WORLD NEWS Ohtani joining Dodgers on 10-year, $700M deal

Ohtani joining Dodgers on 10-year, $700M deal

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Shohei Ohtani signed a historic 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

Ohtani posted to Instagram on Saturday saying he would play for his former team’s crosstown rival starting next season after spending six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.

“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. 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,” Ohtani wrote.

The contract is the largest in baseball history by more than $250 million, topping the 12-year, $426.5 million that now-former teammate Mike Trout signed in 2019. The $70 million average annual salary also easily eclipses the previous record of $43.3 million for Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer and is more than the 2023 Opening Day payrolls of the Baltimore Orioles ($60.9 million) and Oakland Athletics ($56.9 million).

The deal does not include any opt-outs, a source told ESPN. Another source said “the majority” of Ohtani’s salary will be deferred in order to mitigate what the Dodgers are charged toward their competitive balance tax payroll on a yearly basis, giving them more freedom to add to their payroll over the life of Ohtani’s contract. The deferrals, according to the source, were Ohtani’s idea.

“This is a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player,” Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent at CAA, said in a statement, adding: “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.”

Ohtani, 29, is the first player in baseball history to be named unanimous MVP on multiple occasions, an honor bestowed upon him twice over the past three years. During that stretch, he defied conventionality as he exceled as both a pitcher and a hitter while becoming Major League Baseball’s first two-way player since Babe Ruth dabbled in both roles more than a century ago.

Only a tender elbow could stop him.

Ohtani learned of a new tear in his ulnar collateral ligament — his second such injury in five years — on Aug. 23, near the tail end of a third consecutive standout season for the Angels. Nearly four weeks later, he underwent what was vaguely described as some hybrid version of Tommy John surgery. The man who performed it, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, wrote in a statement that Ohtani would be ready to hit “without any restrictions come opening day of 2024” and resume his role as a two-way player by 2025, but details of his procedure were elusive.

Ohtani’s highly anticipated run at free agency also played out in secrecy, with little publicly known about his preferences beyond a desire to continue his two-way aspirations.

His Instagram post included an apology for “taking so long to come to a decision.” He also publicly thanked the Angels and their fans.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone involved with the Angels organization and the fans who have supported me over the past six years, as well as to everyone involved with each team that was part of this negotiation process,” Ohtani wrote. “Especially to the Angels fans who supported me through all the ups and downs, your guys’ support and cheer meant the world to me. The six years I spent with the Angels will remain etched in my heart forever.”

The Dodgers improved from 8-1 to 6-1 to win the World Series following Ohtani’s announcement and are now the consensus favorite ahead of the Atlanta Braves at sportsbooks around the nation.

Ohtani’s regular-season debut with the Dodgers will come in a two-game series against the San Diego Padres on March 20-21. Ohtani is slated to face the Angels twice next season, at home on June 21-22 and at Angel Stadium for two games on Sept. 3-4.

Ohtani had joined the Angels in 2018, leaving Japan early as an international free agent and significantly hindering his earning potential on the open market.

All of MLB practically lined up to sign him, but Ohtani, to the surprise of many, chose the Angels and the comfort they might provide him. He struggled to adapt throughout his first spring training but flourished as a pitcher and hitter during the first two months of his rookie season in 2018. A Grade 2 UCL sprain discovered in early June 2018 forced him to shut it down as a pitcher — and eventually prompted his first Tommy John surgery, after non-invasive treatment failed — but did not prevent him from winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

Ohtani navigated the 2018 and 2019 seasons primarily as a designated hitter, with an .884 OPS and 40 home runs in 210 games.

He then struggled mightily as both a pitcher and a hitter during the COVID-19-shortened season of 2020. Those struggles triggered a transformative offseason. Ohtani spent the ensuing winter refining his diet, studying his biomechanics on the mound and seeing an array of live pitching in the batter’s box then watched it translate into a mesmerizing display in spring training of 2021.

Under general manager Perry Minasian and then-manager Joe Maddon, the Angels eliminated prior restrictions that prevented Ohtani from hitting around his starting pitching days and essentially gave him full autonomy over his playing time.

It helped unlock one of the most impressive three-year runs ever.

From 2021 to 2023, Ohtani slashed .277/.379/.585 while accumulating 124 home runs, 22 triples and 57 stolen bases as a hitter. As a pitcher, he won 34 games and posted a 2.84 ERA in 74 starts, striking out 542 batters in 428 1/3 innings. By weighted runs created plus, he was more productive than Juan Soto, Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper. By fielding independent pitching, he was better than Max Scherzer, Blake Snell and Dylan Cease. Only Aaron Judge’s AL-record-breaking 62-homer season in 2022 prevented Ohtani from three consecutive MVPs.

This offseason, teams lined up for the chance to sign a relatively young free agent who boasts an unprecedented skill set — prodigious power, plus speed, elite arm strength and the ability to spin devastating breaking pitches — and unique marketability. Many were intimidated by the immense price tag and concerned about his ability to bounce back as a pitcher, but many also put that aside for the opportunity to land the most unique free agent in baseball history.

Ultimately, the Dodgers won out.

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