Shohei Ohtani signing saved Dodgers from endless scrutiny on past free agency habits

Los Angeles Angels v Philadelphia Phillies
Los Angeles Angels v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

It's still hard to wrap one's mind around the 10-year, $700 million, "unprecedented" deferred payments, no opt-outs contract that Shohei Ohtani agreed to with the Los Angeles Dodgers even a few days after news broke. Baseball contract numbers can be a little numbing when middling players somehow end up making millions, but this one is jarring by any stretch of the imagination. Ohtani effectively put Mike Trout and his second-biggest contract miles and miles behind in the rearview.

For the Dodgers, the enormity of the Ohtani contract also marks an end to a strange streak for LA: the Dodgers have not signed a free agent for more than one year since March 2022, when the Ohtani preparation started with the contract they offered to Hanser Alberto.

That feel like ages ago, doesn't it? And still, this team managed to win 100 or more games from 2021-2023 despite purposely waiting to make the necessary upgrades.

Shohei Ohtani signing breaks Dodgers' one-year contract streak

Kelly, who just finalized his one-year contract with the Dodgers, extended the streak to 12 before Ohtani ended it. The other 11 one-year free agents signed over this span included Alberto, Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, Daniel Hudson, Danny Duffy, Noah Syndergaard, JD Martinez, David Peralta, Shelby Miller and Jason Heyward. The last free agent to sign a multi-year deal in LA was Chris Taylor after the 2021 season.

This represents a strangely conservative, miserly strategy for the Dodgers -- a very rich team that can afford to spend at will. Their affection for one-year contracts is not an issue of if they can afford to keep players, but rather one of financial frugality as they prepared for Ohtani. And as much as Dodgers fans hate to admit it, even with the acquisition and the deferred payments, the roster still has a long way to go in order to be labeled a true World Series contender. This team has infield issues and barely has any starting pitching.

And just imagine a world in which Ohtani spurned the Dodgers. Letting Corey Seager go might've been considered a felony. Same for the countless other players they let walk in addition to the other top free agents they passed on as they waited two years for Ohtani.

So, yeah, while Ohtani "snapped" the streak of one-year deals, this was always part of the Dodgers' plan. And they, for now, avoided disaster when he agreed to sign. Can they get more work done around him over the next few weeks/months? Part II of the operation should be underway as soon as possible.