The Dodgers have been talking about Ohtani for years, waiting for the day he’d become a free agent, and on a team already filled with stars, they’ve now got the biggest in the baseball world.
Ohtani is officially a Dodger, signing a staggering 10-year, $700 million contract Saturday, making Dodger Stadium the happiest place on earth and Ohtani the richest athlete in North American sports history.
“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," said Ohtani, who broke the news of his own signing on Instagram. “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’s deal, paying him an average of $70 million a year, shatters every baseball contract ever given. It’s worth nearly twice as much as New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge’s nine-year, $360 million contract a year ago, the previous record for a free agent deal.
The Dodgers privately have spent years talking about Ohtani brand, and just what it would mean for their glorious franchise.
Ohtani is basically Taylor Swift in baseball spikes.
Every Dodgers game will now be broadcast live in Japan. They will have billboards touting Ohtani all over Southern California. There will be lucrative Japanese advertising in the rotating signs behind home plate at Dodger Stadium. There will be sponsorships. Merchandise. Jerseys. Caps. Licensing. You name it, Ohtani will be on it.
Sure, $700 million is a lot of money, but you know what, Ohtani is going to be worth nearly $50 million a year to the Dodgers in marketing and licensing. Ohtani brought in $25 million a year to the Angels, and with the Dodgers, that should be doubled.
Ohtani already is making friends by letting everyone know that he’s deferring an “unprecedented" portion of his contract to provide the Dodgers enough flexibility to be competitive as possible and add even more stars, with the team still pursuing Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
"Shohei is thrilled to be a part of the Dodgers organization," agent Nez Balelo said in a statement. “He is excited to begin this partnership, and he structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success.’’
Ohtani’s decision not only has Dodgers’ fans running out to renew their season tickets, but thrills MLB, with the biggest star in the game playing in the second-largest market in America. Nothing against Toronto, perhaps the most beautiful city in North America, but this is where Ohtani belongs.
The Dodgers are the best-run organization in baseball. They’ve dominated the National League West for 11 years, and should continue to do for at least another decade.
They will be must-watch TV, the greatest traveling show in the game, with fans flocking wherever they go.
And sure, the critics already are out there.
Who in their right mind would spend $700 million on a DH with no guarantee that Ohtani will pitch again?
Ohtani plans to be back in 2025, but he missed nearly two full seasons after his first Tommy John surgery, and now he’s five years older.
The guy can still hit, and he’s the easily the greatest attraction in the game, where he’ll generate more money than any player who ever put on a baseball uniform. He earned $40 million in endorsements playing for the Los Angeles Angels a year ago. The next highest? Mike Trout at just $5 million.
Yep, he has that kind of appeal, and Ohtani realized that it made no sense leaving the comfortable confines of Los Angeles to go anywhere else.
Sure, maybe traffic will be a bit tougher if he continues to live in Newport Beach.
He’s got to get used to a lot more media filling that clubhouse than in Anaheim.
He’s going to have to talk to reporters more than once or twice a month.
But, finally, for the first time since coming to the United States, he will be on a winner.
Yes, an honest-to-god winning franchise that’s in the playoffs every year.
Welcome back home, Shohei.
You’re going to love life on the other side of town.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why is Shohei Ohtani so special? He'll be worth every penny of $700M