The Dodgers landed the biggest prize on the free agent market, agreeing to terms with superstar two-way player Shohei Ohtani, he announced on his Instagram.
At various points in the last few weeks, the Dodgers were reported to be in the mix for Ohtani’s services, along with the Blue Jays, Cubs, Giants, and Angels. The Dodgers met with Ohtani on December 1 at Dodger Stadium, a meeting that manager Dave Roberts acknowledged at the winter meetings. Roberts’ candor was a departure from the rest of the market and even the Dodgers front office, who have all gone to great lengths to avoid confirming interest in the superstar.
“There are a lot of scenarios and ways that this could go,” Roberts said on December 5. “But clearly Shohei is our top priority.”
The global superstar hit .304/.412/.654 with a league-leading 44 home runs and a 180 wRC+, and on the mound had a 3.14 ERA and 3.82 xERA in 23 starts, with 167 strikeouts and 55 walks in 132 innings. That MLB season followed a World Baseball Classic that he dominated at the plate and on the mound, and struck out his Angels teammate Mike Trout to close out the tournament championship for Japan.
Ohtani won the American League MVP unanimously in both 2021 and 2023, and finished second for the award in 2022, the same year he was fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting. Simply put, there is nobody like him.
Over the last three seasons, Ohtani has hit .277/.379/.585 with a 157 wRC+ while also putting up a 2.84 ERA and 151 ERA+ over 428⅓ innings. Since the start of 2021, Ohtani ranks second in OPS (.964) and slugging percentage, fourth in MLB in home runs (124) and wRC+, second in pitching strikeout rate (31.5 percent), and third in ERA (2.84), the latter two stats with a minimum of 400 innings.
Ohtani totaled 28.5 bWAR and 26.5 fWAR during that time, both figures tops in MLB.
He’s not expected to pitch in 2024 after elbow surgery in September, which means Ohtani can focus full-time on batting after averaging over 41 home runs since the start of 2021.
In each of the last three seasons, Ohtani made the American League All-Star team as both a hitter and pitcher. He won a pair of Silver Slugger Awards, and has won the Edgar Martinez Award as the best designated hitter in the sport in 2021, 2022, and 2023.
Ohtani joins the Dodgers beginning with his age-29 season, fortifying an already potent top of the lineup that includes Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. That trio ranked first, fourth, and sixth in the majors in wRC+ in 2023.
Ohtani made $30 million on a one-year deal in 2023, setting a record for a player still eligible for salary arbitration. His new contract is similarly trendsetting.
His $700 million guarantee is the largest contract in baseball (and North American sports) history, and his average annual value of $70 million is also the highest ever in the sport, more than 62 percent over the previous AAV record.
Shohei Ohtani's contract has significant deferrals that include most of his salary -- an idea, a source said, that was Ohtani's. In deferring the money, it reduces the cost of the competitive-balance-tax hit and will allow the Dodgers to build a better team around him.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 9, 2023