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Dodgers signing two-way star Shohei Ohtani to record 10-year, $700 million deal

After a roller-coaster couple of days, the most anticipated free agent ever has chosen to stay in L.A., signing a whopping 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers. We break down what it means for his fantasy baseball outlook and Los Angeles’ betting futures.

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels is seen in the dugout preparing for his game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on September 03, 2023 in Oakland, California. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It turns out that Shohei Ohtani won’t be leaving Los Angeles after all.

For most of Friday, speculation (and lots of private-jet flight tracking) suggested the two-way superstar was headed to the Toronto Blue Jays. But on Saturday afternoon, Ohtani put all the rumors to bed, announcing in an Instagram post that he was taking his talents to the crosstown Dodgers.

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

The money is truly historic, not just for a baseball player but for any athlete: Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Ohtani is signing a 10-year, $700 million deal — lapping Mike Trout’s 12-year, $425 million deal, the previous record for the highest contract in North American sports.

While that’s a literally unprecedented number, Ohtani has reportedly agreed to defer much of it years into the future, helping the Dodgers duck under the most stringent competitive balance tax thresholds and build the most competitive team possible around him.

It’s a move that reshapes the landscape of the entire league, quite possibly the best player in the world heading to the most consistently competitive franchise of the last decade-plus, and it puts to bed a free agency that featured all sorts of twists and turns over the past few days. Ohtani, 29, hit the market for the first time this winter after spending the first six years of his career with the Los Angeles Angels. When it became clear that he likely wouldn’t be returning to the Halos, a list of likely candidates soon emerged: West Coast powers like the Dodgers and Giants, major media markets like the Mets, Yankees and Cubs, or even the defending-champion Rangers. None of those lists featured the Blue Jays ... until, just before Winter Meetings began last weekend, reports surfaced that Ohtani had visited the team’s complex in Dunedin, Florida, a sign that Toronto was very much in the hunt.

That kicked off a frenzied few days of rumors, with the Jays continuing to build momentum — and, at least according to some reports throughout Friday afternoon, actually signing Ohtani to a contract. But in the end, it was always going to be the Dodgers, the team that could offer Ohtani the most money, the most convenient West Coast location and the best chance at immediately competing for a World Series. A player who’s yet to reach the postseason in his six years in the States will now play for a team that hasn’t missed the postseason since 2012.

It’s hard to overstate just how unique a talent Ohtani is. He’s coming off his second MVP season, as he crushed an American League-leading 44 home runs last year — despite playing just 135 games — to go along with leading all of baseball in slugging (.654) and OPS (1.066). Oh, and he also posted a 10-5 record and a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts on the mound before undergoing elbow surgery in September to repair a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. That injury is expected to prevent him from pitching until the 2025 season, making him “just” a full-time designated hitter in 2024.

Still, arguably the best hitter in the league is a pretty nice consolation prize — especially considering how well he fits in a Dodgers lineup that just lost DH J.D. Martinez to free agency. Dodgers VP Andrew Friedman still has plenty of work to do: The rotation remains a huge question mark, with Ohtani unavailable til 2025, Clayton Kershaw currently a free agent and Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May all working back from major surgery. But L.A. will be able to slug with anyone with a top of the order featuring Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Ohtani, Max Muncy and Will Smith (plus the return of shortstop Gavin Lux from his torn ACL), and the bullpen remains a strength. Even with a ton of starting pitching questions, this move makes the Dodgers prohibitive favorites in 2024; DraftKings Sportsbook now has them at +550 to win the World Series, easily the shortest odds in the league.

It also reshapes the economy of the sport. Ohtani’s deal was always expected to set a new precedent in baseball; the sport has never seen a talent like him — not even Babe Ruth excelled at the plate and on the mound at the same time to this extent — and there was no road map for how to value him as he entered free agency for the first time. His elbow injury added another complication, his second major surgery since coming to America in December 2017 and one that raises real questions about his ability to continue as a two-way star for years to come. But Ohtani’s value transcends his abilities on the field, especially in a city with as robust a Japanese community as Los Angeles.

In the end, the potential on the field and off was simply too great, and more than worth the risk that Ohtani’s body can’t hold up to the burden he puts on it. He’s now the richest man not only in baseball history, but in the history of North American sports, a status befitting an athlete we really haven’t seen anything like — and who’s captivated multiple entire nations at opposite ends of the globe. Toronto is now the center of the baseball world, and will be for the foreseeable future. It’s hard to put a price on that.