In no uncertain terms, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is the team's main target this offseason. "Clearly, Shohei is our top priority," Roberts said during his regularly scheduled Winter Meetings media availability Tuesday in Nashville (per The Athletic). His boss, however, had other ideas about spilling secrets.
"I don't feel like lying is something I do. I was asked a question. It's going to come out at some point," Roberts said when asked why he revealed the Dodgers had a meeting with Ohtani (per MLB.com). "... It was just a pleasure to get to spend some time with him." He also added that the two parties met at Dodgers Stadium a few days ago.
However, given reports that Ohtani preferred discretion, and any leaks would be held against the team, Roberts' quote came as a surprise to many. Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes quickly jumped in to balance out the manager's admission.
Brandon Gomes said repeatedly he wouldn’t comment on Dave Roberts saying the Dodgers met with Shohei Ohtani. Said he can’t comment on free agents, but didn’t want to say if Roberts violated any rules in doing so. He said he was surprised when he saw the comments.— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) December 5, 2023
That said, a press conference quote is not a leak -- it is the exact opposite of a leak -- and we're at the point now where if Ohtani holds leaks against the team, he'll run out of places to sign soon.
Of course, it is no secret the Dodgers want Ohtani. They have been speculated as his most likely landing spot for several years now, and the Dodgers have spent the last two or three seasons aligning their roster and payroll specifically so they could make Ohtani a massive, record-setting offer. They offer him a chance to win, a chance to stay in Southern California, and presumably a lot of money as well.
The Dodgers need Ohtani too. He is not a luxury item. Los Angeles needs to improve an offense that was shut down in the Division Series by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they also need long-term pitching. Ohtani won't pitch next season as he recovers from elbow surgery, though the Dodgers are very short on arms in 2025 and beyond. There rotation currently looks like this:
- RHP Walker Buehler (returning from his second Tommy John surgery and a free agent after 2024)
- RHP Bobby Miller
- RHP Tony Gonsolin (will miss 2024 with Tommy John surgery)
- RHP Dustin May (expected to miss most of 2024 with elbow surgery)
- RHP Ryan Pepiot
- RHP Emmet Sheehan
- LHP Ryan Yarbrough (free agent after 2024)
- RHP Michael Grove
Franchise icon Clayton Kershaw recently had major shoulder surgery that is expected to sideline him for most of 2024. Even if he returns, the only locks for the 2025 rotation right now are Miller and several pitchers coming back from major injuries. That could include post-elbow surgery Ohtani, though it sure would be nice to slot him near the front of the rotation in two years.
With or without Ohtani, the Dodgers need to improve their rotation for 2024. Signing Ohtani could factor into their decision to hand out one-year contracts or multiyear agreements to other pitchers. It is expected the Dodgers will pivot and pursue Japanese righty Yoshinobu Yamamoto in the event Ohtani signs elsewhere. Yamamoto is looking at a $200-plus-million contract himself.
Ohtani, 29, threw 132 innings with a 3.14 ERA and also led the American League with 44 home runs in 2023. That earned him his second unanimous AL MVP award. The Dodgers went 100-62 and won the NL West last year, but were swept in the Division Series by the Diamondbacks and were outscored 19-6 in the three games.
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