Breaking Down Shohei Ohtani Going to the Dodgers

Two-way superstar makes legacy move with record-breaking contract.

It finally happened. Following months of speculation two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani has a new baseball home: the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And in typical Ohtani fashion, the reigning American League MVP on Saturday announced the decision himself on Instagram.

As expected, Ohtani’s deal is history-making on several fronts. It is 10 years and $700 million.

That he chose the Dodgers is not all that surprising. After all, Ohtani spent his first six MLB seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, just a 30-mile drive down the I-5 from Dodger Stadium. But it did come after a wild day of rumors that seemed to indicate Ohtani was going to the Toronto Blue Jays.

On Friday, the six-year anniversary of Ohtani’s agency, CAA, announcing that the Japanese star had picked the Angels, circumstantial evidence pointed the 29-year-old toward Canada. There was a social media report he was on private jet headed to Toronto and that Blue Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi had reserved a sushi restaurant near Rogers Centre for a Friday night celebration. That path was at least temporarily derailed by another post that said Ohtani was still in Southern California. It turned out the private jet was carrying a celebrity of a different kind.

Regardless, Ohtani is a Dodger and the impact is massive. There are many levels to this, so here is my attempt to address all of it.

Oh, and until the Dodgers announce it, it is still an agreement and not official. Even with Ohtani recovering from elbow surgery (more on that later), there are no expected obstacles to this happening.


The Contract


This is the largest contract in American sports history, surpassing the 10-year, $450 million extension in 2020 between NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kanas City Chiefs (which was restructured this year). It is the largest deal given to an MLB free agent, beating Aaron Judge’s nine-year, $360 million pact with the New York Yankees last offseason. Ohtani also has the biggest average annual value at $70 million, overtaking the $60.7 million AAV on the NBA contract for Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics inked this summer. And finally, Ohtani’s deal is the largest financially in MLB history, knocking off now former Angels teammate Mike Trout’s $426.5 million package over 12 seasons.

OK, one more, but this one is international. Ohtani’s $700 million passes soccer star Lionel Messi’s $674 million from FC Barcelona.

Ohtani’s deal with the Dodgers includes no opt-outs and bulk deferrals that will help L.A. with the luxury tax and remain financially flexible.

The obvious question is: Is Ohtani worth it? His on-field skill is unprecedented. His second MVP award this past season was also the second time it was unanimous, following his pick in 2021. Ohtani is the first player from either league to be a unanimous MVP twice. His value as a hitter and a pitcher make the contract appear to be good for both sides, but only time will tell, especially from the pitching side and how he comes back from the elbow injury that will reportedly prevent Ohtani from pitching all of 2024.

What it Means to Dodgers


The Dodgers have been one one of the most successful franchises in MLB for the past two decades, including postseason appearances in each of the last 11 years. One problem, though. The Dodgers have only won one World Series — and that came in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

There is nothing that guarantees a World Series championship, much less winning a National League pennant, but adding the best player in the game to a star-studded roster increases those odds.

With the deferments, Ohtani’s contract won’t prevent the Dodgers from making more moves to keep the team competitive. Plus, the Dodgers are one of the best franchises and producing talent from the farm system.

Ohtani is also a huge marketing win. Instantly, not only will Dodgers fans be buying Ohtani jerseys and related merchandise, but his immense following in Japan will bring big bucks, aiding in TV rights, ad sales and more. The Angels likely made $10 million to $20 million off Ohtani being on the roster, but the Dodgers’ massive brand will dwarf that reward. There won’t be much impact at the gate as more than 3.7 million fans have filled Dodger Stadium for the last 11 seasons, with the two exceptions being 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.

What it Means to Ohtani


Moving past the obvious of being set financially for life, Ohtani is now in a prime position to produce for a contender. Baseball fans caught a glimpse of that during the World Baseball Classic, leading Japan to the championship.

But joining the Dodgers is a legacy move. No more doing amazing things in yet another Angels loss. Now his feats are more likely to come in victories. After all, the Dodgers have won 100 or more games in each of the last four 162-game seasons. So what originated as a social-media joke will be a joke no more. We’re talking about Tungsten Arm O’Doyle, which in case you forgot or don’t know originated in an innocuous post.

There will be pressure from the contract, but that seems to be something Ohtani welcomes. It is why he left Japan to play in MLB. Ohtani is very focused on baseball and now, after six years of taking notes on every road trip, he gets to do it in a spot that he feels very comfortable and will give him a chance to add even more historic moments to what is surely to be a Hall of Fame career.


Impact on Dodgers’ Lineup


Here is where it gets fun — and what fans and fantasy managers are most concerned with.

Ohtani, a left-handed hitter, slashed .304/.412/.654 for an MLB-best OPS of 1.066. He hit 44 homers and drove in 95 runs in 135 games (497 at-bats). The Dodgers score 906 runs (5.59 per game), second-best in MLB (behind Atlanta’s 947). So you can see where this is going.

The Dodgers already had two marquee players in the top third of their lineup in second baseman Mookie Betts and first baseman Freddie Freeman, two former MVPs who finished second and third, respectively in 2023 NL balloting. Betts, who was the Dodgers’ highest-paid player at just over $25 million and is under contract through 2032, is the leadoff hitter who slashed .307/.408/.579 with 39 homers and 107 RBIs. Ohtani figures to slot in at No. 2, with Freeman No. 3. Freeman slashed .331/.410/.567 with 29 homers and 102 RBIs.

