Everyone expected Japan’s Shohei Ohtani to receive the biggest deal in baseball history. Over the weekend, the two-time Most Valuable Player award-winner received the biggest deal in team sports history.
On Saturday, the Japanese star announced that he had agreed to a 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers valued at $700 million.
Olympics.com says the amount is higher than the $679 million for France’s Kylian Mbappe with Paris Saint-Germain in 2022, $674 million for Lionel Messi with Barcelona in 2017, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s $500 million agreement with Al Nassr.
The total is also higher than the largest American football contract of $450 million given to Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. It far exceeds the baseball deals of $426.5 million given to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and the $360 million given to Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.
Under the contract, Ohtani’s average yearly salary of $70 million is well above the previous high of about $43 million that pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander struck with the New York Mets. His average yearly salary is also higher than the combined salary of all players with the Baltimore Orioles or the Oakland A’s this year.
Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, called it “a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player.” Another sports agent, Leigh Steinberg said, “He’s rocketed into a stratosphere all his own.”
Is he worth it?
Ohtani started in Major League Baseball with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. He is the sport’s best two-way player. He is one of the best hitters and also one of the best pitchers in baseball. He is the only player in baseball history to appear as both a pitcher and a hitter in the All-Star games in 2021 and 2023. He was unanimously named the Most Valuable Player twice in 2021 and 2023.
But the $700 million deal was more than most baseball fans imagined. And many wonder why the Dodgers made that kind of investment in one player.
Mike Lewis teaches marketing and sports business at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He said, “Baseball has sometimes struggled to gain national attention, but he’s the kind of guy who attracts millions…and not just from the U.S.”
Lewis compared the Dodgers’ signing of Ohtani to Inter Miami’s signing of Lionel Messi in Major League Soccer. Interest in American soccer, especially on social media, greatly increased around the U.S. and the world. As of Sunday morning, the Dodgers’ Instagram account had 3.2 million followers. Ohtani on his own has 6.3 million.
No baseball player has received more interest internationally than Ohtani, especially in his native Japan. Japanese companies paid for top advertising spaces in Anaheim when Ohtani was playing with the Angels. His Angels uniform is the best-selling one among baseball players in 2023. Ohtani’s uniform is expected to sell well, and many more Dodgers’ tickets are expected to be sold, too.
When Ohtani was negotiating with different baseball teams for a new contract, fans were following his movements and posting information online. The interest was similar to the level around popular singer Taylor Swift.
Steinberg, the sports agent, believes every baseball team interested in Ohtani has already estimated how much money he would bring to the team. If the Dodgers were willing to pay $700 million to sign him, then Steinberg believes they made a good decision.
“He’s handsome and he’s a huge box office draw,” Steinberg told the Associated Press. “There are very few players who can match that. He has appeal to all.”
I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.
Hai Do adapted this report for VOA Learning English based on reporting from The Associated Press and other sources.
Words in This Story
previous –adj. taking place earlier; before the present
salary –n. pay or wages in money
unique –adj. unlike anything else
stratosphere –n. a high level of the atmosphere
pitcher –n. (baseball) the player who throws the ball to the batter: the pitcher’s action starts every play in baseball
uniform –n. the clothing worn by a team which is also sold to fans and the public
box office draw –expression (entertainment) a popular perform who many people are willing to pay money to see
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