Former Angels star Shohei Ohtani is staying in Southern California but switching uniforms, agreeing to a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the richest deal in U.S. sports history, it was announced Saturday.
“To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision. I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my next team,” Ohtani wrote on Instagram.
“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,” the Japanese-born superstar continued. “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.
“And 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. 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.
“There are some things that cannot be conveyed in writing, so I would like to talk more about this again at a later press conference.
“Thank you very much.”
Born in Oshu, Japan, the 29-year-old Ohtani burst onto the American sports scene in 2018 when he hit 22 home runs in his first year with the Angels while going 4-2 with a 3.31 earned-run average in 10 games as a starting pitcher. He was selected as the American League Rookie of the Year.
His two-way prowess only grew in subsequent years, drawing comparison to Babe Ruth, the only other player in MLB history with comparable success as both a batter and a pitcher. In his six seasons in Anaheim, Ohtani batted .274 with 171 home runs and 437 runs batted in, while going 38-19 on the mound with a career ERA of 3.01.
He was a unanimous selection as the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2021 after hitting 46 home runs and posting a 9-2 record as a pitcher.
He hit a major league-leading 44 home runs in 2023, despite missing the Angels’ final 25 games after injuring his right oblique while taking batting practice at Angel Stadium on Sept. 4. Once again he was the unanimous choice as AL MVP, becoming the first player to earn that honor unanimously on multiple occasions.
But the Angels struggled to compete during Ohtani’s tenure, failing to make the postseason even once despite the presence of fellow superstar Mike Trout in the lineup. His free agency at the conclusion of the 2023 season touched off one of the most intense bidding wars in baseball history, with the Toronto Blue Jays mentioned as a front runner as recently as Friday night.
According to ESPN, the deal tops MLB’s previous richest contract — the $426.5 million deal signed by Ohtani’s former Angels teammate Trout in 2019 — by more than $250 million.
The $70 million average yearly salary far outdistances the previous record of $43.3 million for pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
The NFL’s richest contract is believed to belong to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes at $450 million over 10 years. NBA stars Jaylen Brown, Nikola Jokic and Bradley Beal have contracts worth more than $250 million.
Ohtani is not expected to pitch again until at least 2025 after suffering a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament on Aug. 23.
He is expected to be ready to play full-time as a position player on opening day of next season, however.