Shohei Ohtani is staying in Southern California, but he's switching teams.
It's the largest pact in MLB history, surpassing the 12-year, $426.5 million deal Ohtani's ex-Angels teammate Mike Trout received in 2019. Ohtani becomes the highest-paid player in baseball with an average annual salary of $70 million, topping Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander's $43.3 million average salary.
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The record contract was expected for the 29-year-old, who's coming off one of the greatest individual seasons in MLB history.
Ohtani hit .304/.412/.654 with a 44 home runs and 95 RBIs over 135 games with the Angels last year. And not only did Ohtani dominate at the dish, he was also magnificent on the mound, where he sported a 3.14 ERA and struck out 167 batters in 132 innings. The unprecedented two-way showing earned Ohtani his second unanimous AL MVP trophy, making him the first two-time unanimous MVP in MLB history.
In his first six MLB seasons, the Japanese sensation has hit .274/.366/.556 with 171 home runs and 437 RBIs over 701 appearances. He's logged 86 starts as a pitcher over that span, boasting a 3.01 ERA with 608 strikeouts over 481.2 innings.
Ohtani's secretive free agency featured several reported suitors, including the Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and the incumbent Angels. But after six playoff-less seasons with the Halos, Ohtani is making the roughly 30-mile trek to Los Angeles to join a franchise that's made 11 straight postseason appearances.
The Angels, meanwhile, could have dealt Ohtani at this past season's trade deadline, but they instead opted to keep him and push for the playoffs with win-now deals. That decision ultimately backfired, as Los Angeles quickly faded from the playoff race and then watched Ohtani depart in free agency, with a compensatory draft pick as the only compensation the franchise will get in return for the superstar.
Ohtani will be added to a star-studded Dodgers lineup featuring the likes of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy and Will Smith. The right-hander isn't expected to join the Dodgers' rotation until 2025, though, after undergoing surgery on his right throwing elbow in September to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
While the Dodgers reached the 100-win mark for the fifth time in the last six full regular seasons, their season once again ended earlier than expected in 2023. They were surprisingly swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Division Series, marking their second consecutive LDS loss at the hands of a team they finished well ahead of in the regular-season standings.
With Ohtani in the fold, the Dodgers' championship expectations will only become even more heightened.
The Dodgers will open the 2024 season in Seoul, South Korea, with a two-game series against the rival San Diego Padres from March 20-21. They'll then return to Dodger Stadium for their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 28.