Shohei Ohtani has opted to stay in Southern California, and the Toronto Blue Jays have missed out on landing a generational talent.
The unrestricted free agent announced on his Instagram account on Saturday that he has signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The unique two-way superstar had played the previous six seasons with the crosstown rival Angels and was the unanimous choice as American League MVP last season.
According to his agent Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s deal with the Dodgers is worth a record $700 million US over 10 years.
“He is excited to begin this partnership, and he structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success,” Balelo said in a statement.
“We know fans, media and the entire industry had a high degree of interest in this [free agency] process, and we want to express our appreciation for their passion and their consideration as it played out.”
Ohtani’s total was 64 per cent higher than baseball’s previous record, a $426.5 million, 12-year deal for Angels outfielder Mike Trout that began in 2019.
His $70 million average salary is 62 per cent above the previous high of $43,333,333, shared by pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander with deals they struck when signing with the New York Mets. Ohtani’s average salary nearly doubles the roughly $42.3 million he earned with the Angels. It also exceeds the entire payrolls of Baltimore and Oakland this year.
His agreement includes unprecedented deferred money that will lower the amount it counts toward the Dodgers’ luxury tax payroll, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were not announced.
This is perhaps the largest contract in sports history, topping highs believed to be set by soccer stars Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
There was no immediate comment by the Dodgers. Ohtani has not spoken with reporters since Aug. 9.
“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,” Ohtani said in an Instagram 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 29-year-old Ohtani hit 44 homers and drove in 95 runs over 135 games last season. Meanwhile, on the mound, he went 10-5 with a 3.14 earned-run average over 23 starts.
The Dodgers were the early favourites to land Ohtani, but some analysts had Toronto emerging as a strong contender after the Japanese star reportedly visited the Blue Jays’ spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla.
Speculation that Ohtani was Toronto-bound hit feverish levels on Friday when an online report at Dodgersnation.com indicated that the Japanese star had chosen to sign with the Blue Jays.
That was followed by a social media post from a MLB.com reporter who stated Ohtani was en route to Toronto.
Social media users tracked what they thought could be the star’s flight to Toronto, only for the CBC to report that the individual aboard the private jet was Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den star Robert Herjavec — not a prospective designated hitter.
Ohtani will be unavailable to pitch next season as he recovers from elbow surgery, but his left-handed bat will augment an already strong Dodgers team that won 100 games last season before being upset by Arizona in a National League Division Series.