It has been the worst-kept secret in the league that if the Los Angeles Angels cannot turn into a winning ball club that they will likely lose Shohei Ohtani and that the Los Angeles Dodgers will be pounding the table to bring in the two-way superstar.
The Dodgers are not going to be the only team in pursuit of Ohtani, but many view them as the favorite. Ohtani would stay on the West Coast, which is something he reportedly values, and they would present him an opportunity to compete for a World Series on the best-run organization of the last decade.
While it looks like a match made in heaven, the Dodgers are not the only Southern California team that would be interested in Ohtani with a winning culture. The San Diego Padres, who have completely reinvented themselves over the last half-decade, appear to be gearing up to make a run at the two-way superstar, per Bob Nightengale. And they might be armed with a better trade package come the deadline if that's how this all goes down.
Padres could interrupt Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani chase while also giving them a plan B
It shouldn't be that much of a surprise that the Padres are gearing up to pursue Ohtani. Padres owner Peter Seidler has had no problems spending money as San Diego has been the most aggressive team in the entire league over the last 4-5 seasons.
Ohtani is going to be the biggest MLB free agent of all time. There was no chance that the most aggressive team in the league was simply going to sit that one out, especially when their biggest rivals are viewed as the favorite to bring him in if he leaves the Angels.
Seeing Ohtani sign with the Padres would be extremely painful for Dodgers fans after all of the speculation that's leading up to this winter. It's one thing for LA to miss out on Ohtani, it is another thing for LA to miss out on Ohtani and have to play him every single season as a division foe.
However, this would at least give the Dodgers somewhat of a plan B. As Nightengale notes, this could keep Juan Soto from signing a long-term deal with the Padres. If San Diego gets Ohtani then the Dodgers could pivot and prepare their future pitch to Soto himself come 2024. But there is the worst-case scenario in which Soto is dealt in a package to the Angels at the deadline for Ohtani, and then LA inks the slugging outfielder to an extension within the next few months after.
If not, history is pointing to the Dodgers pursuing Soto at some point in the future. If Andrew Friedman waits until he's a free agent after the 2024 season, he will still only be 26 years old with most of his prime in front of him. He might not be an incredible two-way player, but Soto has the potential to be the best hitter on the planet for the next decade.
That's not a bad consolation prize at all, even if most Dodgers fans would prefer the team to just get a deal done for Ohtani to keep him away from San Diego.