How manager Dave Roberts fills out the rest of the lineup remains to be seen, but catcher Will Smith (.261/.359/.438, 19 HRs, 76 RBIs) and third baseman Max Muncy (.212/.333/.475, 36 HRs, 105 RBIs) figure to benefit greatly with Ohtani hitting in front of them.

Center fielder James Outman was productive as a rookie, posting a .248/.353/.437 slash line with 23 homers and 70 RBIs, while left fielder Chris Taylor (.237/.326/.420, 15 HRs, 56 RBIs) is an underrated and versatile contributor and right fielder Jason Heyward (.269/.340/.473, 15 HRs, 40 RBIs) had a surprising season in 2023 and returned to the Dodgers on a one-year, $9 million deal.

Gavin Lux is penciled in at shortstop and we stress the pencil part of that. Lux missed the entire 2023 season after sustained a knee injury while running the bases in a spring training game. While Lux is expected to be ready when spring training 2024 starts in February, shortstop is a position the Dodgers could upgrade this offseason.

Ohtani will be the DH, replacing J.D. Martinez, who is a free agent after a 33-homer, 103-RBI season.


Rotation in 2025


The other half of Ohtani’s skillset isn’t as celebrated, but is still pretty good and why it builds his value. But this is also where the biggest question lies.

The right-handed starter had Tommy John surgery and did not pitch the entire 2019 season and only 1⅔ innings in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. His career numbers are impressive with a 3.01 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, 173 walks and 608 strikeouts in 481⅔ innings covering 86 starts. Ohtani finished fourth in the 2022 AL Cy Young balloting, which makes his runner-up finish to Judge and his AL-record 62 homers even more impressive on both accounts. Ohtani could easily have won the last three AL MVPs.

But Ohtani’s 2023 on the mound ended early, making his final pitching appearance in the first game of an Aug. 23 doubleheader. After the doubleheader, it was announced that Ohtani was done pitching for the season due to an elbow injury that would require surgery. However, what type of procedure was done has not been made clear thus far. It could have been a second Tommy John or a similar procedure such as the internal brace.

More details are likely to be known when the Dodgers hold an introductory press conference, potentially in the coming week. Until then, you have to figure that Ohtani will not pitch the entire 2024 season.

The Dodgers’ rotation was the biggest question entering the offseason and Ohtani’s addition does not address that concern for 2024. Currently, right-hander Walker Buehler, himself coming back from Tommy John surgery after not pitching in 2023, right-hander Bobby Miller, left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, right-hander Emmet Sheehan and right-hander Ryan Pepiot comprise the starting five. Will the Dodgers bring back Clayton Kershaw for another season? Does Kershaw want to continue pitching? When healthy, Kershaw is still a top pitcher, as evidenced by his 2.46 ERA in 2023. A three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, Kershaw has been limited to 22, 22 and 24 starts in each of the last three seasons due to various ailments, mainly having to do with his back.

Figuring Kershaw, who turns 36 just before Opening Day, does return to the Dodgers, at least one more move is expected. But again, that is for 2024.

How does the rotation sort out for 2025? Buehler and Yarbrough are scheduled to hit free agency next offseason. Right-hander Dustin May (right flexor tendon surgery) could return sometime in the second half of 2024 and Tony Gonsolin (Tommy John surgery) should be back for 2025. Both are under club control in 2025. And, of course, the annual Kershaw question. Potentially, it could be Ohtani, Miller, Kershaw, Sheehan and Gonsolin, Sheehan or Pepiot, with May in a bullpen role.


Angels Left in Cold


Ohtani’s departure from the Angels wasn’t surprising, but some thought there was a chance he could return, thinking that Ohtani liked playing in the Dodgers’ shadow in Anaheim, keeping a lot of the control he had over his situation and maintaining an air of privacy.

While the privacy is unlikely to change much, Ohtani chose a winning situation. That is a far cry from what he experienced with the Angels. In the six years with Ohtani on the roster (as well as another of MLB’s best players in Trout), the Angels went 401-469, never with a winning record in any season and finishing third in 2022 and fourth the other five seasons. The closest they came to finishing first in the AL West was 10 games out, but that came in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

It didn’t matter what the Angels offered Ohtani. The better option was always going to be somewhere else. Now, the Angels — who had the opportunity to deal Ohtani and get prospects at the trade deadline — will be left with a compensatory pick in the 2024 MLB Draft. If that pick pans out, it would still take a couple years to make it through the system to the majors.

Were there hard feelings? It didn’t take long for the Angels to start removing Ohtani’s presence on the exterior of Angel Stadium.

Still, the Angels have to field a team in 2024 and it won’t include Ohtani. Or a handful of other players who were on the roster at the conclusion of the 2023 schedule. Ohtani is one of 12 free agents the Angels have this offseason and, other than having a job next season, returning doesn’t make a lot of sense. Ohtani took up one roster spot and produced like two players. No longer do the Angels have a prolific power hitter in the middle of the lineup, although Trout is still around. But Trout, a three-time AL MVP, is 32 and hasn’t played more than 140 games since 2016.

When healthy, Trout can still mash, as he did in 2022 when he hit 40 homers in 119 games. But young players will likely be the focus of the lineup, with catcher Logan O’Hoppe, right fielder Mickey Moniak and first baseman Nolan Schanuel. Can third baseman Anthony Rendon finally be productive?

As for the rotation, left-hander Reid Detmers would seem to be in line to be the Opening Day starter, while right-hander Griffin Canning, left-handers Patrick Sandoval and Tyler Anderson and right-hander Chase Silseth fill out a preliminary top five.

To put it lightly, there is a lot of work to do. Just not with Ohtani. He is a Dodger now.

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter and Threads @DrummerWrites.

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