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How much? Japanese baseball star Ohtani inks richest deal in US sporting history

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Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani has confirmed he is joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in a record-shattering 10-year, US$700 million deal – the richest contract in the history of North American sport.

After weeks of frenzied speculation over where the 29-year-old Los Angeles Angels two-way ace would land in free agency, Ohtani announced on Instagram he had opted for his former club’s crosstown rivals.

“To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologise for taking so long to come to a decision,” Ohtani wrote. “I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my next team.

“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 makes waves in Tokyo as an extra edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reports the deal. Photo: AP

“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 added.

Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo said in a statement the deal would be worth US$700 million over 10 years, a historic figure that smashed the previous record baseball contract as well as bettering the largest deals ever agreed in the NFL and NBA.

The previous largest contract awarded in baseball was the 12-year, US$426.5 million extension handed to Ohtani’s Angels teammate Mike Trout in 2019.

Until Ohtani’s deal, the largest contract in any sport in North America belonged to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who agreed a 10-year, US$450 million extension in 2020.

Mahomes was among several US sports stars to react to news of Ohtani’s gargantuan payday.

“Bro like what! … Congrats to him,” the NFL star wrote on social media.

Cleveland NBA star Donovan Mitchell chimed in: “$700 million is crazy!! And he deserves every penny of that too.”

Ohtani has taken Major League Baseball by storm since landing in the league in 2018, with his almost unheard of combination of elite pitching and hitting prowess earning him comparisons to Babe Ruth.

Although his talents were not enough to help spark a revival in the Angels’ fortunes – the team failed to make the playoffs following his arrival – Ohtani nevertheless dazzled in a flagging franchise.

He has twice been named American League Most Valuable Player, in 2021 and 2023, on both occasions winning by unanimous vote – the only player in history to achieve that distinction.

Although elbow injuries have cut short his pitching appearances – he missed the final month of the 2023 campaign with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow – this year was his most successful to date.

Why is ‘Japanese Babe Ruth’ Shohei Ohtani so special?

As a designated hitter, Ohtani led the AL in home runs with 44.

It was Ohtani’s second straight season with at least 10 wins on the mound and 10 home runs at the plate. The only other player to accomplish that feat was New York Yankees legend Ruth back in 1918.

Although revered as a dual threat, Ohtani will not pitch in 2024, to help his arm recover, but will still be able to hit.

While Ohtani was frustrated in his pursuit of success with the Angels, he was the driving force behind Japan’s victory in the World Baseball Classic in March.

Ohtani will not be able to pitch in 2024 after injury, but he will be able to hit. Photo: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

He helped close out a fairy-tale 3-2 victory for Japan over the United States in the final of the showpiece in Miami by striking out US captain Trout.

As well as being a stand-out on the field, Ohtani has also been a one-man commercial juggernaut. He reportedly made a one-season MLB record US$65 million in salary and endorsements these season.

He also had the bestselling jersey of any Major League Baseball player this season, the first time a Japanese player topped the list.

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