Shohei Ohtani, the superstar Japanese two-way player, has agreed to a landmark 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, per multiple reports on Saturday. The deal shatters records for the largest given to a MLB player in terms of overall value.
Background on Ohtani’s Rise to Stardom
Ohtani has skyrocketed to fame over the last few seasons as a rare two-way talent able to both pitch at an ace level and hit at an All-Star level simultaneously. The 28-year-old won the 2021 AL MVP award in his first full season playing both ways, going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA on the mound while slugging 46 home runs with 26 stolen bases as a hitter.
Last season, Ohtani built on that success by going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 28 starts while batting .273/.356/.519 with 34 homers and 95 RBIs in 139 games. He finished second in AL MVP voting and won the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award.
Ohtani was posted by his Japanese team, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, after the 2017 season. He signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018 at the age of 23 after garnering significant interest from MLB teams. However, Tommy John surgery limited him to just pitching in 2020 before his two-way breakthrough.
Breakdown of the Record Contract
The new deal will pay Ohtani $30 million per year through his age 37 season in 2032, setting records for the largest contract by total value ($700 million) and by average annual value for a position player ($30 million).
It surpasses the $426.5 million deal Mike Trout signed with the Angels in 2019 and the $360 million contract Bryce Harper inked with the Phillies in the same offseason. In terms of average annual value, Ohtani tops Max Scherzer’s $43.3 million per year with the Mets and Mike Trout’s $35.5 million per year with the Angels.
The contract’s deferred money lowers its present-day value to around $580 million, but it still shatters records as the most lucrative deal in the history of North American sports.
Reaction from Around Baseball
The baseball world reacted with awe at Ohtani’s staggering contract numbers that reflect his singular skills and talent.
Fans in Japan expressed bittersweet emotions, proud of Ohtani’s historic deal but lamenting the loss of their national hero to the Angels’ crosstown rival. Many wished for his success and hoped he might one day return to finish his career in Nippon Professional Baseball.
In the U.S., players across MLB praised Ohtani and used emojis to react on social media. Reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge congratulated his “brother” while Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. posted fire emojis. Fellow two-way player Hunter Greene tweeted it was “a win for all the kids who dream of playing both ways.”
Rival clubs admitted missing out on a rare generational star. The Giants and Cubs, two other finalists for Ohtani, will pivot to new plans after being unable to meet the Dodgers’ massive offer. Small-market teams like the Guardians expressed resignation at not affording a player like Ohtani under baseball’s current system.
Within the Dodgers clubhouse, a video showed players erupting with joy when they received news of the signing during a team dinner. Stars like Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and Clayton Kershaw will welcome Ohtani as the cherry atop an MLB juggernaut seeking its second title in three years.
What Signing Ohtani Means for the Dodgers’ Future
Adding Ohtani rocket-boosts the already stellar Dodgers as World Series favorites again next season and over the length of his deal. With money no object for baseball’s richest team, taking on his luxury tax bite was no obstacle.
The 2024 lineup will feature Ohtani as an everyday designated hitter slotting between lefty bats Freeman and Max Muncy. When pitching likely once a week, Ohtani strengthens a rotation headed by Kershaw, Julio Urias, and Tony Gonsolin. His arrival lets the Dodgers conserve the workload of Walker Buehler returning from injury and fellow young arms Dustin May and Ryan Pepiot.
In later years, Ohtani assumes the ace mantle from Kershaw as the lefty icon declines with age. Ohtani will grow into a franchise legend and fan favorite playing in the nation’s second-largest Japanese and Asian population in Los Angeles. Television ratings and attendance should enjoy a significant bump from his marketability and popularity.
The massive outlay for Ohtani consumes over a third of what MLB allows the Dodgers to spend on player salaries under competitive balance tax rules before harsh penalties kick in. As other stars like Betts, Freeman, and Trea Turner approach free agency over the deal’s lifespan, retaining them may prove difficult with Ohtani eating up payroll space.
What’s Next for the Angels after Losing Their Superstar
The Angels received only financial flexibility in return for Ohtani walking away after six seasons. They will recoup draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere but sorely lacked young talent with club control years remaining on the MLB roster.
Missing the postseason seven straight years with Ohtani and Trout wasting their primes, the Angels fired general manager Perry Minasian in October. Owner Artie Moreno is exploring a sale of the club while leaving its direction otherwise uncertain.
With no general manager currently steering the ship, the Angels do not appear positioned to effectively retool their roster in the short term. Their long-suffering fans brace for several rebuilding years as Moreno looks to cut costs and maximize franchise value for a potential ownership transfer.
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The Angels will probably first explore trading veterans like Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Taylor Ward for savings and prospects at the Winter Meetings. Their farm system ranks among baseball’s worst after depleting assets to build unsuccessful contenders around Ohtani and Trout from 2019-2021 under Minasian and predecessor Billy Eppler.
Ohtani made history in joining the Dodgers with a groundbreaking contract worthy of his generational two-way talent. While financial factors did play a role, his comfort with the Los Angeles area and chance to play for perennial contenders seemed just as pivotal in his decision.
The ever-aggressive Dodgers solidified their status as MLB’s dominant super-team by snagging Ohtani in free agency. Their other high-profile moves this busy offseason, trading for Xander Bogaerts and signing Trea Turner and former MVP Cody Bellinger, all led up to outdueling the field for Ohtani.
This powerhouse roster almost guarantees October baseball yearly through Ohtani’s deal. The only variables are dodging injuries and overcoming bad playoff luck that has ended the last two splendid regular seasons short of a title.
For the Angels, losing the iconic franchise face compounds organizational instability and aimlessness under owner Arte Moreno. The team may be headed for an overdue teardown, rebuild, and rebranding with Ohtani now soaring across town clad in Dodger blue.
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