latest on Thursday – is the Yankees' Aaron Judge, who needed a 62-homer season to take the honor in the 2022 season.

Ohtani this week became the first player to win two MVPs by an unanimous vote. He got all 30 first-place votes this year and in 2021 also.  

Over the last three years, Judge has a batting line of .291/.402/.615/1.017 with a 178 OPS+.

Over the last three years, Ohtani has a batting line of .277/.379/.585/.964 for a 161 OPS+.

So Judge outperforms his bat but not by a huge margin. Judge re-signed with the Yankees last December, a nine-year deal worth $360 million. In 2019, Mike Trout signed a deal for $426.5 million and Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies for 13 years and $330 million.

Would Ohtani be open to signing a two-year deal for a huge annual amount and hit the market again after the 2025 season? Why do that?

Well, he will be 31 then and still in line for huge dollars. It could be after he had proven to all teams he can pitch well again in the 2025 season. While this is possible, it’s probably more likely he will pick the team he will spend the rest of his career with this time around for a record price. It seems very likely that he gets the record deal, the signing team could seek a 12-year deal to bring down average annual value for luxury tax purposes and the deal could include an opt-out for Ohtani.

In baseball free agency, for players at the top of the class, the rich get richer in addition to getting opt-out clauses.

What a time to be alive. Especially if you are that good at baseball.

O's tender contracts, sign others: The Orioles went into Friday with a list of 17 arbitration-eligible players. Last night was the deadline to tender players contracts for the 2024 season. The Orioles agreed to terms with four players and tendered contracts to 13 others.

There were zero non-tenders among all 17.

The club agreed to terms on one-year contracts for 2024 with pitcher Keegan Akin, outfielders Ryan McKenna and Sam Hilliard, and infielder/outfielder Jorge Mateo.

They tendered 2024 contracts to lefties Danny Coulombe, Cole Irvin, John Means and Cionel Pérez, right-handers Dillon Tate, Jacob Webb and Tyler Wells, infielders Ryan Mountcastle and Ramon Urías, outfielders Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins, and infielder/outfielder Ryan O'Hearn. They also tendered deals to any pre-abritration players on the 40-man roster. 

Tendering a contract means that those 13 players in addition to the pre-arb players will be signed for next season, although their final salaries are not decided yet. If the team and players don't come to terms via negotiations, their salaries will be decided in an arbitration hearing. 

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