Dodgers sign Shohei Ohtani to largest contract in North American sports history

Dec 9, 2023, 2:12 PM | Updated: 2:14 pm

Shohei Ohtani...

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels reacts with teammates after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 30, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The biggest star in baseball is headed to the National League West, as free agent Shohei Ohtani announced on Instagram he is signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani, 29, agreed to a 10-year contract worth $700 million, the largest deal in North American sports history, according to multiple reports. The contract also reportedly has “unprecedented deferrals” that lower the average annual value to create flexibility with no opt-outs.

The two-way player from Japan spent the past six seasons down the road with the Los Angeles Angels and unanimously won the American League MVP in 2021 and 2023.

“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. “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.”

His deal blows away the previous MLB record of $426.5 million signed by Mike Trout with the Angels in 2019. The Toronto Blue Jays were also considered a finalist.

No one in MLB history, not even Babe Ruth, has played at such a level pitching and hitting at the same time, pushing beyond the limits of what was seemingly possible on the diamond before his arrival in 2018.

Ohtani led the AL with 44 home runs, a .412 on-base percentage, a .654 slugging percentage, a 1.066 OPS and 325 total bases last year with the Angels, and he earned his third All-Star Game nod in as many years. He has hit at least 34 home runs with 95 RBIs in each of the last three campaigns. Aaron Judge’s historic 62-home run record in 2022 kept Ohtani from three-peating the MVP award.

He joins a Dodgers lineup spearheaded by Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith. Ohtani has been a full-time designated hitter during his career.

On the hill, Ohtani made 74 starts between 2021-23 and produced a 2.84 ERA with a 3.23 FIP and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He deploys an upper 90s fastball, sweeper, cutter, sinker, curveball and a devastating splitter that caused a 41% whiff rate last year.

He will not be ready to pitch in 2024 after undergoing elbow surgery, so the Dodgers’ short-term need for pitching persists after shortcomings doomed their postseason run.

Ohtani has yet to play for a winning team, as the Angels never won more than 80 games with him on the roster. He has yet to play postseason games, although he helped Team Japan win the World Baseball Classic in 2023, striking out Trout of Team USA to end the tournament.

Shohei Ohtani joins the NL West

The division has had quite the week.

The Arizona Diamondbacks made a significant addition by signing left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to a four-year deal with an option to bolster the rotation after their World Series run. The San Diego Padres traded away superstar outfielder Juan Soto and starting center fielder Trent Grisham to the New York Yankees in exchange for five players, including pitchers Michael King and Drew Thorpe.

Now the Dodgers made their move.

The D-backs defeated the Dodgers in the NLDS, sweeping Los Angeles in three games. L.A. won the division with 100 wins, while the D-backs were a wild card team at 84 wins.

Ohtani and the Dodgers will first visit Chase Field in the regular season from April 29-May 1.

How has Ohtani played against the Diamondbacks?

The D-backs have gotten some looks at Ohtani the hitter and pitcher.

At the plate, Ohtani is 6-for-18 with two home runs and five strikeouts his career against Arizona. He hit a 493-foot home run against Arizona lefty Tommy Henry (who threw very well that day) last season.

He has only made one pitching appearance against the D-backs in his career back in 2021 (5 IP, 2 ER).

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