Report: Reasons why Signing Shohei Ohtani is a Big mistake…

Reasons Shohei Ohtani to Braves makes no sense, and a big reason it might.

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels holds the 2023 Los Angeles Angels Most Valuable Player trophy before a game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 30, 2023 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Braves are among five or six teams linked to free agent Shohei Ohtani in persistent rumors, as bidding for the Japanese star’s services has heated up and some at this week’s Winter Meetings predict a decision from Ohtani within seven to 10 days.

But are the Braves really involved? Is this mere Winter Meetings talk resulting from a void of information? And how solid is the suggestion Ohtani is intrigued by the idea of playing for the Braves, and that they’ve explored ways of potentially making it happen?

There are multiple reasons signing Ohtani makes no real sense for the Braves, but one potentially very important reason to sign him, one that might make all the reasons not to seem inconsequential for those making the decision.

First, the reasons it makes little or no sense.

The greatest two-way player since Babe Ruth — and Ruth never excelled at both simultaneously the way Ohtani has — is going to command an annual salary roughly three times that of Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., the reigning NL MVP and flamboyant, beloved face of the Braves. Acuña will make a modest $17 million each of the next three seasons, then in two more seasons after that assuming the Braves exercise team options at that rate in 2027 and 2028.

Ohtani is expected to get $50 million or more annually in a potential decadelong deal that would be roughly the same per season as the combined salaries of Braves sluggers Matt Olson, the MLB home run and RBI leader in 2023, and Austin Riley, plus second baseman Ozzie Albies.

And that’s despite the fact Ohtani will hit but not pitch in 2024, when he’ll be rehabbing his elbow after a September surgery that was his second major UCL procedure in five years, including Tommy John surgery in 2018.

There’s a chance Ohtani, 29, won’t be an ace-caliber pitcher again after two major elbow surgeries, and a decent chance he won’t be able to stay healthy as a two-way player for many more years once he resumes pitching.

Signing Ohtani to the largest contract in MLB history — in terms of average salary and total value — would go against every tenet espoused by general manager and president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos and especially by chairman Terry McGuirk. It would all but assure the Braves would soar well past the second luxury tax threshold of $257 million, since they’re almost there right now after taking on an additional $21 million in AAV salary by agreeing to take injury-plagued pitcher Marco Gonzales and first baseman Evan White from the Seattle Mariners as part of Sunday’s trade for the player they wanted, Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

The Braves are expected to trade Gonzales to another team, which would shed some of his $12.5 million owed. But that wouldn’t be nearly enough to avoid paying a 42 percent fee on any salary amount over $257 million — a 30 percent penalty for the Braves’ exceeding the luxury tax threshold ($237 million) for a second consecutive season, and an additional 12 percent for exceeding it by $20 million.

Adding Ohtani could even move them past $277 million in luxury tax payroll. Any amount over $277 million would have a hefty overage fee of 75 percent, including the penalty for topping the luxury tax threshold for a second straight season, plus additional penalties for surpassing it by $20 million and then by $40 million.

But let’s get back to how the Braves have done things during their run of division titles since Anthopoulos was hired from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Anthopoulos has built a cost-controlled perennial contender in large part by signing young players to long extensions well before free agency, capitalizing on their desire to be part of a great atmosphere and convivial clubhouse and willingness to leave tens of millions in potential earnings on the table in exchange for long-term security in a place they want to be.

As for McGuirk, he has said many times that free agency is a flawed system and a highly inefficient way to build teams. Because of that, the Braves for many years have stayed away from the top-tier free agents from other teams, especially pitchers.

In Ohtani, 29, we have the ultimate, most celebrated free agent of all time, with the biggest cost and substantial risk.

Even if he became a conventional position player, he still would be one of the best, if not the best, hitters in baseball. But for the Braves, that salary would be beyond glaring, particularly if he were just an outfielder or DH for most of his contract.

Consider, Olson and Riley make $22 million apiece, the peak salary in their long extensions. Albies will get a relatively paltry $7 million each of the next two seasons, with $7 million team options for two more years after that — arguably the most team-friendly contract in baseball.

In all the long-term extensions the Braves have given in recent years, none has a single-season salary above $22 million. And though they’ve indicated a willingness to go beyond $22 million — they made an offer to Aaron Nola well beyond that, before he re-signed with the Philadelphia Phillies — would they suddenly give one player a salary that’s well over twice as high as any other on the team?

That might be pushing the envelope of clubhouse chemistry for a team that has prided itself on having a tension-free environment and camaraderie it cites as a big factor in the current string of six consecutive NL East titles plus the 2021 World Series championship.

That’s not even considering the fact Ohtani rarely gave interviews in his years with the Los Angeles Angels, except after games he pitched. The Braves pride themselves in being accountable, in each player’s being at his locker to answer questions after doing something big in determining a game’s outcome, good or bad.

If each player doesn’t do that, it’s left to teammates to answer those questions for him, after games affected by the player who doesn’t give interviews. How long before that would get old in a clubhouse not used to such a thing?

The Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays and his old team, the Angels, are believed to be in the Ohtani pursuit. The Dodgers have the money and have seen up close the impact Ohtani has had on the Southern California market. The Angels would love to have the cultural phenomenon continue to be a marketing bonanza for them, even if the team struggles as it has most years he’s been there.

The Cubs and Blue Jays want to make a big-splash move — the absolute biggest splash, in this case — to bolster a win-now situation under a new manager in Chicago and quell upset fans and others in Toronto after the Blue Jays spent hundreds of millions renovating their stadium and flamed out again in the playoffs, the championship window on their talented young core beginning to close some.

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