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The Wait is Over: Shohei Ohtani is an LA Dodger

One of baseball's most anticipated free agents has finally decided where he'll play ball next season. After some wild rumors over the past two days, Shohei Ohtani picked the Los Angeles Dodgers as his next team for the next 10 years at $700 million. The two-way star announced on his Instagram that he is taking his talents 40 minutes north to downtown LA and Dodger Stadium. It was later reported by Jeff Passan the terms of this record-setting contract. Ohtani's deal shatters his former teammate Mike Trout's deal by million $300 ($426.5 million) and doubles the previous largest free-agent contract signed by Manny Machado and the Padres ($350 million).

What This Deal Means for The Dodgers

While he won't pitch in 2024, this immediately pushes the Dodgers back into being a contender for a World Series crown. Even with LA winning the NL West for the 10th time in 11 seasons and a record of 100-62, they came into their divisional matchup against the Diamondbacks with a ton of injuries. Starting pitchers Walker Buehler (Tommy John), Tony Gonsolin (Tommy John), and Dustin May (right flexor tendon surgery) were all out, and 2B/SS Gavin Lux was out for the year with an ACL tear in his right knee.

The lineup that the Dodgers will trot out on opening day for 2024 will be a nightmare to deal with. Look at what starting pitchers will have to deal with for the foreseeable future:

Ohtani is coming off a season where he led the American League in home runs (44), on-base percentage (.412), slugging percentage (.654), OPS (1.066), and OPS+ (184). The two-time AL MVP will be added to a lineup that produced the second and third-leading vote-getters for the MVP in the National League (Betts and Freeman). There is an argument for the NL West being one of the best divisions in baseball, with the Dodgers, D-Backs, and Padres leading the pack.

The question remains for LA is whether they can add more starting pitching. Ohtani won't be pitching in 2024, so the slotted ace for the Dodgers is Buehler, with May slotted not to return until July. Not to mention that Kershaw is still a free agent and has yet to decide his future. Per Talkin' Baseball, here is what the rotation looks like heading into 2024:

The Dodgers have already been rumored to be big game hunting again, potentially spending another $300 million on Yonshibu Yamamoto or trading for the Rays' Tyler Glasnow or the Brewers' Corbin Burnes. Regardless, this move will set up the Dodgers for a potential dynasty, with Betts under contract for almost the entire term of Ohtani's and Freeman with LA until 2027.

What About the Teams Left at the Alter?

There were many suitors for Ohtani during this process, but only the Dodgers left with their man in tow. So what does this signing mean for the teams that couldn't sway him to their city?

Los Angeles Angels:

Let's start with the team that Ohtani is leaving behind in the same city. Ohtani burst onto the scene with the Angels after teaming up with Mike Trout to get the Halos back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. That failed miserably, with bad contracts, lack of top-tier prospects, tough competition from the entire division, and terrible injury luck all led to six seasons without a playoff birth since Ohtani signed in 2018. Without Ohtani in the lineup or rotation, they will have to rely on Trout to carry the offense and Patrick Sandoval and Reid Detmers in the rotation.

It will be a tough road for the Angels, and we will have to wait and see what direction they decide to go down. During the Winter meetings, Angels GM Perry Minasian said Trout would not be traded "100 percent." Does that change now that Ohtani is gone? Or will the Angels try to build a team around Trout to keep him from requesting a trade? It's an unwelcome position to be in as a GM, and considering the Angels' history, I'm not sure they'll pick the right direction.

Toronto Blue Jays:

The Ohtani-to-Toronto rumors ended up being the craziest of this free agency saga. On Friday, Jon Morosi reported that Ohtani was on a flight to Toronto to meet with the Blue Jays after JP Hoornstra of said that he would sign with the Blue Jays (the article is still up, for some reason).

However, hours later, Bob Nightengale of USA Today said that Ohtani was not on the flight. In a moment seemingly coming out of the MLB script writer's room, the man on the flight was Canadian businessman Robert Herjavec and his family. Yes, that Robert Herjavec from Shark Tank.

