The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are over.
The Dodgers, as they had long dreamed, held the winning ticket.
In a blockbuster announcement Saturday, Ohtani agreed to a 10-year, $700-million contract with the Dodgers, according to a statement posted on Instagram, bringing the two-time most valuable player across town after his historic six-year stint with the Angels.
“To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision,” Ohtani said in his Instagram post. “I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my next team.”
With the Dodgers, the 29-year-old Ohtani will now become an instant face of the franchise, as well as the highest-paid player in MLB history, with his record-breaking contract shattering Mike Trout’s previous high of $426.5 million.
The deal is also believed to be the largest in sports history, surpassing even the reported totals of such European soccer superstars as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
The majority of Ohtani’s contract will be paid out in “unprecedented” deferrals, according to a person with knowledge of the contract who was unauthorized to speak publicly and granted anonymity.
The deferrals were Ohtani’s idea, per the source. Such a structure — where most of the money will be paid out after the 10 seasons — should provide Ohtani with some tax benefits, but will more importantly ease potential year-to-year payroll and luxury tax complications of having a single player make $70 million annually. The primary goal of the deferrals, according to the source, was about allowing the team to be successful on the field.
The agreement includes no opt outs, said another person with knowledge of the deal unauthorized to speak publicly.
“This is a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player,“ said Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, Ohtani’s agent. “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.”
Ohtani broke the news on his Instagram account a day after conflicting reports suggested he was on the verge of signing with the Toronto Blue Jays. The silence his camp maintained made tracking his intentions difficult.
“First of all, 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,” Othani said in his post. “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.”
Though Ohtani is expected to be limited to only designated hitting duties next season, after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in September, the Japanese star will now represent one of the biggest player acquisitions in the Dodgers’ storied history, transforming their already star-studded lineup — including fellow MVPs Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman — with arguably the most dangerous hitter in the sport.
Ohtani’s skillset has long dazzled Dodgers brass. The team tried to sign him out of high school, but the then-teenage prodigy elected to play in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league instead.
The club again pursued Ohtani when he came to the majors ahead of the 2018 season but lost out to the Angels at a time National League clubs lacked the designated hitter role, hampering the team’s ability to let Ohtani pitch and hit regularly.
In recent years, their infatuation had only grown, as Ohtani ascended to superstar status by collecting 124 home runs, 290 RBIs and a .277 batting average as a hitter since 2021, while also 34-16 with a 2.84 ERA and 542 strikeouts as a pitcher in that same span.
Rival players, managers and executives described him as a unicorn. Not since Babe Ruth had a player even attempted such unprecedented feats.
“Clearly,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said at last week’s winter meetings, “Shohei is our top priority.”
Nonetheless, the Dodgers’ latest pursuit came with more complications. Ohtani’s elbow surgery is expected to prevent him from pitching until 2025, and has cast some doubt over his long-term future on the mound. He and Balelo also prioritized extreme levels of secrecy throughout the process, which left even top team executives around the league guessing as to what factors the player valued most.
All along, the Dodgers were seen as front-runners, if not outright favorites, to land Ohtani. They provided him with the chance to stay in Southern California, where he seemed to grow increasingly comfortable during his decorated tenure in Anaheim. They are an annual World Series threat, all but certain to give Ohtani his first true taste of championship contention.
And there were myriad other factors seemingly working in the team’s favor, from their track record of helping pitchers through extended injury rehabilitations (of note: their head physician, renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache, performed Ohtani’s surgery in September) to their vast array of player-development and game-planning resources, to high-profile marketing possibilities that would be available for one of sports’ biggest international stars.
Still, the club faced stiff competition in a drawn-out free agent saga.
Entering the offseason there were rumblings about the Boston Red Sox; that Ohtani might quietly have interest in a move to Fenway Park.
At various points during the process, rumors circulated around clubs such as the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves; and whether they could quietly emerge as potential dark-horse candidates.
A week before the winter meetings, industry buzz suggested the Chicago Cubs were making a big push, perhaps in an effort to pair their new blockbuster managerial hire of Craig Counsell with an even bigger splash by landing the game’s biggest star.
Then, over the course of the winter meetings, an apparent list of finalists came into focus, including the incumbent Angels, Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Blue Jays most of all — crescendoing Friday night when inaccurate reports (and private-jet tracking internet sleuths) suggested Ohtani was en route to Toronto to sign with them.
Despite fears that leaks of information during his free agency could be held against teams, Ohtani’s meetings with the Dodgers, Giants and Blue Jays — each held within a four-day span leading up to the winter meetings — all became public knowledge in the days before his signing.
Roberts even disclosed the Dodgers’ meeting with Ohtani during his press availability at the winter meetings, making him the only team official in the league to publicly confirm a meeting with the two-way star.
“I think it was more [about] just getting more familiar with him,” Roberts said of the three-hour session, which included a lunch at Dodger Stadium with members of the Dodgers front office and ownership group, a tour of the ballpark and the team’s clubhouse facilities and, as Roberts described it, a more relaxed vibe than Ohtani’s 2017 visits with interested teams.
“He had questions for us, just trying to get more of the landscape,” Roberts added. “But being in this league for six years he’s got a pretty good idea of the Dodgers, what we’re about, the city itself. So, for me, and speaking for our guys, it was just a pleasure to get to spend some time with him.”
In the end, the biggest question appeared to be whether another team would attempt to aggressively outbid the Dodgers for Ohtani — and whether the club was prepared to take its offer to such unprecedented dollar figures.
But a good chunk of the mammoth contract is expected to be offset by the extra operating revenue the Dodgers will generate by having Ohtani on their team.
The Angels netted some $10 million to $20 million a year in revenue from Ohtani-related in-stadium and on-air advertising. With the Dodgers, one industry expert suggested Ohtani could be worth two or three times as much.
It all appeared to spur the Dodgers — who previously had a track record of financial constraint on the free-agent market — into making their unprecedented offer.
And when combined with all the other boxes they were able to check, it helped the club accomplish its biggest offseason goal.
Shohei Ohtani is a Dodger.
The team’s long-held dream is suddenly now a reality.