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MLB

Ohtani signs record-breaking deal: What are the largest contracts in MLB history?

From Mike Trout’s payday with the Angels to Max Scherzer’s mercenary-style payout, here are the five largest contracts in Major League Baseball (MLB) history.

Update:
From Mike Trout’s payday with the Angels to Max Scherzer’s mercenary-style payout, here are the five largest contracts in Major League Baseball (MLB) history.
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The bombshell dropped on Saturday in Major League Baseball as Nez Balelo confirmed that his client, two-way star Shohei Ohtani had agreed a highly lucrative 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $700 million. With it, he effectively doubles the $42.3 million he earned with the Angels. Ohtani will earn and average salary of $70 million topped up with other endorsements, making him the best-paid player in MLB history.

There had been much speculation about Ohtani’s future since he entered free agency on 2 November, resulting in a fierce bidding war. But no one would have expected such an outcome. His $70 million salary dwarfs the previous MLB record of $43,333,333 - jointly shared by veteran pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander with deals they struck to leave the New York Mets - both as free agents.

Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo explained, “He structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success. 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.”

Contrary to reports before Saturday’s confirmation of a deal with the Dodgers, Ohtani’s contract does not include any opt-out clauses. Offering a player an opt-out clause has become common at the top end of the market. It allows players to decide whether to stay in a deal or test the free-agent market at specific agreed-upon points. Giving Ohtani a vast contract with the ability to re-enter the market if he is dissatisfied would be the modern baseball equivalent of giving him a blank check - but that won’t be happening.

Nevertheless, as more details of the contract emerge, what’s clear is that Ohtani will be earning more than the top earner in MLS, Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi. So let’s take a look at the most lucrative contracts in MLB history.

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The five largest contracts in MLB history

On December 11, 2000, Alex Rodriguez signed a contract worth $252 million to play for the Texas Rangers instead of staying with the Seattle Mariners, who were contenders for the World Series. The contract is still one of the top 20 all-time highest-value contracts in the history of Major League Baseball. Rodriguez broke his record with a $275 million deal with the New York Yankees in 2008, and it wasn’t until 2019 when Bryce Harper signed a similar deal, that the record was broken again.

The five biggest contracts in MLB history, based on total value:

  1. Shohei Ohtani, $700 million (2023-33)
  2. Mike Trout, $426.5 million (2019-30)
  3. Mookie Betts, $365 million (2021-32)
  4. Aaron Judge, $360 million (2023-31)
  5. Manny Machado, $350 million (2023-33)

The five biggest contracts by salary per year

  1. Shohei Ohtani, $70 million (2023-33)
  2. Max Scherzer, $43.3 million (2022-24) / Justin Verlander, $43.3 million (2023-24)
  3. Aaron Judge, $40 million (2023-31)
  4. Jacob deGrom, $37 million (2023-27)
  5. Gerrit Cole, $36 million (2020-28)