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Shohei Ohtani, two-time unanimous MVP, agrees to record $700 million contract with Dodgers

Ohtani was a free agent this offseason after finishing his contract with the Los Angeles Angels.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Shohei Ohtani has set a financial record to go along with his singular on-field performance, getting a record $700 million to make a 30-mile move up Interstate 5 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His agent, Nez Balelo, issued a midafternoon news release Saturday announcing the 10-year contract, ending months of speculation that began even before Ohtani became a free agent Nov. 2. In recent days, media and fans had tracked private plane movements and alleged sightings like detectives in attempts to discern the intentions of the two-time AL MVP with the Los Angeles Angels.

“This is a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player,” Balelo said. “He is excited to begin this partnership, and he structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success.”

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Ohtani announced the deal on Instagram after days of speculation over where the unique, two-way star would continue his career after six seasons with the Angels.

Ohtani’s total was 64 percent 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 percent 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.

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.

“He structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success,” Balelo said. “Shohei and I want to thank all the organizations that reached out to us for their interest and respect, especially the wonderful people we got to know even better as this process unfolded.”

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This is perhaps the largest contract in sports history, topping highs believed to be set by soccer stars Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé.

There was no immediate comment by the Dodgers. Ohtani has not spoken with reporters since Aug. 9.

Ohtani joins a lineup that also includes 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman. The Dodgers won the NL West this year for the 10th time in 11 seasons before they were swept by Arizona in the Division Series in October.

Los Angeles begins the 2024 season in Seoul, South Korea, against San Diego on March 20-21.

Ohtani’s decision came six years and one day after he first agreed to his deal with Angels.

Ohtani has redefined modern baseball since he chose the Angels as his first major league team. Nobody has come close to matching his simultaneous achievements at the plate and on the mound, becoming one of the majors’ elite players in both roles whenever healthy. Along the way, he’s become one of the most marketable athletes in the world, sure to boost ticket sales, TV ratings, and sponsorship revenues wherever he goes.

He was a unanimous AL MVP in 2021 and 2023 — he finished second in 2022 — winning this year despite injuring his elbow in late August and an oblique muscle in early September.

Ahead of his 30th birthday on July 5, he has a .274 average with 171 homers, 437 RBIs and 86 stolen bases along with a 39-19 record with a 3.01 ERA and 608 strikeouts in 481⅔ innings. Ohtani has 34.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per Baseball Reference.

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The Halos are a perennial also-ran, both in the AL standings and in the Los Angeles market, but they won Ohtani’s services in late 2017 partly by promising him the freedom to train and to play however he wanted. Ohtani immediately dazzled the entire sport in 2018, batting .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs as a designated hitter and going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts.

Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2017 despite making just one pitching appearance after early June because of an injured elbow ligament that required Tommy John surgery following the season. Ohtani made just two mound appearances in the next two years while continuing to play as the Angels DH.

When his arm was finally healthy in 2021, Ohtani put together a season for the ages.

He won the AL MVP award with 46 homers and 100 RBIs at the plate while going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA on the mound. He improved as a pitcher in 2022, going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP while still driving in 95 runs at the plate, but finished behind Aaron Judge in the MVP voting after the Yankees star hit an AL record 62 homers.

After winning the MVP award in the World Baseball Classic last March while leading Japan to victory — he struck out Trout to end the tournament — Ohtani maintained his two-way magnificence this year, hitting 44 homers with a career-high 1.066 OPS while going 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA before tearing his elbow ligament again Aug. 23. He didn’t hit after Sept. 3 because of the strained right oblique.

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Along with his elbow injuries, Ohtani’s transcendent success has come with another significant damper: He has never made the playoffs or even played on a winning team in the majors. Owner Arte Moreno’s Angels haven’t won more than 80 games or finished higher than third in the AL West during his tenure alongside Trout, a three-time AL MVP, and a perennially disappointing cast of supporting players.

Ohtani earned $42,269,259 in his six seasons with the Angels. After receiving a signing bonus of $2,315,000 with his initial deal, he had salaries of $545,000, $650,000, $259,259 (in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season), $3 million, $5.5 million and $30 million.