The Dodgers have agreed to a deal with Shohei Ohtani, as the two-way superstar revealed himself on his Instagram page. Ohtani will receive an astounding $700MM over the next 10 years, as revealed by his CAA agent Nez Balelo. It is a straight ten-year pact, as ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez reports that that contract doesn’t contain any opt-outs.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan (X link), “most of” Ohtani’s salary will be deferred, as suggested by Ohtani himself. The intent is so that the Dodgers can continue to spend and add talent while somewhat lowering the luxury tax hit. Regardless of how the $700MM is eventually parceled out over the coming years or decades, Ohtani will be bringing in the single largest contract ever given to a professional athlete, topping the $674MM deal that soccer legend Lionel Messi signed with FC Barcelona for the 2017-21 La Liga seasons.
“First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone involved with the Angels organization and the fans who have supported me over the past six years, as well as to everyone involved with each team that was part of this negotiation process,” Ohtani said in his Instagram message. “Especially to the Angels fans who supported me through all the ups and downs, your guys’ support and cheer meant the world to me. The six years I spent with the Angels will remain etched in my heart forever. And to all Dodgers fans, I pledge to always do what’s best for the team and always continue to give it my all to be the best version of myself. Until the last day of my playing career, I want to continue to strive forward not only for the Dodgers but for the baseball world.”
Balelo’s statement: “Shohei is thrilled to be a part of the Dodgers organization. He is excited to begin this partnership, and he structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success. Shohei and I want to thank all the organizations that reached out to us for their interest and respect, especially the wonderful people we got to know even better as this process unfolded. We know fans, media and the entire industry had a high degree of interest in this process, and we want to express our appreciation for their passion and their consideration as it played out.”
Aaron Judge’s ten-year, $360MM deal with the Yankees last winter was the largest free agent deal in baseball history, while Mookie Betts landing $365MM in new money in his 2020 extension with the Dodgers was technically the largest deal overall. Mike Trout’s ten-year, $360MM extension with the Angels was considered by the team as a 12-year, $426.5MM pact due to its inclusion of previously owed money in Trout’s previous deal, so that has been considered by some to hold the “biggest contract ever” title, yet needless to say, Ohtani’s contact now ends all debate.
While it was widely expected that Ohtani would set a new standard for baseball contracts this winter, nearly doubling the Betts/Judge totals is an incredible new benchmark. It speaks to both Ohtani’s generational talent as a two-way superstar, the amount of revenue Ohtani can personally generate in terms of additional endorsements and media interest from Japan, the number of big-money offers made by the other known suitors in the race, and simply the Dodgers’ determination to land a player who has been on their radar for years.
If the National League had had the designated hitter in 2018, it is quite possible Ohtani would’ve signed with the Dodgers when he initially came to MLB from Nippon Professional Baseball during the 2017-18 offseason. The Dodgers (along with the Cubs, Rangers, Padres, Mariners, and Giants) were the finalists behind the Angels, whose willingness to give Ohtani free reign as both a pitcher and a hitter allowed the Anaheim club to seal the deal, and set the stage for one of the most remarkable stretches baseball has ever seen.
The impact was immediately, as Ohtani hit and pitched at such as high level in 2018 that he was an easy choice as AL Rookie Of The Year. He had to undergo a Tommy John surgery that kept him off the mound in 2019, though he was still able to hit as a DH and posted some impressive numbers. However, an injury-marred 2020 campaign saw Ohtani deliver poor numbers at the plate and only 1 2/3 total innings on the mound, creating doubt as to whether he could truly live up to the hype.
The doubts were erased from 2021-23. Ohtani posted a 2.84 ERA, 31.4% strikeout rate, and 8.3% walk rate over 428 1/3 innings on the mound, while also hitting .277/.379/.585 with 124 home runs over 1904 plate appearances. Not even Babe Ruth amassed such levels of performance while both hitting and pitching at the same time, earning Ohtani the unofficial nickname of “the Unicorn.” Ohtani won AL MVP honors in both 2021 and 2023, and finished second to Judge in 2022 in the aftermath of Judge’s AL-record 62 home runs.
More to come…