The Los Angeles Dodgers are enjoying a promising start to the 2023 season despite their roster turnover from the offseason, which was believed to be all part of the plan to land Shohei Ohtani in free agency this coming November.
There's been endless commentary on the matter ever since last year's trade deadline when it was speculated the LA Angels might trade the two-way star to recoup as much value as possible as they collapsed further and further into irrelevancy.
Though Ohtani's remained with the Halos, who are actually providing him a reason to play meaningful baseball thus far in 2023, there's still widespread buzz suggesting Ohtani will be departing once he hits free agency, and most executives who've been polled think the Dodgers will be his eventual landing spot.
But that won't be without its complications. Don't forget about the Mets, run by baseball's richest owner in Steve Cohen, who might be unusually aggressive on this front given how disappointing New York has been to start the year despite a $379 million payroll. And the Padres, who apparently have bottomless pockets all of a sudden, figure to be involved too.
ESPN's Kiley McDaniel (subscription required) recently spoke to 26 anonymous executives to gauge the upcoming Ohtani situation, and one believes the Dodgers simply must stay the course in the bidding war and they'll be fine.
Dodgers will face bidding war for Shohei Ohtani, but remain preferred destination
"One of the answers predicting the Dodgers laid out a very specific scenario: 'I think he uses the Padres and Mets to run up the price, but he wants to and will go with the Dodgers.' That response fits a popular belief, based on industry conversations, that Ohtani would prefer to stay on the West Coast and that the Dodgers represent a first-class franchise that could pay Ohtani handsomely to be part of a perennial contender while allowing him to stay in the part of the country he's believed to prefer."- Kiley McDaniel, ESPN
If you look at LA's advantages, it makes sense. And from Ohtani's perspective, since his market will be relatively small, he'll need to utilize every interested suitor to get the most money possible.
The Dodgers have the West Coast advantage over the Mets, and if push comes to shove, they could probably stomach matching (or coming close) to an insane Cohen offer. As for competition with the Padres, the two share the West Coast advantage, but the Dodgers have the payroll/legacy edge. Come next offseason, San Diego will have much less financial flexibility and have obvious areas to upgrade. The Dodgers do have a problem with both Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías hitting free agency, but will be shedding the salaries of Noah Syndergaard, JD Martinez and David Peralta (~$30 million total). LA could more than likely afford all of Kershaw, Urías and Ohtani with few other areas to upgrade, if any, depending on how this season concludes.
If the Dodgers remain unfazed by outside factors and are willing to go well above $500 million (McDaniels' average contract after polling all the execs was 11 years and $524 million), then all of the fans' hard work trying to speak this scenario into existence will more than likely be worth it.