$700M stunner: Ohtani to Dodgers on biggest deal in sports history

December 12th, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- Consider that “top priority” handled for the Dodgers -- and emphatically so.

After a fervent sweepstakes, reigning American League Most Valuable Player has agreed to terms with the Dodgers on a record-demolishing 10-year, $700 million deal, according to his agent, Nez Balelo. The team officially announced the deal on Monday night. 

“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 wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday. “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.”

“This is a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player,” Balelo said in a statement. “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.”

Historic, indeed. Ohtani's is believed to be the largest contract in worldwide sports history, surpassing soccer superstar Lionel Messi's $674 million deal with FC Barcelona from 2017-21. (It also surpasses the roughly $679 million Kylian Mbappé would earn if he opts to stay with PSG through 2025.)

In terms of the history of North American team sports, it exceeds Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' 10-year, $450 million extension; in baseball, it surpasses now-former teammate Mike Trout, who agreed to a 12-year, $426.5 million extension with the Angels in 2019.

“Shohei is a once-in-a-generation talent and one of the most exciting professional athletes in the world," said Mark Walter, Chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Guggenheim Baseball. "Our players, staff, management and ownership look forward to working together with Shohei to help the Dodgers continue to add, improve and strive for excellence on the field. Together with Shohei, we will work to help grow the number and breadth of people around the world who enjoy the excitement of Major League Baseball.”  

As for free-agent deals, this is the largest by dollar amount in MLB history by $340 million, surpassing Aaron Judge’s nine-year, $360 million contract inked ahead of the 2023 season. It shatters the record for average annual value for an MLB contract, previously set by Max Scherzer at $43.3 million with the Mets ahead of the 2022 season, then tied by Justin Verlander with the Mets a year later.

Details about Ohtani’s free agency were mostly sparse, with manager Dave Roberts providing a rare bit of candidness at the Winter Meetings by simply disclosing the Dodgers had met with the player. But this past week -- and Friday in particular -- saw much speculation and conflicting reports about Ohtani’s plans and even where in the world he was. Up until Saturday’s announcement, the prevailing sentiment had the Blue Jays as the frontrunner following a late push.

Ohtani, who will turn 30 on July 5, is locked up through 2033, which will be his age-39 season. A two-time unanimous MVP, three-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger and the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year, Ohtani has been far and away the most impressive two-way player in MLB history. Across six seasons with the Angels, he slashed .274/.366/.556 with 171 home runs and a 148 OPS+. On the mound, he posted a 3.01 ERA with 608 strikeouts, a 1.08 WHIP and 142 ERA+ over five seasons (he did not pitch in 2019 following Tommy John surgery).

Although Ohtani won’t be available to pitch in 2024 as he recovers from October surgery to repair his right UCL, he’ll slot in nicely as the Dodgers’ designated hitter next season, joining National League Most Valuable Player runners-up Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman atop the lineup. Ohtani is coming off his best season at the plate, in which he led the AL in homers (44) and OBP (.412) while leading MLB in slugging (.654) and WAR (10.0, per Baseball Reference).

Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, Ohtani’s deal includes what one source called “unprecedented deferrals,” including the majority of his salary -- which was Ohtani’s idea. He wanted to mitigate the CBT and cash-flow burdens to let the Dodgers have the flexibility to be competitive.

There are also tax benefits because of the deferrals, the source told Feinsand, but they were “primarily about allowing the team to be successful on the field, because above all else, he wants to win.”

That flexibility will be important, as Ohtani now being off the table allows the trade and free-agent markets to get moving -- and the Dodgers still have moves they must make, even with their new superstar in tow. The biggest need is at least a couple of starting pitchers to reinforce a currently thin staff. The biggest available options via trade are the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes, the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow and Dylan Cease of the White Sox, all three of whom the Dodgers have been linked to.