After weeks, months, even years of speculation, we finally have an answer: Shohei Ohtani is a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, putting an end to the most lucrative free-agent pursuit in baseball history. It’s a move that reshapes the landscape of the entire support, quite possibly the greatest player the game has ever seen coming to its most consistently competitive franchise — one that hasn’t missed the postseason since 2012.
Granted, Ohtani would fit wherever he wanted to; that’s the power of being one of the very best hitters and pitchers in the sport, all rolled into one. But even though he likely won’t take the mound again until 2025, Ohtani will seamlessly drop into this Dodgers lineup, filling one of its biggest holes entering next season. The result? An offense that is almost guaranteed to be one of the very best in the Majors in 2024. Let’s break down how Ohtani fits, and what it means for the Dodgers next year.
Dodgers projected lineup after signing Shohei Ohtani
First thing’s first: There is still a long, long way to go this offseason, with many players left to be signed and holes left to be filled. The Dodgers brought back Jason Heyward on a one-year deal prior to the Winter Meetings, but with Mookie Betts shifting more to the infield in 2024, they still could use another corner bat — and they’ll undoubtedly turn their attention to filling out the rest of their roster now that Ohtani is signed. Still, let’s take a look at how things currently stand:
1. Mookie Betts, 2B
2. Freddie Freeman, 1B
3. Shohei Ohtani, DH
4. Will Smith, C
5. Max Muncy, 3B
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. James Outman, CF
8. Gavin Lux, SS
9. Chris Taylor, LF
You can quibble with the order here, but this strikes me as the most likely group as things stand right now. Betts and Freeman have been L.A.’s one-two punch for a while now, and I don’t see Dave Roberts breaking them up; they’re two of the very best hitters in the sport right along with Ohtani, after all. Slotting Ohtani behind Freeman gives the first baseman elite protection, while Will Smith’s presence in the cleanup spot should allow him to put up gaudy RBI totals — while breaking up a potential run of lefties between Freeman, Ohtani and Muncy. From there, Heyward and Outman figure to play every day against righties, while the Dodgers continue to insist that Lux will be back from his torn ACL in time for spring training.
Taylor is right now the best guess for an Opening Day left fielder, but there’s a very, very good chance that changes between now and the end of March. VP Andrew Friedman and Co. figure to be in market for corner bats, with Jorge Soler, Tommy Pham, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez all making sense from the right side. (Or maybe even a reunion with old friend Joc Pederson?) One of the Dodgers’ biggest strengths last year was their ability to mix and match and play platoon advantages on a daily basis; Ohtani is platoon-proof, but L.A. could use a bit more depth to round things out.