Dodgers Rumors: LA scouting Japanese star in possible Shohei Ohtani shift

The Dodgers are going to need another starting pitcher either way.
Hanshin Tigers v Orix Buffaloes
Hanshin Tigers v Orix Buffaloes / Sports Nippon/GettyImages

Heading into the offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers already had a lot on their plate. All of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, JD Martinez, Jason Heyward, Kiké Hernandez, Amed Rosario, Shelby Miller and David Peralta will be hitting free agency.

But there was at least one gigantic solution that could check two boxes. The Dodgers have long been considered the frontrunners to sign two-way star Shohei Ohtani, which would have replaced the departures of Kershaw/Urías and Martinez.

Now, Ohtani's elbow injury could keep him completely off the field until 2025. He hopes to at least hit in 2024, but medical experts believe he needs to sit out a full season to effectively return to his elite pitching and hitting capabilities.

That obviously throws a wrench in the Dodgers' plans because they've very much been gearing up for Ohtani's free agency for a couple of years now. LA was certainly hoping for a full-throttle Ohtani in 2024, and now they'll have to pivot to address their rotation and offense with two separate moves.

Perhaps one of those moves will feature the addition of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, whom the Dodgers were reportedly scouting this week.

Dodgers Rumors: LA scouting Japanese star in possible Shohei Ohtani shift

Yamamoto boasts a four-seamer that touches 97 MPH along with a cutter, curveball and splitter. So far in 2023, the Orix Buffaloes right-hander is 13-5 with a 1.34 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 135 strikeouts in 19 starts (134 innings).

Maybe there's a world in which the Dodgers still sign Ohtani but insure themselves for 2024 with Yamamoto (on a $75-$100 million contract) and a reunion with Martinez or a new role for Muncy (shift him to DH and figure out a new infield alignment with Gavin Lux, Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch?). That feels a bit underwhelming, but the Dodgers have the best offense in MLB right now and don't need a whole lot of additions on that side of the ball.

It's been speculated as early as February that the Dodgers would be keeping an eye on Yamamoto, so perhaps this was in their plans all along regardless of their intentions with Ohtani. The injuries to Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin likely created a bit more urgency, too.

Assuming Gonsolin is gone next season, May is moved to a bullpen role, and one of Kershaw/Urías departs, the Dodgers will need as much support as possible to back Bobby Miller, Lance Lynn (can't help but think he returns on his team option) and whatever propect(s) the front office opts to elevate.

Yamamoto could be a relative bargain (think Kodai Senga's five-year, $75 milliond deal with the Mets), allowing LA to still fulfill their blockbuster offseason plans.