It will be hard for Shohei Ohtani to get raise he deserves from Angels

It will be hard for Shohei Ohtani to get raise he deserves from Angels

Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani doesn’t deserve the MVP (that is obviously Aaron Judge) but he should be baseball’s highest paid player. And he should go for the gusto in arbitration to get what he should. Based on some wrong precedents he may not, but he still deserves to blow past Mookie Betts’ arbitration record $27 million.

Ohtani is the greatest two-way talent since Babe Ruth. He’s also allegedly bringing in $20 million plus in extra revenue, and probably even raised the for-sale Angels’ franchise value. Plus, he’s currently MLB’s most underpaid player at $5.5 million.

Management sometimes uses a potential raise as a way to limit pay. And considering the biggest raise via arbitration is $9.6 million for Jacob deGrom, it’s possible they suggest Ohtani’s raise should be in range. But Ohtani only made so little because he signed a two-year deal off an injury year, and it’s absurd to penalize him for being underpaid. Arbitration produces wacky results, but it should be the opposite; since he’s been a money machine for the team, the Angels should make it up to him.

The union generally does well for players via arbitration but has missed an opportunity on fifth-year stars, who by rules are allowed to use free agents as comps. Only a couple, including Francisco Rodriguez and Jack McDowell, tried to invoke that rule; both lost their cases. But neither is Ohtani.

Shohei Ohtani at the plate for the Angels on Sept. 19, 2022.
Shohei Ohtani at the plate for the Angels on Sept. 19, 2022.
AP

Agents often play the final arbitration year conservatively as they may fear an arbitration defeat would trigger a feeding frenzy from rival agents. Gerrit Cole is one who gambled at a hearing and won as a fifth-year guy, and he got a $13.5M “win,” which was still proven less than half his yearly value when he really won the next year with a $324M, nine-year deal with the Yankees via free agency.

Trea Turner received $23 million via arbitration when Corey Seager, the player he replaced, received $32.5M as a free agent (for 10 years!). Aaron Judge got $19M. Those were considered decent outcomes, yet they’re vastly underpaid.

Shohei Ohtani on the basepaths on Sept. 21, 2022.
Shohei Ohtani on the basepaths on Sept. 21, 2022.
Getty Images

Management understandably expects Ohtani to follow precedent and move to $20M or so, continuing the trend of underpaid fifth-year arb guys. But Ohtani is unique. Kris Bryant got $18.6M as a fifth-year player and Jake Arrieta $15.5M; Ohtani deserves their pay combined — $34.1M. Even then, he’s underpaid. Add marketing value, and the true number is $50M, or more.