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Shohei Ohtani’s $700 Million Contract With the Dodgers Will Be the Biggest in MLB History TIME

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels

Shohei Ohtani won’t be leaving Southern California. Though he’ll be able to buy a much bigger house, if he so chooses. Or Catalina Island.

Ohtani, the generational two-way player from Japan who won two of the past three American League Most Valuable Player awards with the Los Angeles Angels, plans to sign a historic 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his agent Nez Balelo confirms to TIME (ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported the terms of the deal). It’s the largest contract, measured by total value, in the history of professional sports. Ohtani announced his intentions on Instagram on Saturday. “To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision,” he wrote. An apology was not needed. “I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my next team.”

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Read More: The Most Influential People of 2021: Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani, 29, essentially rolled prior eye-popping deals for top hitters, and pitchers, into one ridiculous deal. Take, for example, the contracts of Gerrit Cole, the reigning American League Cy Young winner, and Aaron Judge, last year’s American League MVP who slugged 62 home runs in 2022. Both Cole and Judge play for the New York Yankees: in 2019 Cole inked a nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yanks: he was 29 years old. Judge, at 30, signed a nine-year, $360 million deal to stay in the Bronx. Those two lucrative deals still don’t add up Ohtani’s $700 million. (Though they are a year shorter.)

Remarkably, Ohtani may have commanded even more had he not injured his throwing elbow this year and undergone surgery. He won’t pitch next season but should be back in 2025. The Dodgers are betting that he’ll regain top pitching form. In 2022, he led the American League in strikeouts per nine innings with 11.87, and his 11.39 strikeouts per nine innings would have ranked him second this season, had he not gotten injured and failed to pitch enough innings to qualify for that stat title. While he was dominating on the mound, he was continuing his incredible feats at the plate: this season he led the American League in home runs with 44 and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) with a 1.066 mark. It’s been said before, but worth reiterating: comparing Ohtani to Babe Ruth is a disservice to Ohtani. No one has been so good both pitching and hitting at the same time as Ohtani.

Read More: Shohei Ohtani Is What Baseball Needs

That’s why, according to Jomboy Media’s Dalton Feely, Ohtani’s $70 million average annual salary exceeds the current 2024 team payrolls for eight teams: the Cleveland Guardians ($66.9 million), Miami Marlins ($65.9), Kansas City Royals ($65.5 million), Milwaukee Brewers ($61.6 million), Cincinnati Reds ($59.9 million), Pittsburgh Pirates ($54.2 million), Baltimore Orioles ($42.9 million), and the Oakland A’s ($38.6 million).   

The baseball rumor mill ran amok the past few days, before Ohtani himself posted on Instagram. Jon Morosi of MLB Network gave hope to Canada on Friday afternoon when he reported that Ohtani was on his way to Toronto, presumably to finalize a deal. Several outlets knocked down the report, then Morosi retracted it, writing on X, “Today, I posted reporting that included inaccurate information that Shohei Ohtani was traveling to Toronto. I regret the mistake and apologize to baseball fans everywhere. I am deeply sorry for letting you down.”

The insider race to be first on sports transactions, particularly in baseball, is a dangerous game. Reader beware, always.

For the game itself, Ohtani’s landing in a major American market, closer to his rabid fans in Japan than eastern-seaboard cities, is a major coup. And the Dodgers are an ideal fit. Baseball earned plenty of positive momentum coming out of the 2023 regular season. Innovations like the pitch clock and bigger bases shortened games, added action, and boosted attendance. But something was still missing: Ohtani participating in the postseason. The Angels could never assemble a competitive team worthy of Ohtani’s talents. Now he’s joining a team that’s reached the playoffs in 11 straight seasons. He has a real shot of leading the Dodgers back to the World Series, which the team won in 2020. He’s right where he belongs. 

Plus, Catalina’s lovely this time of year.   

Sean Gregory

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