“Overpaying” free agent Shohei Ohtani would be worth it for the Toronto Blue Jays when you consider all the benefits that this acquisition would have, believes an associate professor of sports management from Canada.
Published yesterday at 7:20 p.m.
Gregory Strong The Canadian Press
“The attention, not only from the American media, but also from international media, particularly Japanese, [serait] huge, said Mike Naraine of Brock University in Ontario. I call it the Ichiro effect. When you look at Ichiro’s acquisition [Suzuki] by the Seattle Mariners [en 2000], the team not only got the attention of the Japanese media, but also sold a lot of tickets to Japanese people, who were flying to see the games in Seattle. »
“But they also got a lot more Japanese sponsors. And American sponsors who have links with Japan, like Nintendo or Nikon. »
Ohtani, who can pitch and hit, is expected to get a long-term contract that could be worth around $500 million.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites in this derby, but the Blue Jays would be among the small group of teams that are in the race.
“Having that kind of franchise player with that scale and already a consumer base that would resonate with the demographics of the city, that could really increase the level of consumption,” said Cheri Bradish of Toronto Metropolitan University.
“So with the increase in ticket sales, consumption, and then with derivative products, it can really have a significant effect on a team. »
The return on investment, even with a contract of this magnitude, would be “quite high” because of the international impact and other factors, Naraine said.
“I would overpay even more than the Dodgers just because Ohtani can turn [une équipe] and that you can market Ohtani like no one else has before,” he explained.
Ohtani spent the first six seasons of his major league baseball career with the Los Angeles Angels, but has yet to make the playoffs.
He underwent elbow surgery in August that will keep him from pitching until 2025, but he should be ready to play as a designated hitter in the spring.
Ohtani hit 44 homers and drove in 95 runs in 135 games last season. On the mound, he was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts.
The 29-year-old right-hander was unanimously named the American League Most Valuable Player.
“For me, it’s obvious,” said Naraine. When you can sign potentially the best player of all time and certainly the best player in the sport right now, you do it. »
The Blue Jays have not been shy about spending a lot of money in recent years. They are among the 10 teams with the biggest payrolls and have awarded nine-figure contracts to players like George Springer, Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios.
“Fans would come in droves throughout the season to witness the changes at Rogers Center [récemment rénové] and to see who has become the most complete player in sports,” retired Blue Jays sportscaster Jerry Howarth said in an email.
The Blue Jays will begin their next season on March 28 against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.
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