Ohtani can opt out of Dodgers deal

Shohei Ohtani.
Shohei Ohtani.AP

SHOHEI Ohtani can opt out of his $700 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers if either of two key executives is no longer in place, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press on Wednesday (Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023 PH time).

Ohtani, who will be formally introduced by the Dodgers at a news conference Thursday, would be allowed to terminate his deal if Mark Walter no longer is controlling owner or president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman no longer is with the team, the person said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms were not announced.

Ohtani’s deal, announced Monday, provides that 97 percent of the money be deferred without interest and not fully paid until 2043.

The Athletic first reported Wednesday that Ohtani’s deal contained a provision allowing him to opt out at the end of a season if the Dodgers made specific personnel changes.

The deal is still in the form of a letter of agreement between Ohtani’s representatives and the team, and a formal contract has not been submitted to Major League Baseball, the person said.

Led by Walter, the private partnership Guggenheim Baseball Management purchased the Dodgers in 2012 for $2.15 billion. In his early years as controlling owner, Walter was a regular at Dodger Stadium. But his presence gradually decreased and last season he attended only a handful of games.

Walter’s global financial services company, Guggenheim Partners, has headquarters in Chicago and New York. He is a native of Iowa.

Friedman was hired by the Dodgers in 2014 after spending a decade with the Tampa Bay Rays. He gradually rebuilt that franchise and the team reached the World Series in 2008 despite operating with one of the sport’s lowest payrolls.

Friedman has an enviable record in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers winning nine division titles under his leadership, three NL pennants and the 2020 World Series during the pandemic-shortened season. He overhauled the club’s farm system and reorganized and expanded the front office.

Ohtani’s contract calls for annual salaries of $70 million and of each year’s salary, $68 million is deferred with no interest, payable in equal installments each July 1 from 2034-43.

MLB proposed as part of bargaining on June 21, 2021, to ban deferred compensation, but the union rejected the concept and MLB dropped it.

Ohtani will be introduced during a news conference in Dodger Stadium’s Centerfield Plaza starting at 3 p.m. PST.

MLB reported Wednesday that Ohtani broke Fanatics’ record for the highest jersey sales within the first 48 hours of a release, topping soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ohtani was out of sight at the stadium on Wednesday, meeting with teammates, including seven-time All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts and reliever Joe Kelly.

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