It was the most exciting time to be a Blue Jays fan since the 1993 World Series win. For a painstaking 24-hour period, it was rumoured and confirmed (late to be retracted) that Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani was headed north to join the Toronto Blue Jays.
It was mayhem online as people speculated, tracked private jets flying from LA to Toronto convinced one must contain the MLB's superstar two-way player.
Only to have it all come to a painful end when the LA Dodgers announced that Sho-time would be joining their franchise instead for a cool $700 million over ten years contract and breaking all previous record-breaking contracts by three times.
Blue Jays fans were heartbroken; what a team we could have continued to grow around this superhuman player. My heart broke a bit more when I read that the Jays had offered $680 and were so close to signing. But even during the frenzy of that 24 hours, I had reservations about the value of this deal.
For starters, Ohtani is a two-way player, meaning he excels at pitching and hitting. This is a huge benefit to teams in the National League, where all pitchers are expected to be in the hitting rotation for every game (not the rule for an American League team like the Blue Jays). He also just had a second shoulder surgery and is not expected to pitch again until the 2024/25 season. The Jays need pitchers, not hitters, so would a $700 million investment be worth it to any American League team?
The move to the Dodgers is also an easier one for Ohtani. Realistically, it means staying in the home he has created in America, staying in warmer weather, and paying less taxes (although California has some of the highest in the US). There is also the superstition factor, which may not be expressed anywhere, but as a Jays fan, I feel entitled to state. Excellent players come to Toronto and frequently fall short once they get there. If I were Ohtani, there would have been a part of my subconscious brain that worried my shoulder would never return to what it was. It may sound silly, but diehard sports fans know superstition is always somewhere in the mix when it comes to devious making (especially if, in the end, we were only talking a difference of $20 million)
However, finding out after the fact that even though Ohtani went with the bigger offer, he is planning to defer $68 million of it each year was a kick in the gut to us Toronto fans. This could have easily been negotiated to his advantage in Toronto as well, meaning freeing up more room in budgeting for each season (MLB doesn't have a cap, but does make teams pay a luxury tax) and could have allowed Shohei to establish residency in a state that had low tax repercussions for the ten years he'd be making the bulk of the contract.
Ultimately, we'll never know what a Toronto Blue Jays roster with Shohei Ohtani could have looked like, but at least for one day, there was hope and excitement in the air.