Shohei Ohtani made his long-awaited free-agent decision on Saturday, agreeing to a . The sport's most talented player is now its richest, as the deal serves as the largest in Major League Baseball and North American professional sports history. Ohtani's call represents a momentous victory for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who throughout the winter. The second part of his call could be even more advantageous for the Dodgers: by deferring $68 million of his annual salary each year, adding up to $680 million overall, Ohtani has freed up capital for the team to continue spending and building a winner around him.
Given the secrecy that Ohtani desired, it was never clear if the industry's read on the horserace was as accurate here as it often is elsewhere. Clearly it worked out in the end, as the Dodgers' third crack at Ohtani proved to be the charm -- they had previously pursued him out of high school (only to see him remain in Japan and author a Nippon Professional Baseball career) and then again when he orchestrated his first free-agent tour as a Major League Baseball player, only to sign instead with the Los Angeles Angels.
As CBS Sports explained in September, the Dodgers' inevitable pursuit of Ohtani dictated what moves they made (and didn't make) over the last year-plus. They didn't add a single player who had guaranteed money for the 2024 season. The Dodgers, in turn, fielded what many talent evaluators regarded as their weakest roster in years -- a statement that speaks volumes about their past efforts given they still managed to win 100 games.
The Dodgers had since made a few moves this winter, bringing back outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Joe Kelly on one-year deals. (They were also rumored to have shown interest in a starting pitcher who signed elsewhere, though CBS Sports was not able to confirm as much.) Whatever the case, it's clear that they were in a holding period until Ohtani made a decision. Now, he has -- and they can pencil him into their lineup beginning in 2024, and their rotation come 2025, once he's fully recovered from an elbow operation that ended his season prematurely.
It was a calculated decision, no doubt, and one that the Dodgers would absolutely make again if they felt they had a real chance at landing a player of Ohtani's caliber. As an added bonus, a confluence of factors -- Ohtani's prolonged free agency; the Yoshinobu Yamamoto posting timeline; and the Juan Soto trade process -- stalled the free-agent and trade markets, leaving the Dodgers in good position to continue to add to their roster, and specifically their rotation.
What exactly that entails is to be seen, but there are some obvious links worth acknowledging, beginning with those between the Dodgers and Yamamoto, the Japanese ace and top starter in free agency. Much to the chagrin of some teams, Dodgers executive Andrew Friedman was present for Team Japan bullpen sessions during the run-up to the spring's World Baseball Classic, giving him an up-close look at Yamamoto and the precocious Roki Sasaki, . (It seems unlikely that Sasaki will be made available this winter.)
Yamamoto is considered to be the best pitcher in the world to have not already played in the majors. He's young, he's accomplished, and he has excellent command over a quality arsenal. It's no surprise, then, that multiple league sources have informed CBS Sports that they expect the bidding on his services to clear the $300 million mark. Should that come to fruition, Yamamoto would topple the previous record of $155 million established by Masahiro Tanaka. The Dodgers are certain to face stiff competition if they continue to attempt to land Yamamoto, with both the New York Yankees and Mets and the Boston Red Sox counted among interested parties.
Domestically, the Dodgers have shown interest in trading for Chicago White Sox ace Dylan Cease and Tampa Bay Rays righty Tyler Glasnow. On paper, a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers that returns both workhorse Corbin Burnes and shortstop Willy Adames would make sense for both sides: the Dodgers would get a new front-of-the-rotation starter and would upgrade at short, while the Brewers would receive in exchange for two impending free agents a collection of talented youngsters who can help form the future core around recently extended teenage outfielder Jackson Chourio.
Price points and other factors will shape the exact shape of what the Dodgers do between now and Opening Day -- just significantly less so than a $70 million 2024 price tag would have. Even so, it's difficult to imagine the Dodgers getting through the rest of the offseason without adding at least one new starting pitcher to the mix.
At minimum, a few things are clear: the Dodgers succeeded in their biggest mission this offseason, landing Ohtani and putting themselves on track to win their 11th division title in 12 attempts.