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Shohei Ohtani agrees to record $700 million, 10-year contract with Dodgers

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The news that Shohei Ohtani has chosen to stay in Southern California has left Toronto Blue Jays fans heartbroken.

The prospect of landing a generational talent had stirred excitement in Toronto, but the pursuit ended in disappointment for the Blue Jays faithful when Ohtani agreed to a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

“I mean $700 million is a pretty astronomical number but (I am) a little heartbroken it wasn't with the Jays, but I think he's going to do well with the Dodgers,” said Jays fan Nic Solari.

The Dodgers were the early favourites to land Ohtani, but some analysts had Toronto emerging as a strong contender after the Japanese star reportedly visited the Blue Jays' spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla.

The unique two-way superstar had played the previous six seasons with the crosstown rival Angels and was the unanimous choice as American League MVP last season.

Speculation that Ohtani was Toronto-bound hit feverish levels on Friday when an online report at Dodgersnation.com indicated that the Japanese star had chosen to sign with the Blue Jays.

That was followed by a social media post from a MLB.com reporter who stated Ohtani was en route to Toronto.

Social media users tracked what they thought could be the star's flight to Toronto, only for the CBC to report that the individual aboard the private jet was Shark Tank and Dragons' Den star Robert Herjavec - not a prospective designated hitter.

“Yesterday was crazy. I was checking Twitter all day, checking updates every two minutes,” said Solari. “The reporting was crazy.”

Katie Lawrence-Balloch, a devout Blue Jays fan in Vancouver, was hopeful Toronto could land baseball's brightest star, but never quite believed it would happen.

“Obviously, you hope the best player in the league signs with your team but I was trying to temper my expectations because it felt unbelievable, honestly, that he would come to Toronto,” said Lawrence-Balloch, who is known as ↕BlueJayGal on social media.

“(Friday) was such a buzz for everybody ... and it looked like it may happen for a second, which is kind of cool, but then you see he signs with one of the best teams in the league, and you can't really be surprised.”

Ohtani's agent Nez Balelo called the player's deal with the Dodgers “a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player.”“

The 29-year-old Ohtani hit 44 homers and drove in 95 runs over 135 games. Meanwhile, on the mound, he went 10-5 with a 3.14 earned-run average over 23 starts.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone involved with the Angels organization and the fans who have supported me over the past six years, as well as to everyone involved with each team that was part of this negotiation process,” Ohtani said in an Instagram post.

“Especially to the Angels fans who supported me through all the ups and downs, your guys' support and cheer meant the world to me.”

Ohtani's $700-million deal is 64 per cent higher than baseball's previous record, a $426.5 million, 12-year deal for Angels outfielder Mike Trout that began in 2019.

His $70 million average salary is 62 per cent above the previous high of $43,333,333, shared by pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander with deals they struck with the New York Mets. Ohtani's average salary nearly doubles the roughly $42.3 million he earned with the Angels. It also exceeds the entire payrolls of Baltimore and Oakland this year.

Ohtani will be unavailable to pitch next season as he recovers from elbow surgery, but his left-handed bat will augment an already strong Dodgers team that won 100 games last season before being upset by Arizona in a National League Division Series.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2023.

-- With files from Abdulhamid Ibrahim in Toronto and The Associated Press

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