Shohei Ohtani's landmark contract should have Mets fans worried

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani / John McCoy/GettyImages

The best player in baseball is on the move. Shohei Ohtani is signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for an MLB record $700 million over 10 years, but his contract is unique for more than just the number of zeroes in it.

Fans of the New York Mets should be worried, not only because Ohtani is now in the National League on an already stacked Dodgers team, but because Ohtani's deal with the Dodgers is less a contract and more an IOU. The Japanese superstar will be paid merely $2 million per year for the length of the deal, with 10 yearly payments of $68 million per year deferred until after the deal runs its course.

There have been plenty of cases of players accepting deferred money, from Bobby Bonilla, to Ken Griffey, Jr., to Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. This is something we've never seen, though. The Dodgers are paying virtually nothing out-of-pocket for a decade for the most talented baseball player in history. Major League baseball rules state that deferred payment is limitless, so there's not a thing anyone can do about it.

Mets fans should be terrified that the structure of the Dodgers' deal with Ohtani makes them a major player in the Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes.

Ohtani will make enough in endorsements to get chauffered to every party Leonardo DiCaprio throws if he chooses, though it's curious that his deferred payments won't accrue interest. I guess when you're set to receive $700 million, you don't sweat the small stuff.

Just as it did when Kevin McAllister ran up his father's credit card on room service at the Plaza Hotel in Home Alone 2, the bill will eventually come due for the Dodgers. In the meantime, though, what's the downside? They can name their price on season tickets and parking, and they can enjoy employing the most talented baseball player ever for a pittance. This tweet from Jeff Passan made my head spin.

Having Ohtani on the Dodgers is bad news for the rest of the National League, but especially the Mets. The Dodgers already boast a fearsome lineup, with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Max Muncy. Ohtani won't be able to join L.A.'s rotation until 2025 following elbow surgery on his torn UCL, but once he does, the Dodgers will be even scarier. Even more horrifying, though, is that the Dodgers may not be done yet this offseason.

There's one thing the Mets want this offseason, and his name is Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The righthander has dominated Japan's NPB, winning the league's equivalent of both the Cy Young and MVP three years running, and the Mets, with a pitching staff that would more accurately be called a pitching duo with only Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana penciled in as of now, would love nothing more than to woo the most coveted free agent still available.

Most baseball insiders have seen the Yamamoto sweepstakes as a war between the Big Apple's two teams, the Mets and the Yankees. The Yankees are undoubtedly a major player, having taken the first step towards restoring their "Evil Empire" reputation when they traded for Juan Soto last week, but many teams are rumored to be chasing Yamamoto.

The Mets have expressed a desire for Yamamoto that borders on desperation, which should only serve to drive the righthander's price ever higher. Steve Cohen has the financial means to beat any number that any team can throw out, though, and the Mets are hoping that having fellow countryman Kodai Senga as their unofficial recruiting coordinator will seal the deal.

The Dodgers now have Ohtani though, so if Yamamoto yearns to have a Japanese compatriot on his future team, having the best one in the game could trump even Senga's best overtures. And while the initial thought that the money needed to sign Ohtani would take the Dodgers out of the running for Yamamoto and other top free agents, that couldn't be farther from the truth.

What the Dodgers have done isn't against the rules, but it's finding a loophole and driving a monster truck through it. One doesn't have to think very hard to see how this deal could lead down some dark roads for Major League Baseball (remember that 12 years ago, the Dodgers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because they couldn't meet payroll, though that was under previous ownership), and there will be plenty of debate about if something should be done to prevent a contract like this from happening in the future.

Much like the Braves have gotten a leg up by locking down their young stars-in-waiting early to team-friendly contracts, the Dodgers, at least for now, are merely taking advantage of the rules currently in place.

If L.A. somehow follows up their Ohtani coup by landing Yamamoto, Mets and Yankees fans might finally find common ground. Fans of both Subway Series rivals will light up sports radio bemoaning the injustice of it all. They may even write their Congressman, assuming he hasn't recently been expelled.

In the end, Yamamoto is going to go to the place where he feels most comfortable. The Mets have been confident about their chances, but now that the Dodgers have the ability to swoop in and win the offseason in a landslide, it's going to be a nervewracking time at Citi Field.