Any and all bets were on the Los Angeles Dodgers to sign Shohei Ohtani this coming offseason as Andrew Friedman and the front office gave us countless clues that they were preparing for the soon-to-be free agent's availability.
But Ohtani's torn UCL could keep him out for all of 2024 (per doctors who believe that's the best course of action for him to preserve his ability to perform as a two-way star for the remainder of his career). Not only that, but Ohtani's insistence on playing through an oblique injury at the moment has further elevated concerns about his long-term health.
Why is he pushing the envelope in what is a lost (and yet another disgraceful) season for the Angels? What is he playing for? What is the point of this?
He's expected to be the most expensive free agent in the history of the sport and he seems to be doing all he can to compromise his value, even though many project his price tag will not change despite the injuries.
The Dodgers, however, have particularly been careful with their spending. They've been going year-to-year with Clayton Kershaw. They didn't hesitate to cut ties with players like Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, Tyler Anderson, Justin Turner and more in recent seasons. Only Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman -- two of the surest bets -- are signed long term. Maybe their view on Ohtani hasn't changed, but it's at least worth wondering if the Angels star continues to put himself at risk with his health.
Is Dodgers offseason completely in flux after Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urías developments?
Ohtani is expected to be a $500-$600 million investment. He's already played in 135 games and would be the MVP if he stepped off the field and didn't see another pitch in 2023. His drive and motivation are admirable, but the Angels are a laughingstock and there's no reason for him to compromise his future for the sake of "finishing" something.
While Ohtani's case remains a bit up in the air, it's safe to say Julio Urías' is set in stone. There were already questions surrounding the Dodgers re-signing the left-hander as agent Scott Boras seemingly thwarted contract extension talks in the offseason. Then, Urías got off to a slow start in 2023, suffered a hamstring injury, and has failed to find consistency. But for a moment there, with injuries to Ohtani, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin directly impacting 2024, it appeared as if a reunion could be more realistic than ever.
And then Sunday happened. Urías was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence (the second such incident he's been implicated in since his MLB career began) and he was placed on the restricted list. He's probably not playing again this season and it's hard to see him throwing a pitch for the Dodgers ever again, especially after the team dealt with his suspension in 2019, in addition to Yasiel Puig's and Trevor Bauer's sexual assault cases.
With Clayton Kershaw still dealing with a shoulder issue (in addition to his impending free agency), the Dodgers rotation could very well be barren, leading them to consider options like Eduardo Rodriguez, Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and a few others. That was probably never part of the plan, but the offseason begins in two months and the Dodgers need a contingency plan.
They clearly have a core to maintain a perennial contender, but with their Plan A compromised and their Plan B scrapped, Friedman and Co. need a comprehensive plan to get beyond the unexpected obstacles.