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Shohei Ohtani, the star baseball player from Japan, has signed a ten-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $700mn, believed to be the largest individual sports deal in the world.
The deal far outpaces other record contracts in baseball, football, and golf. It reflects increasingly lavish spending by deep-pocketed owners, in this case by the Guggenheim-led consortium in control of the Dodgers, as live sports remain a popular industry for investment and television ratings.
Ohtani’s deal dwarfs earlier records in Major League Baseball — unique among US sports in not having a hard salary cap for individual players — including New York Yankees star Aaron Judge’s nine-year, $360mn contract beginning this season, and the twelve-year $427mn contract extension granted to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels in 2019.
The deal also outpaces record sums in global football, including Cristiano Ronaldo’s two-year agreement to join Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr FC reportedly worth up to $200mn per year. John Rahm, the Masters golf champion, this week agreed to join Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf tour reportedly worth more than $300mn.
“To all Dodgers fans, 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”, Ohtani, 29, said in a statement posted on his Instagram account Saturday. He also thanked fans of the Los Angeles Angels, the team for which he has played for the past six years.
Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent, said that “he structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success”.
Born in Oshu, Japan, Ohtani is widely considered a once in a century talent in the sport of baseball. He has twice won the MLB most valuable player award. During the 2023 season alone, he led all American league batters with 44 home runs while maintaining an earned run average of just 3.14, a pitching metric that measures the average number of runs scored by opposing batters per nine innings pitched.
Earlier this summer, Ohtani became the first MLB player in six decades to hit two home runs while also shutting out ten batters from the pitching mound in the same game.
“We are seeing things every day [from Ohtani] that we’ve never seen before”, Phil Nevin, the Angels manager, said at the time.
The Dodgers, owned since 2012 by a consortium which includes Chelsea FC owner Todd Boehly, last won the World Series in 2020. The franchise originated in Brooklyn in 1883 before moving to Los Angeles in 1958.