Two-way star Shohei Ohtani has agreed to a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his agent's office said Saturday.
The deal's total value easily makes Ohtani the highest-paid athlete in history, eclipsing Lionel Messi's $673 million contract with football powerhouse Barcelona, according to CBS Sports.
The contract smashed the MLB record for the highest total value of $426.5 million, previously owned by Los Angeles Angels outfielder teammate Mike Trout, Forbes magazine reported, with a record annual average value of $70 million, surpassing Texas Rangers pitcher Max Scherzer's record of $43.33 million.
"To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision," Ohtani said in an Instagram post.
"The six years I spent with the Angels will remain etched in my heart forever," he said. "And 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 recently became Major League Baseball's first two-time unanimous MVP after hitting an American League-leading 44 home runs with a 10-5 record and a 3.14 ERA as a pitcher until he suffered an elbow injury in late August that required surgery.
The 29-year-old from northeastern Japan's Iwate Prefecture accomplished all that after winning March's World Baseball Classic with Japan and being named tournament MVP.
"Until the last day of my playing career, I want to continue to strive forward not only for the Dodgers but for the baseball world," Ohtani said. "There are some things that cannot be conveyed in writing, so I would like to talk more about this again at a later press conference."
Ohtani will play for a National League club for the first time after spending his first six MLB seasons with the Angels.
He is expected to concentrate on being a designated hitter from the start of the 2024 season before returning to pitch again in 2025.
The Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants were among the teams in the Ohtani sweepstakes until the Dodgers, who pursued Ohtani as a high school pitcher in 2013, finally got their man.
The Dodgers will play their 2024 opening series in Seoul on March 20 and 21 against the San Diego Padres, who are expected to have Ohtani's WBC teammate pitcher Yu Darvish and Gold Glove-winning utility player Kim Ha Seong on their Opening Day roster.
Many Japanese have played for the Dodgers since Hideo Nomo had a sensational rookie season in 1995. Among them are pitchers Kazuhisa Ishii, Hiroki Kuroda and Kenta Maeda.
Ohtani's signing with the Dodgers is expected to continue to bring in Japanese tourists and businesses to southern California in the coming years.