Why Not Both?

Photo credit:© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Tammy Rainey
4 months ago
Before you say it, I’m not talking about the cost in prospects here. It’s strictly about dollars.
The question before the house is this: IF the Jays found their way to signing both Shohei Ohtani and trading for Juan Soto — could they then afford to re-sign Soto and keep their core together? Jon Morosi is flippant about the idea, but let’s do a quick-and-dirty back-of-napkin look at whether it’s doable.
Of course, this involves massive assumptions about what those contracts would look like and within a day or two something might be signed that changes this up some but you can do your own math if I’m, say, $10 million short on what Ohtani gets. There are some basic parameters, though. Most of the chatter about Ohtani postulates the idea of being the first $500 million contract in baseball. But there’s also a strong perception that Ohtani is NOT focused on setting such records and other factors may outweigh total dollars.
Plus, it’s reasonable to note that teams would be cautious about assuming they are getting 10-12 years of a two-way player. He’s coming off a second TJ surgery even while being used in a Japan-style 6th-day schedule. It’s one thing to pay $45 million a year for a top-of-the-rotation starter AND an MVP candidate hitter, it’s quite something else only to get the hitter. Ideally, the contract would have some structure that adjusted for the end of his pitching days, but all it takes is one team to take the risk. Ultimately, there’s massive variability here that one such as I couldn’t really project, so take this as a placeholder and when he signs you can adjust this to see if it blows up my thesis.
I postulate a deal that’s slightly lower on the first two years when he’s not pitching at all, then pitching at a potentially less impactful level, then a peak period with higher salaries, and then less so in the out years when he may not be pitching at all. Something like $38M – $38M – $44M – $44M – $44M – $44M – $40M – $40M – $40M – $36M – $36M – $36M (and you hope that as baseball inflation does what it does that a $36 million salary isn’t as much of an impact on your roster in 12 years). Moreover, you assume such a deal might have opt-outs, but for this exercise, whether he opts out after three or six years doesn’t matter. That’s a total of $480 million, or $40m annually.

Aug 3, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Juan Soto (22) bats during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Now as to Soto, he’s a Boras client and Boras LOVES to set records. But I’ll suggest that you can’t present a two-way player as a comp, so the Ohtani contract need not push up the Soto deal. That said, every existing deal now surely will.
The big argument for why you go big on Soto is that his upcoming season (in which his arbitration projection is $33 million) is his age TWENTY-FIVE season (while Ohtani will be 29 during the upcoming season). For comparison, Guerrero will be going into his age 27 season when he (theoretically) hits free agency and Bo is a year older.
The relevant existing contracts are Mike Trout’s $426.5 million 12-year deal, which Boras will insist on surpassing, and Aaron Judge’s deal from last winter which features a $40 million annual salary, which will be a target but possibly a somewhat softer one. Judge has the highest annual salary among position players, and Trout is second but he’s under $36m per year so that’s an absolute floor. Also, Boras surely wants to hit that $500 million threshold. So I’m going to postulate a $37 million AAV over 14 years for a total of $518 million. Like above, I get to that annual number with higher rates in the middle years of the deal and less so as he moves into his mid-late 30s. So if we’re looking at these two deals and what we might have to spend to keep the core together, a picture begins to come together.
Let’s give Bo Bichette  the contract that Trea Turner signed with the Philadelphia Phillies (though maybe not as long?) rounded up, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. the deal that Freddie Freeman signed with the L.A. Dodgers. Vlad will be five years younger but he has a far less consistent track record so far than Freeman. Bo’s output has been remarkably similar to Turner’s, he’s two years younger, but came into 2023 with defensive questions long-term. If he maintains the improvements he showed this year, he might land a deal marginally higher than Turner’s, but this is a good general neighbourhood to start.
Next, let’s look at the potential roster for 2026. I’m going to postulate Danny Jansen a three-year extension similar to what Atlanta gave Sean Murphy, Daulton Varsho fairly standard arbitration raises, and Jordan Romano a salary similar to what the best right-handed closers are getting.
Along with contracts already signed, this gives me a top-10 “core” list of salaries. Many of the other 16 spots will be filled by pre-arb or arbitration-eligible players. However, you could also see someone like Tim Mayza having signed a FA deal or Alek Manoah still around in his last year of arbitration but these won’t make any more than a marginal difference in the conclusion. Other than Varsho, Kirk, and potentially Manoah, there won’t be highly important arb-eligible players that we can guess about, so for this exercise, I can flesh out the rest of the roster with 14 pre-arb players (but if I were to name names you’d rightly ask “so who are we trading for Soto?”) or guys who are the equivalent of signing Gio Urshela this winter – which is to say you’re not giving a ton of money to the guy who’s going to be your No. 8 hitter. So what does all this look like?
Ohtani – $44M
Soto – $38M
Bo – $28M
Vlad – $27M
Gausman – $23M
Springer- $22.5M
Berrios – $18M
Romano – $14.5M
Jansen – $12M
Varsho – $9M
That’s $236 million so far for the top 10. I didn’t include Manoah in this because of the potential he’d be in the Soto deal but in his second arb year, he gets…maybe $11 million if he gets his groove back? Let’s presume Kirk has shown out and gotten himself up to an $8 million deal, either in arb or an extension. That gets you 12 players for $255 million. There are probably a couple of other relatively costly relievers, so let’s say $270 including those. You need 12 more players. Six to ten of those pre-arb so less than $10 million more for those and a couple of filler guys and you’re sitting around $290 million (not counting that other stuff that counts towards the tax structure).
When I first began to consider this exercise, I doubted it could be done for under $300 million, but… it can. Can Rogers afford this? Oh, hell yeah. All the more so if the story of having a special Ohtani budget is true (consider this payroll without Ohtani isn’t THAT much higher than their 2023 payroll and not really at all given ordinary baseball inflation). To be fair, in subsequent years the rotation will need to be augmented (Gausman will be in his last year)  but with his and Springer’s deals coming off the books you have some resources to do that without a massive escalation. But even so, if you decide to be a bit more reserved afterwards, look at the lineup you’d run out there for the next three years:
Ohtani – DH
Bo – SS
Soto – LF (or RF)
Vlad – 1B
Springer – RF
Jansen/Kirk – C
Varsho – CF
3B (Urshela then Palmegiani?)
2B – Biggio/Schneider/ Jimenez?
And after Ohtani recovers you plug him into the rotation in Kikuchi’s slot and your theoretical rotation is as deep as this year (barring injuries) – all that is well worth this price.
Now, to be entirely honest, I think we’d be wildly optimistic to presume on acquiring both, but that’s not my project here – I’m just asking, “can they pay everyone they need to pay?” Yes. Yes, they can.


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