Czerwonka: How Shohei Ohtani became the richest man in sports

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Shohei Ohtani graphic. - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

Shohei Ohtani, who many consider to be one of the most talented and unique players in baseball history, has finally put ink on paper, and joining one of the most well-known teams in sports history. 

Ohtani, a two-time AL MVP winner, spent the past six years playing for the Los Angeles Angels. In those six years, he’s done the unthinkable and has redefined what was possible at baseball’s highest level.

The phenom two-way player agreed to a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. This announcement came from his Instagram page, however, the deal has yet to be announced by the Dodgers, who need to create room for Ohtani on the 40-man roster. 

The 10-year, $700 million deal is set to be not just the largest contract in baseball history, but the history of North American sports. The previous holder was now former teammate Mike Trout, which was a 12-year, $426.5 million contract back in 2019. Ohtani’s new contract now surpasses Trout’s by $250 million. This contract is also set to be more than some team’s entire 2023 Opening Day payrolls, like the Baltimore Orioles ($60.9 million) and the Oakland Athletics ($56.9 million). 

Back in 2017, the 23-year-old had just been posted by his Japanese Pacific League team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, where he played five seasons in total. Soon after that, Ohtani became one of MLB’s top international prospects.

As the years progressed, more and more people started to hear about Ohtani. In his six years of professional baseball, he’s won the AL Rookie of the Year, two Silver Slugger Awards, two MVPs, and is a 3-time all-star. One of the MVPs came off of this past season, where he posted unreal stats. On the hitting side, he posted .304/.412/.654 along with 44 bombs, 95 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases. On the pitching side, he had a 3.14 ERA, 167 strikeouts along with 132 innings pitched. 

However, the spectacle was cut short when he suffered a UCL tear on Aug. 23, ending his season abruptly. This would eventually lead him to undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in the past five years. Because of the tear, Ohtani will not be able to pitch in the 2024 season at all (he will likely return to pitching in 2025), however, he will still be able to hit.

While people guessed that Ohtani would become a Dodger, many thought that this deal was done with a whole different team, the Toronto Blue Jays. The day before he signed the massive contract, rumors were swirling around all over social media, with thousands of different things being posted. It even got to a point where people were tracking a flight from California to Toronto. This ended up being a red herring, and rather than signing with the Blue Jays like many thought, Ohtani remained in southern California and inked a record deal with the Dodgers.

As of Monday, the Dodgers announced that $680 million of the deal will be deferred and will be paid to Ohtani between the years 2034-2043. This means that Ohtani will be paid $2 million a year for the next 10 seasons, which was reportedly Ohtani’s idea, as he wanted the Dodgers to be able to sign other players. 

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