First pitch: Shohei Ohtani contract can’t break baseball, MLB owners already have

Forget all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth over Shohei Ohtani's contract. There are more pressing issues with baseball right now.
Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani
Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe, just maybe, after signing that contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Shohei Ohtani can indeed afford to buy a seat on that now-infamous Robert Herjavec flight from California to Toronto. He may have to wait a few years, but we should all have goals, right?

Of course, all kidding aside, Ohtani can afford that seat or about anything else right now, given the fact that, even though he will be making just $2 million for each of the next 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Japanese superstar earned an estimated $40 million in endorsement deals last season and that number shouldn't go down in his first year playing at Chavez Ravine. Given that fact, plus the idea that the Angels annually made $10 and $20 million off Ohtani's image and likeness, it's fair to say that both the Dodgers and Ohtani will be just fine throughout the lifetime of the deal.

The real issue isn't how the Dodgers could afford to land Ohtani. The bigger issue is why other teams weren't in the chase for him ... or Blake Snell ... or Yoshinobu Yamamoto ... or a variety of other players who will command bigger paychecks this offseason.

Major League Baseball has become horribly imbalanced, and the scales tip further between the haves and have nots now more than ever

Part of what makes Los Angeles able to spend on players like Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and others is the deal that the team has through Spectrum SportsNet, the entity that broadcasts Dodgers games. While RSNs like Bally Sports and Diamond Sports are failing, Spectrum continues to pump money into the L.A. coffers with a deal valued at $8.35 billion. That helps the Dodgers be valued at $5.24 billion which, as Sportico points out, is more than double the average value of an MLB franchise ($2.37 billion).

Compare that to the division rival Colorado Rockies, a franchise that was valued by Forbes in March at $1.475 billion. Colorado, like NL West cohorts Arizona and San Diego, has been placed in the position of figuring out how its team will be broadcast in 2024 and what the implications of that lowered television revenue will be on its payroll ... issues that the Dodgers can't even imagine.

Was Colorado in the mix for Ohtani? No, and neither were several other teams that don't have the financial resources to compete with the Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and others.

It's a fact of baseball today that certain teams will have the resources to chase the most expensive players while others will figure out Plans B, C and D. This is where MLB is as the New Year dawns. For owners in cities with deep pockets and solid television contracts, it's a beautiful thing. For owners in other cities, they are already drawing up their marketing plans for when Ohtani comes to town so they can pack the park.

If you can't sign 'em, at least you can market 'em, right?

Those owners who refuse to get creative with their dollars (like the Dodgers did) have no one to blame for years of missing out on meaningful baseball in October (or even after the All-Star break for some) than themselves. Fans can cry about the contract all they want, but it's been rumored for months that Ohtani would set a record with his deal. This isn't a surprise, nor should it be. The Dodgers figured out a way to make it work while the Rockies, Oakland A's, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays and plenty of other teams decided to spend their time focusing on other players.

Until MLB owners figure out a way to level the playing field (by lowering what some teams can spend or raising what others must spend), there will be countless cases of the richer teams getting the bigger names. If MLB wants to be more competitive and balanced, it's less about figuring out how to limit the Ohtani-type contracts in the future, and more about getting additional owners to be creative and frugal enough to actually offer the same.

Next. 1 free agent every team that whiffed on Shohei Ohtani must sign. 1 free agent every team that whiffed on Shohei Ohtani must sign. dark