Though we've spent a lot of time warning Dodgers fans Shohei Ohtani is far from a guarantee to land in LA and that his elbow injury seriously affects their 2024 plans to contend, the pairing still remains the most sensible.
Ohtani wants to win? The Dodgers are the place to do it. Ohtani wants to remain on the west coast so he's closer to Japan? The Dodgers are right there. Ohtani wants to be in a bigger market? The Dodgers are only behind the Yankees in that department.
As for the Dodgers, they'd get one of the best players of all time. Even though he can only hit for the 2024 season, he's the best lefty slugger in the league. When he can return to pitching in 2025, the Dodgers will have addressed the top of their rotation and the middle of their lineup. Plus, they get an international star to market and bring in boatloads of cash. They're not losing any money in a hypothetical Year 1 of a deal with Ohtani.
The lone concern here is Ohtani''s longevity on the mound. He underwent elbow surgery this month, his second such procedure since 2018. If somebody is paying $500-$600 million for Ohtani, they will be expecting elite production from both sides of the ball for as long as humanly possible.
But will that really stop a behemoth and marketing monster like the Dodgers from passing on the greatest free agent in baseball history?
Latest Dodgers-Shohei Ohtani rumor sounds like LA trying to drive price down
"While the Dodgers somehow have been amazingly consistent winners — they’ve won the NL West 10 of 11 years, and they won 106 games in the season they finished second — their rotation is so riddled with questions that word is they will be “very focused” on starters this winter. Though Ohtani’s surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, painted an overall optimistic picture after elbow surgery, the two-way star will only be a hitter, or in 2024 at least. The belief now is the Dodgers are 'not quite as clean a fit' as before.- Jon Heyman, NY Post
The other potential issue may not have much validity, but even Dodgers people have heard speculation Ohtani doesn’t love hitting at Dodger Stadium. That seems strange, as Dodger Stadium plays straight up and along with Angel Stadium carries the obvious weather advantage (plus Ohtani’s career 1.149 OPS there belies any concern)."
First off, stating the obvious. Like we said, Ohtani's injury impacts the Dodgers' immediate future, which affects players in their prime like Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman as well as players on the back nine of their careers, like Clayton Kershaw. "Not quite as clean a fit" is inherent here -- it's nothing to really report.
Secondly, Ohtani might not love hitting at Dodger Stadium? What does that even mean? Is he scared of putting opposing outfielders in peril by hitting rockets to the wall, where there are concrete slabs lining the ground? Would he not prefer to play in front of the stadium with the highest annual attendance in MLB? Does he not like the mountainous backdrop and incredible scenic views?
A theory on this: it just reeks of something the Dodgers are trying to get out there to either take the attention off of them or work their hardest to further drive the price down on Ohtani in wake of the surgery news. His market is already limited because of how much he'll cost, so any indication of the Dodgers possibly bowing out undoubtedly affects the demand.
Free agency is a game of chess. Andrew Friedman may have just went pawn to e4. Let the games begin.