Ohtani agrees to a historic $700M, 10-year Dodgers deal

Photo of Ohtani.

Japanese baseball standout Shohei Ohtani has clinched what could be the most substantial contract in sports history, surpassing the reported milestones set by football icons Messi and Mbappe. Ohtani not only establishes a financial record but also elevates his exceptional on-field performance, securing a $700 million deal for relocating 48km (30 miles) up Interstate 5 to join the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent, released an official statement on Saturday, formally confirming the 10-year contract. This announcement concluded months of speculation that had commenced even before Ohtani became a free agent on November 2. In recent days, both media and fans have closely monitored private plane movements and reported sightings, resembling detective work, in an effort to decipher the intentions of the two-time AL MVP with the Los Angeles Angels.

Balelo conveyed, “This is a distinctive, historic contract for an extraordinary, historic player. He is eager to embark on this partnership, and he structured his contract to signify a genuine commitment from both sides to long-term success.”

Ohtani’s total contract value exceeded baseball’s previous record by 64%, surpassing the $426.5 million, 12-year deal that Angels outfielder Mike Trout signed in 2019.

His average annual salary of $70 million represents a 62% increase over the previous high of $43.3 million, a figure achieved by pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in their contracts with the New York Mets.

In comparison, Ohtani’s average salary is nearly double the approximately $42.3 million he earned with the Angels, and it even surpasses the combined payrolls of Baltimore and Oakland for the current year.

Moreover, his contract includes innovative deferred compensation, a strategic maneuver aimed at reducing the amount counted towards the Dodgers’ luxury tax payroll. This information comes from a source familiar with the agreement who spoke to The Associated Press under the condition of anonymity due to undisclosed details.

“He crafted his contract to symbolize a sincere commitment to long-term success from both parties,” Balelo conveyed. “Shohei and I express our appreciation to all the organizations that demonstrated interest and respect throughout this process, particularly the remarkable individuals we had the privilege to get to know better.”

This could potentially be the most substantial contract in the history of sports, eclipsing the reported highs set by football luminaries Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. Ohtani, in an English-language statement shared on Instagram, apologized for the time taken to reach a decision. He conveyed heartfelt thanks to everyone associated with the Angels organization, the fans who supported him over the past six years, and all the teams involved in the negotiation process.

In addressing Dodgers fans, he pledged a commitment to always act in the team’s best interest and to consistently give his utmost effort to be the best version of himself until the final day of his playing career. His goal is to strive not only for the Dodgers but for the entire baseball world. Ohtani now joins a lineup that includes 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman. The Dodgers clinched the NL West title this year for the 10th time in 11 seasons before facing a sweep by Arizona in the Division Series in October.

The Los Angeles 2024 season commences with a matchup against San Diego in Seoul, South Korea, on March 20-21.

Ohtani’s decision coincides with the six-year anniversary of his initial agreement with the Angels.

Since joining the Angels as his first major league team, the Japanese standout has significantly transformed contemporary baseball. His outstanding performance both at the plate and on the mound has established him as one of the premier players in both capacities, provided he maintains his health. Additionally, he has ascended to become one of the world’s most marketable athletes, influencing ticket sales, TV ratings, and sponsorship revenue.

Ohtani clinched unanimous AL MVP titles in 2021 and 2023, despite finishing second in 2022. Despite sustaining elbow and oblique injuries in late August and early September this year, respectively, he still secured the award. Approaching his 30th birthday on July 5, Ohtani boasts a .274 average with 171 home runs, 437 RBIs, and 86 stolen bases. As a pitcher, he holds a 39-19 record with a 3.01 ERA, accumulating 608 strikeouts in 481 2/3 innings. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stands at 34.7, according to Baseball Reference.

In the most recent season, Ohtani clinched his second consecutive AL MVP award, batting .304 with an AL-leading 44 home runs and 95 RBIs in 135 games with the Los Angeles Angels. He led the AL with a .412 on-base percentage and topped the majors with a .654 slugging percentage.

On the pitching front, Ohtani achieved a 10-5 record with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts over 132 innings in 23 starts, limiting opposing batters to a .184 average.

After a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on August 23, Ohtani’s pitching season concluded. Nevertheless, he continued to contribute as a batter until an oblique injury on September 3. Ohtani underwent elbow surgery in mid-September, marking the second instance of this procedure, with the first occurring in 2018.

For rejecting the Angels’ qualifying offer, the team will receive a draft pick following the second round of the 2024 draft as compensation.


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