A player of unprecedented talents received an unprecedented contract.
Shohei Ohtani, the two-way phenom who won two American League MVP awards while with the Angels the last six years, is changing uniforms and leagues but not coasts.
Ohtani on Saturday agreed to a record 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers.
“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,” Ohtani posted Saturday on his Instagram page. “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.”
Last month Ohtani, 29, became the first two-time unanimous MVP winner, with this year’s award added to the one he took home in 2021. He finished second to Aaron Judge in 2022.
“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,” he wrote on Instagram. “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.”
The Dodgers entered the offseason as the favorite to land Ohtani, and after some twists and turns in the talks — which included some erroneous reporting Friday that the three-time All-Star might be close to signing a deal with the Blue Jays — they ultimately did.
The cash-rich Dodgers remain among the favorites — along with the Yankees and Mets — to sign Japanese star righthander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, 25. He is slated to begin meeting with interested teams this week in the United States, starting with the Yankees on Monday or Tuesday.
Still, Saturday was entirely about Ohtani, whose free agency was holding up much of the sport’s big-name and money activity (the Yankees, not at any point involved in the pursuit of Ohtani, pulled off the biggest move of last week’s winter meetings by trading for Padres outfielder Juan Soto).
The teams that were seriously engaged with Ohtani, a group that included the Giants, were not focused on much of anything else until the pitcher/DH made his decision.
All of the negotiations, at the behest of Ohtani’s camp, took place with a minimum amount of information leaked to the media, unusual for this time of year. Doing so, it was widely believed inside the sport, might hurt a team’s chances of acquiring the once-in-a-lifetime player.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts acknowledged last Tuesday that his team had met with Ohtani — an admission that surprised even Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman — but it obviously did not prove costly.
Ohtani, who did not pitch after suffering a right elbow injury in late August that required surgery and likely will keep him from pitching next season (but not hitting), was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA. He batted .304 with 44 homers and a 1.066 OPS in 135 games before suffering an oblique injury in early September.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported there were “unprecedented deferrals” with the money in Ohtani’s contract, deferrals put in at the insistence of the player to avoid hamstringing the Dodgers when it comes to the luxury tax and making additional roster improvements down the road.
“This is a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player,” Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, told MLB.com. “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.”
TOP 10 MLB CONTRACTS (TOTAL MONEY)
1. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers, 10 years, $700 million
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, 12 years, $426.5 million
3. Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers, 12 years, $365 million
4. Aaron Judge, Yankees, 9 years, $360 million
5. Manny Machado, San Diego Padres, 11 years, $350 million
6. Francisco Lindor, Mets, 10 years, $341 million
7. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres, 14 years, $340 million
8. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies, 13 years, $330 million
T9. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins, 13 years, $325 million
T9. Corey Seager, Texas Rangers, 10 years, $325 million