The Jays will still be active in the free agent market, as they have been connected to players like Yamamoto, Cody Bellinger, and several others. It stings especially hard for Jays fans who believed Ohtani would come north of the border after seeing their AL East rival Yankees trade for Juan Soto. If they can't sign one of those guys or retain a guy like Matt Chapman or Kevin Kiermeier, it will be a tough off-season for the Jays to swallow.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs and Giants seemed to be a distant fourth and fifth place in the Ohtani sweepstakes, at least according to Jon Morosi, but let's start with the Cubs. After two straight seasons of selling off at the trade deadline in 2021 and 2022, the Cubs finally bought and made a furious push to the playoffs in the second half of the 2023 season. The Cubs would fall short of those aspirations due to a poor September, but it was a season of growth and optimism that had long seemed gone after the 2016 championship core was traded away.

With that in mind, president of baseball ops Jed Hoyer went into this off-season looking to buy to push this team back to the playoffs. It started on Nov. 6, with the Cubs shocking the baseball world (myself and my friend Sy Ingersoll included) by firing David Ross to hire former Brewers manager Craig Counsell and giving him the largest managerial contract in baseball history at five years and $40 million. The Cubs seemed primed to bring in a big player, with their name attached to Ohtani, Soto, and even Pete Alonso.

The Cubs were firmly in on the Ohtani sweepstakes, with our own MJ Hurley and Coach Bruce reporting that Chicago's front office offered Ohtani $575 million, with incentives to put the deal at $600 million.

During the meeting, Ohtani's camp reportedly asked for more than $575 million in guaranteed money, and the Cubs knew then that it was likely Ohtani would go elsewhere.

Now, the Cubs must pivot to other players and have several options. The North Siders have been linked to not only re-signing Bellinger but also bringing in one of the starting pitchers on the market in Yamamoto, Shota Imanaga, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Bieber. The Cubs have also been linked to position players like Rhys Hoskins and Matt Chapman while also taking a look at relievers Emmanuel Clase and Robert Stephson. Closer Josh Hader could also be an intriguing option due to his history with Counsell.

Whether the Cubs can rebound with a flurry of moves to fill some dire needs, we'll have to wait and see what they do.

San Fransisco Giants

No team lost the Ohtani signing worse than the Giants. This is the worst-case scenario for San Fran, as they failed to sign the two-way star but saw him go to their arch-rival. The Giants were hoping to add that star player who could have complemented a nice core of hitters and pitchers. Logan Webb had a strong season despite what the 11-13 record says. The former fourth-round pick had a 3.25 ERA in 33 starts and pitched 216 innings. Thario Estrada led the team in hits (134) while also stealing 23 bases and Wilmer Flores had a career year with 23 home runs.

The Giants have also seemingly found their long-term Buster Posey replacement in catcher Patrick Bailey, who ranked in the 98th percentile in caught stealing, 95th in pop time, and 100th in framing, according to Baseball Savant.

The Giants still have a ways to go to get back to the top of the mountain like they were in the early 2010s, and Ohtani would have gone a long way in making that happen. However, just like the Cubs, the Giants have been linked to almost every high-level free agent including Yamamoto, Chapman, and Bellinger. If San Fransisco can sign two of those guys (with a preference for Yamamoto) the Giants can compete with the likes of Arizona and Los Angeles.

What This Deal Means for Baseball

By now, we have all seen the ridiculous numbers that Ohtani's contract compares to the rest in baseball. Outside some other contracts players have signed, here are some other numbers to throw out about this deal.

  • Ohtani's $70 million average annual value will be more than eight teams' current payrolls. It is more than the Orioles, A's, Reds, Pirates, Royals, Guardians, Brewers and Marlins.

  • Over the last 10 seasons, the Oakland A's have spent $647 million to field their teams. Ohtani's deal will outclass it by 53 million dollars.

Whether Ohtani will be worth that deal, or if any player truly is, will yet to be determined. Ohtani has broken the MLB bank, and it will be fascinating to see how this deal will impact future stars when they become free agents. While the Japanese star is truly a unicorn, this could be the first step to seeing the first one-billion-dollar contract in our lifetime.

One Final Update

There is one more thing to note about this deal. As of the writing of this, the Dodgers have yet to acknowledge the massive deal. According to Ken Rosenthal and Andy McCullough of the Atheltic, Dodger team officials declined to say whether he had gone under a physical yet.

It is a little concerning, considering that Ohtani went in for surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018. I think this is more of an issue of timing. This will not be a repeat of last year with what Carlos Correa had between the Giants and the Mets a year ago. The Dodgers also have to find a way to open up a spot on the 40-man roster, and that will all take time to complete. Unless there is some unknown issue with Ohtani's elbow, I fully expect Ohtani to be suiting up in that Dodger Blue come 2024.

Cover Image Courtesy of Los Angeles Times


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