Shohei Ohtani's free agency has been mostly a mystery, but we can at least say this confidently: It will produce massive amounts of money.
How much, who it will come from and what other factors will ultimately sway Ohtani's decision ... well, that remains unknown. Everything -- at least in the public's purview -- still feels possible. And perhaps that's fitting, given the nature of what we're dealing with.
Ohtani is the first two-way player in more than a century and the biggest baseball star in the world. His free agency was already going to be one of the most fascinating in recent memory. Then he re-tore his ulnar collateral ligament in August, and a situation that was already without precedent became that much more complicated.
Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery, wrote in a statement on Sept. 19 that Ohtani, 29, will be ready to hit by the start of 2024 and resume his role as a two-way player the year after. How this will actually play out, however, is anybody's guess.
Teams chasing Ohtani seem certain of his desire to return as a two-way player, and most tend to believe he'll be on the mound again by 2025. But they also wonder how long he'll last as a pitcher, a natural concern for a player who has now undergone two elbow reconstructions within a five-year period. There isn't much precedent -- outside of perhaps Nathan Eovaldi, who had Tommy John surgery in high school and then again in the major leagues -- for pitchers thriving in the wake of two UCL repairs, let alone while also hitting full time.
The intrigue and uncertainty that surrounds Ohtani is exceedingly unique.
It's a combination that insiders throughout the sport believe might inspire innovation.
Here are five contract structures, as suggested by front-office executives, that could make sense for a situation as singular as Ohtani's -- and the team that might fit each dynamic best.