The Dodgers gave Shohei Ohtani $700 million to hit and pitch — but also because he can sell

A person reads an extra edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reporting on Shohei Ohtani to move to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

PHOENIX — Shohei Ohtani’s jaw-dropping $700 million, 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers has some similarities to other contracts for the world’s biggest sports stars, including soccer icons Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, along with NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

In terms of his marketability, experts point to another name.


The real comparison? Try Taylor Swift.

The global music sensation’s broad appeal — one that bridges the gap between generations and expands to other countries — is an extremely rare phenomenon that Ohtani shares. There’s no doubt the Dodgers hope they can leverage the Japanese star’ s arrival into even more money for a franchise that is already one of the most popular in Major League Baseball.

“He’s rocketed into a stratosphere all his own,” sports agent Leigh Steinberg said.

Ohtani was expected to sign the biggest deal in MLB history as a free agent this offseason and didn’t disappoint. He’s the sport’s best two-way player ever — not even Babe Ruth hit and pitched at the same time so effectively — and though he won’t be able to pitch in 2024 following Tommy John surgery, he should provide plenty of value at the plate before he returns to the mound in 2025.

But the $700 million price tag was more than most imagined.

His $70 million average salary is 62% above the previous high of about $43.3 million, 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 over six seasons with the Angels. It also exceeds the entire payrolls of Baltimore and Oakland this year.

The reason the Dodgers made that kind of commitment is simple: It’s probably worth it. Not just because he could help win World Series, but because of the value he brings even if he doesn’t.

“If Ohtani is marketed right, he’s a globally iconic player,” said Mike Lewis, a professor of marketing at Emory University who specializes in sports business. “It could be like something from Formula One, where you’ve got the attention of the whole world. Baseball has sometimes struggled to gain national attention, but he’s the kind of guy who attacts millions of eyeballs, and not just from the U.S.”

The Dodgers haven’t had trouble attracting eyeballs over the past several years.

They’re a perennially successful franchise — winning the NL West 10 of the past 11 seasons and the World Series in 2020 — and averaged more than 47,000 fans per game last year, best in the sport. They’ve doled out big money to stars like Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw.

But nothing compares to Ohtani.

Lewis — the Emory professor — said the spike in interest could be comparable to Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, which saw a massive jump in online interaction, particularly on Instagram, after Messi signed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email