Are We Too Quick to Assume the New York Mets Would Spend *ANYTHING* to get Shohei Ohtani?
With the Los Angeles Angels now off the market, the prevailing wisdom is that superstar two-way player Shohei Ohtani will actually reach free agency after this season, barring a midseason trade and extension. When we thought a new owner was coming in, there was good reason to believe signing Ohtani to an extension would be such a priority for that owner that it would practically be part and parcel of a franchise purchase.
So, then, the start of Spring Training represents the last year for Ohtani as an Angel, even if there’s a last-gasp attempt to extend him before April (almost impossible to see him accepting at this point). He is such a transformative, transcendent, once-in-a-century talent that speculation about his free agent run is going to be rampant throughout the year, probably in ways we haven’t seen for a previous free agent.
AND, because of their now-singular standing on top of the payroll rankings, with an owner who is much less sensitive to tax-related issues, the New York Mets are going to bear particularly close watching in the Ohtani sweepstakes. I think most expect that the Dodgers are the leader in the clubhouse, given that they also have outsized funds available, given that they sat out this offseason, and given that they may have the West Coast/L.A. familiarity edge. But I don’t think you can count the Mets out. Ever.
Yet that’s kinda the question Jon Heyman raises, and for one of the more surprising reasons: money.
We know from the Carlos Correa deal that Steve Cohen and the Mets aren’t COMPLETELY uninterested in spending costs, since it’s not like they didn’t want Correa (and his ankle) at all, they just wanted him at half-price. So presumably that means there *IS* a price level at which Ohtani will be too rich even for Cohen’s blood.
The third tier of luxury tax goes up to a whopping 110% next year, which means a $50 million salary for Ohtani – a pretty realistic guess at this point, if not UNDERselling it – would actually cost the Mets $105 million annually in new money. Ohtani may still be worth it, he may not. There’s a big difference there, especially if there is another team that could offer, say, $60 million annually and have that effective cost be only, like, $70 million. It’s going to be a lot cheaper for some teams to offer Ohtani a lot more money.
Heyman raises another wrinkle that I hate even thinking about because of the downstream implications, but is totally fair: what if, in the next round of CBA negotiations, Cohen’s fellow owners push that top luxury tax tier even further into the stratosphere? That could mean that the Mets wind up paying something bonkers like $200 million ANNUALLY for ages 33 to 37 of Ohtani (hypothetical example), based on a deal they signed when he was 29. Again, Cohen may have more money than all the other owners, but there’s going to be a limit. There always is somewhere.