“Overpaying” free agent Shohei Ohtani would be worth it for the Toronto Blue Jays when you consider all the benefits the acquisition would have, says an associate professor of sports management from Canada.

“The attention, not only from American media, but also from international media, particularly Japanese, [would be] enormous,” said Mike Naraine of Brock University in Ontario. I call it the Ichiro effect. When you look at the acquisition of Ichiro [Suzuki] by the Seattle Mariners [in 2000], the team not only had the attention of the Japanese media, but also sold a lot of tickets to Japanese people, who were taking the flew 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 throw and hit, is expected to get a long-term contract that could be worth around US$500 million.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites in this derby, but the Blue Jays are reportedly 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 demographics in 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 merchandise, it can really have a big effect on a team. »

The return on investment, even with a contract of this magnitude, would be “pretty high” because of the international impact and other factors, Naraine said.

“I would overpay even more than the Dodgers just because Ohtani can transform [a team] and 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 home runs 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,” Naraine said. 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 haven’t been shy about spending a lot of money in recent years. They are among the top 10 teams with the largest 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 the [recently renovated] Rogers Center and to see who has become the most complete player in the game,” said Jerry Howarth, former Blue sports commentator. Retired Jays, in an email.

The Blue Jays open their next season on March 28 against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.