We knew that, wherever he signed, Shohei Ohtani was going to reset the market going forward — and almost certainly become baseball’s first $500 million man. But his 10-year deal with the Dodgers didn’t just reset the market; it blew it up entirely, turning Ohtani into professional sports’ first $700 million man.
We’ve covered the immediate impact of this deal from every angle, from the structure of Ohtani’s record contract to where the Dodgers go from here to how the teams that missed out on his services can rebound. But now we want to take a little peak ahead, looking at the effects that Ohtani’s deal will have on the free agency market going forward — and one prominent, pinstriped free agent in particular.
What Shohei Ohtani contract means for Juan Soto, others
Juan Soto figures to be the top free agent on the board next winter; no Scott Boras client misses a shot at hitting the market, let alone one who’s also a 25-year-old superstar. But if Shohei Ohtani secured a $700 million contract in free agency, what will the Yankees need to offer Soto to keep him in pinstripes — and how might it shift the market overall?
Ohtani’s deal is the largest guaranteed contract in sports history, shattering the previous record for the biggest signing in MLB history. Mike Trout, Ohtani’s former teammate, previously held that crown after agreeing to a $426.5 million pact with the Angels. It’s more than the contracts that Aaron Judge ($360 million) and Gerrit Cole ($324 million) signed with the Yankees combined — and the yearly value almost double the previous record of $43 million set by Max Scherzer and the Mets.
Of course, a singular player deserves a singular contract. Ohtani is truly in a league of his own, a two-way superstar — even with questions about his elbow — and once-in-a-lifetime talent that’s deserving of a record-setting contract. No agent can point to Ohtani as a comparison for their client with a straight face, or use this deal as a template. Still, even if nobody else in baseball is quite as valuable as Ohtani, his contract will have a ripple effect on other generational players when they hit the open market (or sign extensions) in years to come.
Soto, who was acquired by the Yankees this week in a seven-player swap with the Padres, is next up. He’s one of the best hitters in the game today, still scratching the surface of what he’s capable of at just 25. The outfielder turned down a $440 million extension from the Nationals in 2022, suggesting he knows what he’s worth and won’t cave for a hometown discount — and that he should become the second-ever member of the $500 million club, at the very least.
Ohtani’s deal is more fuel for Boras to raise the asking price for his client. And with the Mets and other big-market teams figuring to still have a good amount of money to spend, we could be in for an all-time bidding war — one even more robust than Ohtani, whose particular preferences dissuaded certain teams (most notably the New York clubs) from jumping in. Soto can’t reasonably expect $700 million, or even likely anything in that ballpark. But he too presents something of a unique case, both because of his historic age-adjusted production and because he’ll be unusually young for a free agent. If Mike Trout can get 12 years and Bryce Harper 13, that’s the baseline length for Soto (and you can almost guarantee there’ll be at least one opt-out in there). If he wants a substantial raise from the $30-35 million he’s set to earn in arbitration in 2024, that would put the asking price at something around $550 million — which means he’ll likely start the ask around $600.
Will the Yankees be the one to pay that price? They already have several stars making nine figures and are in the market for Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto this offseason. They do have some money, notably Gleyber Torres, coming off the books next year, but Hal Steinbrenner has in the past been wary of the competitive balance tax threshold. Regardless of where exactly Soto lands, Ohtani’s deal has normalized a whole new range of numbers in negotiations, providing cover for Boras; Soto isn’t a $700 million player, but could he and his camp argue that he’s, say, 80 percent as valuable, considering his age and lack of injury risk? He’s certainly going to try — as will all other generational talents that come after him.