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A pay day beyond belief: How Shohei Ohtani's mega deal compares

A pay day beyond belief: How Shohei Ohtani's mega deal compares

By Liam Swiggs

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Photo: Sean M. Haffey

Imagine getting your salary increased 16 times (1547 percent) with the stroke of a pen. Shohei Ohtani, a professional baseball player soon to be joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, found out what that feels like on Sunday. His new 10-year, $700m USD (1.1 billion NZD) contract stands as the largest in the history of American sports and, amazingly, he’s not even the only sportsman in the last week to have been granted such an astronomical amount of money.

In a monumental move for both American sporting culture and finance alike, the Dodgers secured a groundbreaking deal to acquire Japanese sensation Ohtani, known for both his exceptional pitching and hitting abilities, from the nearby LA Angels.

In sporting terms in this part of the world, what Ohtani stands to make is enough to pay the salaries of the entire NRL playing roster for the next five years.

When looked at in comparison to some of the biggest deals we’ve seen in sports, it beats out the second largest contract ever held by an athlete: FC Barcelona paid world renowned superstar Lionel Messi a total of $674m USD split across four seasons. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is another on top of the rich list with the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL, currently three years into a 10 year $450m USD contract. Ohtani’s deal is a quarter of a billion dollars more than the next highest Major League Baseball contract.

However, only last week golfer Jon Rahm scored himself just under $1 billion NZD as well – although that deal was with the controversial LIV Tour funded by the Saudi Arabian government. That means there’s been far less of a feel-good factor that Ohtani’s move has been met with, something Cristiano Ronaldo can relate to after his $536m USD move to Saudi club Al-Nassr back in January.

So how does it compare? For New Zealand athletes, NBA player Steven Adams still leads the pack having just signed a $25m USD contract extension over the next two years with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Combat sports don’t work on annual salaries, so it is hard to make a direct comparison to Joseph Parker and Israel Adesanya. But they still need to be mentioned, Parker is due for his biggest payday in years on Christmas Eve when he stands to make around $10m NZD for his fight against Deontay Wilder. Adesanya has a bunch of endorsement deals on top of an earning power of around $1m NZD per fight, which comes to around $8m per year.

Lydia Ko is by far and away New Zealand’s highest paid sportswoman, earning around $5m NZD on the LPGA tour.

Joseph Parker, Steven Adams, Israel Adesanya, Lydia Ko


Photo: Getty

When we think in terms of athletes who ply their trade exclusively in Australasia it’s a long, long way back to Dally M player of the year Jason Taumalolo, who is serving a decade long stay at the North Queensland Cowboys for $10m AUD. Top All Black salaries and contracts have to be guessed but there’s obviously a reason they look to head offshore at the end of their test careers to pick up a bigger payday.

So why are the Dodgers willing to part with such an absurd amount of money for Ohtani? The financial gain extends beyond the United States, particularly in Japan. With a population of close to 125 million, the potential for Dodgers jersey sales is considerable, exemplified by the queues of fans in Japan purchasing special editions of newspapers announcing Ohtani’s move.

Quite simply, the Dodgers want him to win them the World Series.

Ohtani’s unparalleled proficiency in both pitching and hitting sets him apart from the competition. Despite a UCL injury delaying his pitching contributions until at least 2025, his impressive statistics over the past three years, including a 2.84 earned-run average and over 11 strikeouts per nine innings, indicate he will be a pivotal asset to the Dodgers’ pitching staff.

While Ohtani’s pitching debut may be delayed, he will immediately make an impact as a hitter. His recent achievements, including winning the American League MVP twice, underscore his offensive prowess with 44 home runs in 2023, showcasing his ability to hit to all fields with remarkable consistency.

Apart from on-field benefits, the Dodgers anticipate substantial business returns from this signing. Investing $70 million annually in Ohtani is seen as a strategic move, with the expectation of increased revenue from various streams, including ticket sales, merchandise, and television ratings. Ohtani’s international star status further supports this business strategy, with the Dodgers viewing exceptional players not as expenses but as long-term investments.

With Ohtani joining an already formidable Dodgers lineup that includes stars like Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, the team is poised to continue its annual playoff participation, solidifying its status as a baseball powerhouse with three of the world’s top 10 hitters.

Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium.

Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium.
Photo: Ronald Martinez

Beyond the economic aspects, Ohtani’s move is expected to benefit baseball fans globally, providing an opportunity to witness his brilliance in crucial late-season games. The Angels’ inability to secure postseason appearances in the past six years, despite having Ohtani and future Hall of Famer Mike Trout, played a role in Ohtani’s decision to facilitate competitive team spending with the Dodgers.

Despite the official announcement pending a physical examination, Ohtani’s decision to join the Dodgers from the Los Angeles Angels marks a significant shift. The move is anticipated to enhance the Dodgers’ roster by adding one of the sport’s most exceptional and marketable stars.

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