The long wait for Shohei Ohtani to end his free agency is over. The great Japanese two-way star announced on his Instagram account on Saturday he’s signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a reported 10 years at $700 million, the richest contract by far in Major League Baseball history.,
“To all my fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize it took so long to come to a decision,” he wrote. “I have decided to chose the Dodgers as my next team.”
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Increasingly it looked like the 29-year-old would remain in the Los Angeles market, either with the Dodgers or as a return to the Angels on a shorter-term deal. He met with the Dodgers last weekend in Los Angeles while the baseball world was converging on Nashville at the Winter Meetings, a gathering that was confirmed but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
Despite rumors Friday that he was on route to Toronto to sign with the Blue Jays, Ohtani decided to stay put in Southern California, albeit just miles north from where he played the first six years at Angel Stadium.
“First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone involved with the Angels organization and the fans who’ve supported me,” Ohtani said, “as well as everyone involved with each team that was part of the negotiation process… The six years I spent with the Angels will be etched in my heart forever.”
The San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, New York Mets and Blue Jays were heavily involved in the process.
Ohtani became a one-of-a-kind phenom in baseball history because of his hitting and pitching prowess. Over six seasons in MLB, he’s won two AL MVPs and been named an All-Star three times, despite underdoing Tommy John surgery back in 2018. He underwent surgery on the same elbow in September after tearing his UCL in August, and is expected to be only a hitter in 2024 before returning to the mound in 2025.
When he signed with the Angels in late 2017, Ohtani earned a $2.3 million bonus under the international signing system because of his age and experience, and then was paid the MLB minimum at the time of $545,000 for the 2018 season. The Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s Japan League team, was paid a $20 million posting fee. His record $700 million contact is worth 64% more than the $426.5 million deal signed by former Angels teammate Mike Trout and more than double MLB’s third-richest contract, which belongs to current Dodgers teammate Mookie Betts.
Ohtani worked his marketing magic with the Angels, who had him for a bargain of $42.3 million during his first six MLB seasons, most of that consisting of $30 million last year to avoid a bigger payday through salary arbitration.
During the 2023 season as a hitter alone, Ohtani led the majors in home runs (44), on-base percentage (.412), slugging percentage (.654), OPS (1.066), OPS-plus (184) and total bases (325). He batted .304 and knocked in 95 runs. As a pitcher, he was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings across 23 starts before the elbow injury.
All these numbers are unprecedented, but they’re more unreal considering he didn’t pitch a game after Aug. 23 and stopped hitting for the season on Sept. 3.
The winner of three Edgar Martinez awards as Major League Baseball’s top designated hitter, Ohtani will be the most expensive DH in history this coming season.
The question now is whether Ohtani can ever attain those levels again. He will be 30 before he throws another pitch in the majors. The Dodgers have won the National League West 10 times in the past 11 years, but have only the 2020 World Series win in the bubble to show for it. Despite winning 100 or more games the past two seasons, they were eliminated in an NL Division Series both times.
“To all Dodgers fans , I pledge to always do what’s best for the team and always continue to give my all to be the best version of myself,” Ohtani said. “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.”
The Dodgers are valued at $5.24 billion, according to Sportico, and as of two seasons ago, had the second-best MLB revenue stream at $605 million. They have been optimizing their financial situation since then by allowing $100 million worth of players to leave via free agency, opening up luxury tax threshold space for the run at Ohtani. Its another win for Los Angeles, which will seek to extend their run of 11 consecutive playoff appearances and return to the World Series for the first time since their 2020 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
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