The baseball world was rocked this week when superstar Shohei Ohtani agreed to a record-shattering $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ohtani, the 2021 AL MVP and 2022 runner-up, leaves the Los Angeles Angels after six seasons to join the Dodgers’ already loaded lineup.
Lead-Up to the Deal
After a disappointing 2022 season where the Angels missed the playoffs despite Ohtani’s continued excellence, speculation swirled that he may test free agency after 2023. With no extension reached last offseason, the pressure mounted as Ohtani posted video-game numbers once again.
The Angels made Ohtani a last-ditch mega offer at the end of the 2022 season in an attempt to keep him, but he turned it down in hopes of reaching the postseason. The crosstown rival Dodgers, hungry for a World Series after disappointing early playoff exits in recent years, aggressively courted the two-way star.
On December 11th, news broke that Ohtani had agreed to join the Dodgers on a landmark 7-year, $700 million contract. The average annual value of $100 million shatters previous records for both pitchers and hitters. Unconfirmed reports indicate the Angels offered Ohtani $500 million over 8-10 years at season’s end.
Here are key details of Ohtani’s record-setting Dodgers contract:
|Average Annual Value
|After 2026 season
|$1.2 million annual bonus for MVP win
Unique aspects of Ohtani’s deal include allowing him to remain a two-way player, a full no-trade clause locking him in as a Dodger barring waiver, and heavy deferrals on his salary.
What This Means for Ohtani’s Future
By joining forces with a stacked Dodgers lineup and rotation, Ohtani puts himself in prime position to win that elusive World Series ring. With young stars like Mookie Betts and Julio Rodriguez flanking him in the order, Ohtani will see his best pitches yet as a hitter. He chose flexibility and winning over maximizing total dollars, but should still earn over $30 million per year even in his 40s due to extreme contract deferrals.
Ohtani dodged questions in his opening press conference about whether offseason Tommy John surgery could be forthcoming. If he undergoes the operation in early 2024, he may miss significant time on the mound but could still contribute at the plate and return to form by the 2025 season when the Dodgers will be gearing up for a title run.
Big Market Flexing Muscles Once Again
The Ohtani sweepstakes was seen by many as a barometer of baseball’s shifting power dynamics. While competitive balance initiatives sought to suppress mega-contracts, the Dodgers flexing their financial might to lure Ohtani away from Anaheim shows massive markets re-consolidating power.
The Dodgers have made the playoffs 10 straight years with MLB’s highest payroll, yet their World Series drought sits at 33 years and counting. Securing Ohtani to pair with Betts and Freddie Freeman is a clear statement of championship intentions over the next half-decade in Chavez Ravine. Rivals like the Padres and Giants may seek their own blockbuster moves to counter.
Baseball purists remain divided on Ohtani’s record payday. A faction insists no single baseball player can ever be worth an average $100 million salary. Others say for a true unicorn talent like Ohtani capable of excelling as both ace pitcher and middle-of-the-order slugger, the value threshold may need rethinking. Only time will tell whether Ohtani in Dodger blue can deliver the bang befitting his buck.
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