Everyone and their mother knew Shohei Ohtani’s second Major League Baseball contract was going to be big, but few expected it to be that big.

Ohtani finally announced his free agency decision Saturday afternoon when he revealed his plan to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The megadeal reportedly is worth $700 million over 10 years, which marks the largest contract in the history of North American professional sports.

But had it not been for a savvy handling of the open market, Ohtani might have left some money on the table. In a Sports Illustrated column published Sunday, longtime MLB reporter Tom Verducci highlighted a key turning point in the Ohtani sweepstakes.

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“On Friday, reports broke that Ohtani’s signing was imminent and that he was headed to Toronto to sign with the Blue Jays. The report was completely erroneous,” Verducci wrote. “The Dodgers didn’t know that. They held meetings Friday night with an air of worry. The rumors were likely false, they decided, but they still created angst among the Los Angeles executives.

“‘You just don’t know,’ says one of the Dodger executives when asked about the Friday night meeting. ‘That’s the best way to describe it. We just didn’t know. It was not a comfortable feeling.'”

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It’s seemingly not a stretch to assume the chatter about Ohtani joining the Blue Jays was leaked by the dual-threat phenom’s camp. In turn, fear of losing the generational talent to Toronto forced Los Angeles to sweeten its offer and check all of the boxes Ohtani wanted. Gamesmanship comes with the territory of free agency in every sport, but we’ve never seen it on such a grand scale.

However, it doesn’t sound like Ohtani handcuffed the Dodgers by landing a contract worth nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars. The deal reportedly includes “unprecedented” referrals, which allows Los Angeles to maintain some financial flexibility.

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Featured image via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images