Shohei Ohtani Dodgers jersey: Did a Joe Kelly number swap help LA land free agent?

The wait is over. Two-way standout Shohei Ohtani will continue his MLB career with the Dodgers, staying in the city of Los Angeles as he agreed to a record-breaking deal for 10 years worth $700 million with the Angels on Saturday.

There were several factors that went into Ohtani signing with with the Dodgers over other teams that courted the incredibly talented, two-time MVP. The most obvious among those were the money on the table the Dodgers were willing to give and the ability to remain in the same city in which he began his professional career.
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But that wasn’t all. Smaller details, such as Dodgers veteran Joe Kelly’s willingness to give up his jersey number for Ohtani, is believed to have factored in, according to USA Today Sports.

MORE: Winners and losers from Ohtani signing with Dodgers

Shohei Ohtani Dodgers jersey

Ohtani wears the No. 17 jersey number, which he has worn since he originally signed with the Angels back in 2018. He has never worn another number at the MLB level.

And that won’t be changing any time soon as Ohtani is expected to continue to wear No. 17 when he takes the field for the Dodgers for the first time. That’s thanks to Kelly, the current owner of No. 17 with the Dodgers after he signed a one-year deal worth $8 million to stay in L.A. last week.

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According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Dodgers recently made a phone call to their reliever to request for him to change his number for Ohtani. He agreed to do so, giving the team a stronger chance of signing Ohtani and stirring rumors as was one of the biggest signs that the Dodgers may be landing the former member of the Angels.

Kelly reportedly took no issue with surrendering his jersey number to the 29-year-old. Whether or not this was a significant factor in finalizing a deal has not been publicly spoken on by any of the involved parties, though it is reasonable to believe keeping his jersey number was important to Ohtani in the process.

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