The 2023 MLB season is upon us and the Los Angeles Dodgers come into this one as underdogs for the first time in years. Their roster exodus coincided with the San Diego Padres' upgrades (and the eventual return of Fernando Tatis Jr.).
The Dodgers made changes for (seemingly) a multitude of reasons. They wanted to usher in their next wave of young players, which is currently happening with Miguel Vargas and James Outman (and guys like Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller to follow).
And even though they didn't dip below the first luxury tax threshold to save money in their next free agent endeavors, it was still evident the front office was planning for a big-time acquisition come next offseason, which many fans and analysts have speculated to be Shohei Ohtani.
That, at least, offers a reasonable explanation for letting Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson and others depart over the last couple of months (and the other free agents the previous two offseasons).
Bringing Ohtani to LA sounds like the perfect plan in practice, but it's far from a guarantee. Thankfully for Dodgers fans, they have a number of MLB insiders in their corner, including Jim Bowden of The Athletic (though he doesn't have the greatest reputation among Dodgers fans). Every bit helps, guys!
Dodgers Rumors: Shohei Ohtani to LA, Juan Soto to remain in San Diego
Bowden, in his "23 predictions for the 2023 MLB season," says Ohtani will sign an 11-year contract with the Dodgers in the offseason and become the second half-billion dollar player in MLB history.
Wait ... who's the first?!
That would be Padres outfielder Juan Soto, who Bowden predicts will sign a 16-year contract extension with San Diego during the season. You mean to tell us that Ohtani will cost the same as Soto? Sign us up for that head-to-head battle for the next decade!
Soto was beyond underwhelming after landing with the Pads in last year's blockbuster trade with the Nationals. He hit .236 with a .778 OPS, 6 home runs and 16 RBI in 52 games. Objectively not good. Though his OPS+ numbers are typically off the charts, the counting stats will always matter whenever you sign somebody to a contract in excess of $200 million, let alone a record-setting $500 million deal.
Additionally, Soto isn't a good defender. His career -3.4 dWAR epitomizes that. He's no doubt worth a long-term deal, but if he's making as much as Ohtani, who is arguably just as good as a hitter and can pitch like an ace, then that's a massive win for the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Padres will clog their payroll with another massive contract to further restrict their future free agency endeavors (as LA remains flexible).
Sure, facing Soto for the next decade isn't exactly a win, but if the Dodgers are getting Ohtani in the same price range, then they'll clearly "win" that duel.