Shohei Ohtani has set a financial record to go along with his singular on-field performance since making his way to Major League Baseball in 2018, getting $700 million to head 30 miles up Interstate 5 and join the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His agent, Nez Balelo, issued a news release Saturday afternoon announcing the 10-year contract, ending months of speculation that began even before Ohtani became a free agent on Nov. 2. In recent days, media and fans had tracked private plane movements and alleged sightings like detectives in attempts to discern the intentions of the 29-year-old superstar from Japan, who was twice the American League MVP in his six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.
"This is a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player," Balelo said. "He is excited to begin this partnership, and he structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success."
Ohtani's total was 64% higher than MLB's previous record, a $426.5 million, 12-year deal for Angels outfielder Mike Trout that began in 2019.
His $70 million average salary is 62% above the previous high of $43,333,333, shared by pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in deals they struck with the New York Mets. Ohtani's average salary nearly doubles the roughly $42.3 million he earned with the Angels. It also exceeds the entire payrolls of the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics this year.
His agreement includes unprecedented deferred money that will lower the amount it counts toward the Dodgers' luxury tax payroll, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were not announced.
"He structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success," Balelo said. "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."
This is perhaps the largest contract in sports history, topping highs believed to be set by soccer stars Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé.
There was no immediate comment by the Dodgers, and Ohtani has not spoken with reporters since Aug. 9.
"I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision," Ohtani said in an English-language statement posted to Instagram. "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."
"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," he continued. "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."
Ohtani joins a lineup that also includes 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and 2020 National League MVP Freddie Freeman. The Dodgers won the NL West this year for the 10th time in 11 seasons before they were swept by the Arizona Diamonbacks — the division runners-up — in an NL Division Series in October.
The Dodgers will begin the 2024 season in Seoul, South Korea, against the San Diego Padres on March 20-21.
Ohtani's decision came six years and one day after he first agreed to his deal with Angels.
Since then, Ohtani has redefined modern baseball. Nobody has come close to matching his achievements at the plate and on the mound, becoming one of the majors' elite players in both roles when healthy. Along the way, he has become one of the most marketable athletes in the world, a force when it comes to ticket sales, TV ratings and sponsorship revenue.
He was a unanimous AL MVP in 2021 and 2023 — he finished second in 2022 — winning this year despite injuring his elbow in late August and an oblique muscle in early September.
He has a career batting average of .274 with 171 homers, 437 RBIs and 86 stolen bases, along with a 39-19 record as a pitcher with a 3.01 ERA and 608 strikeouts in 481 2/3 innings. Baseball Reference lists Ohtani as being 34.7 wins above replacement.
The Angels are a perennial also-ran, both in the AL standings and in the Los Angeles market, but they won Ohtani's services in late 2017 partly by promising him the freedom to train and to play however he wanted. Ohtani immediately dazzled the entire sport in 2018, batting .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs as a designated hitter and going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts.
Ohtani was voted AL rookie of the year in 2018 despite making just one pitching appearance after early June due to an injured elbow ligament that required Tommy John surgery afer the season. He made just two mound appearances in the next two years while continuing to play as the Angels' DH.
When his arm was finally healthy in 2021, Ohtani put together a season for the ages.
He won the AL MVP award with 46 homers and 100 RBIs at the plate while going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA on the mound. He improved as a pitcher in 2022, going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 1.01 walks and hits allowed per inning while still driving in 95 runs at the plate, but he finished behind Aaron Judge in the MVP voting after the New York Yankees star hit an AL-record 62 homers.
After winning the MVP award in the World Baseball Classic last March while leading Japan to victory over the United States — he struck out Trout to end the tournament — Ohtani maintained his two-way magnificence this year, hitting 44 homers with a career-high 1.066 on-base plus slugging percentage while going 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA before tearing his elbow ligament again on Aug. 23. He didn't hit after Sept. 3 because of the strained right oblique.
Along with his elbow injuries, Ohtani's transcendent success has come with another significant damper: He has never made the playoffs or even played on a winning team in the majors. Angels owner Arte Moreno's franchise hasn't won more than 80 games n a season or finished higher than third in the AL West during his tenure alongside three-time AL MVP Trout and a perennially disappointing cast of supporting players.
Ohtani earned $42,269,259 in his six seasons with the Angels. After receiving a signing bonus of $2,315,000 with his initial deal, he had salaries of $545,000, $650,000, $259,259 (in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season), $3 million, $5.5 million and $30 million.