Baseball’s highest-profile free agency ever is over, and the San Francisco Giants struck out once again.
Shohei Ohtani announced Saturday via his personal Instagram a record-shattering agreement that not only meant the Giants finished as runners-up, but will have to face the two-way megastar a dozen times a year as the Dodgers’ grip on the National League West grows even tighter.
Long perceived to be the favorites in the sweepstakes for the two-time MVP and global sensation, the Dodgers reeled in their prize one day after false reports that Ohtani was in agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays sent the sport into a frenzy. The terms of the contract, according to his agent, Nez Balelo: $700 million over 10 years, eclipsing the previous record held by Mike Trout, whose $426.5 million deal had been the largest in major-league history.
In a statement, Balelo called it a “unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player.”
Ohtani, whose decision has stalled the baseball offseason, addressed “all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world” in his own statement, writing that “I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision,” adding a message to 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. 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.”
The outcome couldn’t be worse for the Giants, who have been adamant about adding star power this offseason and now must pivot elsewhere while coming to terms with the game’s biggest attraction hitting 1-2-3 with Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman through at least 2027 (when Freeman’s contract expires).
Don’t forget they also share a division with the defending National League champion Diamondbacks, and while the Padres traded away Juan Soto, they still have Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Boegarts and Ha-Seong Kim.
If there’s one silver lining, the Dodgers are taking on considerable risk, given that Ohtani is ruled out from pitching in 2024 after what was reported to be a second Tommy John surgery and is no sure thing to ever be the same two-way player. However, there can only be so much downside to signing the game’s preeminent slugger.
While they were one of at least three teams reported to have received a meeting, the Giants’ final offer is unknown.
“Shohei and I want to thank all the organizations that reached out to us for their interest and respect, especially the wonderful people we got to know even better as this process unfolded,” Balelo said in a statement. “We know fans, media and the entire industry had a high degree of interest in this process, and we want to express our appreciation for their passion and their consideration as it played out.”
Ohtani was easily the top prize on the market, but the Giants should have enough funds earmarked for him that they can use to patch multiple holes on the roster.
They’re still seeking to upgrade their outfield, improve their defense and athleticism, and find a partner for Logan Webb at the top of the rotation.
The Giants have been linked to the top two center fielders available, Cody Bellinger and Jung-Hoo Lee, and general manager Pete Putila said at the Winter Meetings that “we have some internal options, but we’re scanning the entire market, as well.” Third baseman Matt Chapman has strong ties to manager Bob Melvin and would help stabilize the left side of the Giants’ infield and their lineup.
The top priority after Ohtani, though? It might be another Japanese sensation, Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Only 25 years old, the right-hander has won the past three Sawamura Awards, given annually to the top pitcher in Nippon Pro Baseball. The idea of pairing him with Webb, who’s 26, and Kyle Harrison, 22, is an enticing proposition — but it will also likely be an expensive one, with the Mets and Yankees expected to be in the bidding.
Don’t rule out the Dodgers, either. The addition of Ohtani doesn’t address their biggest need for 2024 — the starting rotation — and the deal reportedly includes “unprecedented deferrals,” meaning they might not be done spending.
Given his age and ability, Yamamoto represents almost as much of a unicorn as Ohtani.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.