Shohei Ohtani set to get paid in 2021 with MLB service time deal likely

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

Shohei Ohtani needs one more year of service to reach arbitration, something that isn’t guaranteed given the current state of the schedule. However, a tentative deal could help him get there if baseball is played.

Shohei Ohtani is one of the best bargains in baseball. The two-way star, who represents a unique case in market value, received a measly $50,000 bump in pay for the 2020 season, pushing his annual salary up to $700,000. With exactly two years of service time, Ohtani was hoping to reach arbitration eligibility after this season, which wouldn’t quite pay him like a free agent, but would at least set his salary based on performance.

What would otherwise be a procedural milestone for Ohtani is suddenly a matter of negotiation. What qualifies for a full year of service under a shortened season? Normally, players must be on a Major League roster for at least 172 days to reach one year of service. What if the season turns out to be only 90 days?

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According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Major League Baseball and the Players Association have reportedly settled this issue by tentatively agreeing to grant a full year of service to players who remain active for the entire 2020 season, regardless of how many games are played. The deal is not yet finalized, but it appears progress has been made.

This means that Ohtani would reach his third year of service even if the season is cut short to 90 days, less than the typical 172 days required to do so. I had speculated a few weeks ago that Ohtani might have to set Super Two status as a realistic goal over a shortened season, but the tentative deal between MLB and the Players Association suggests the Japanese star will be given the chance to reach arbitration if a season is played.

Rosenthal’s report indicates that no agreement has been made on what to do if the season is ultimately canceled.

Should a season be played, Ohtani could set himself up for a big payday. Remember, he is expected to return to the mound again after missing the entire 2019 pitching season recovering from Tommy John surgery. While there are more important things to consider in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, from a baseball perspective, the delayed season should help Ohtani return in full health. The 25-year-old could then set a new precedent on how two-way stars are compensated in arbitration.

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Billy Eppler told reporters on Tuesday that Ohtani and Griffin Canning are the only two players who still have access to the medical facilities at Angel Stadium as they continue to rehab. Eppler said Ohtani has been throwing off flat ground and should step on a mound again in a few weeks. He was originally scheduled to return to Major League pitching action in mid-May.