Image credit: Shohei Ohtani (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
The best player in baseball has chosen his new home.
Shohei Ohtani has agreed to sign with the Dodgers for a record-breaking 10-year, $700-million contract, the two-way star announced on his Instagram account Saturday afternoon. Ohtani, 29, will sign the largest contract in North American sports history and becomes the highest-paid player in baseball history in terms of both total value and average annual value. His signing comes almost six years to the day after he picked the Angels in his move from Japan.
“This is a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player,” Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo of CAA, said in a statement. “Shohei is thrilled to be 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 will not pitch in 2024 after having an unspecified elbow surgery in September, but he will be able to hit and is slated to return to playing both ways in 2025. Even with an uncertain pitching outlook, his unparalleled talent and marketability was enough for the Dodgers to award him a record deal.
Ohtani is the only player to win two MVP awards unanimously and has won two of the last three Baseball America Player of the Year Awards. He has the third-most home runs and sixth-lowest ERA in MLB over the last three seasons, a level of two-way excellence even Babe Ruth never accomplished.
Most remarkably, Ohtani keeps getting better. He hit .304/.412/.654 last season, all career highs. His 1.066 OPS led the majors and his 44 home runs led the American League, his first time leading in either category. On the mound, he held opponents to a .184 batting average, the lowest mark of his career and best in the AL among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings.
It’s a level of dominance even his biggest believers coming out of Japan did not envision. Ohtani has not just been baseball’s best player – he has redefined what’s possible in the modern game.
“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 on Instagram. “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 will join the top of a Dodgers lineup that includes Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, giving the Dodgers three players who finished top-three in MVP voting in their respective leagues last year. If he returns to pitching in 2025 as planned, he will sit atop a rotation that could include Bobby Miller, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Ryan Pepiot and/or whoever else the Dodgers add via free agency or trade.
The Dodgers have made 11 straight postseasons and have had a winning record in 22 of 24 seasons since 2000. Ohtani never experienced a winning season with the Angels.
It seems like a distant memory now, but that would Ohtani would become baseball’s best and highest-paid player was far from guaranteed. Ohtani showed his remarkable two-way ability en route to winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2018, but he pitched only 51.2 innings before his elbow gave out and he needed Tommy John surgery.
He didn’t pitch at all in 2019 and made only two starts in 2020—where he recorded a combined five outs—before being shut down on the mound with a forearm strain. It appeared the physical strain of trying to play both ways in MLB was simply too great, and Ohtani entered 2021 realistically facing his last chance to prove he could hold up playing both ways.
Of course, he just did that in historic fashion. He then repeated it in 2022, silencing skeptics. He was on his way to doing it again in 2023 before he suffered a torn UCL in August that ultimately required the second UCL surgery of his career.
Few pitchers have ever remained successful after having multiple UCL procedures. But if anyone can break precedent or common wisdom, it’s Ohtani.