After a free agency that had more twists and turns than a telenovela, Shohei Ohtani finally gave the baseball world his answer on Saturday, announcing in an Instagram post that he’d chosen to sign a 10-year, $70 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even with Ohtani likely limited to designated hitter duties only in 2024, the impact for the Dodgers is obvious: He’s one of the very best hitters in the game, a guy who led the AL in homers despite playing only 135 games, and he just so happens to fit one of the team’s biggest needs with DH J.D. Martinez hitting the free-agent market. With Ohtani in tow, the Dodgers’ lineup — a group that already finished second in runs scored in 2023 — is set to look dramatically different next season.
But what about the team’s odds of winning it all? The Dodgers suffered another early postseason exit last year, winning 100 games only to get swept by the upstart Diamondbacks in the NLCS. There are still holes to fill — the starting rotation remains a huge question mark, with Clayton Kershaw a free agent, Ohtani unavailable on the mound until 2025 and Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May all coming off of serious injuries — but landing Ohtani is still the biggest statement of intent the Dodgers could’ve made. To get a sense of what oddsmakers think of the signing, let’s take a look at the early odds to win the World Series next season, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
2024 World Series odds: Where do the Dodgers fall?
As it turns out, signing the biggest free agent ever generally increases your title chances. On Nov. 21, the Dodgers were listed at +750 to win it all in 2024, the second-shortest odds in the league just behind the Braves (+700) and narrowly ahead of the Astros (+900). Now, however, the Dodgers are the clear favorites, leapfrogging Atlanta and checking in at +550. Here’s how things currently look:
Blue Jays +1400
Red Sox +2800
White Sox +10000
That’s a serious jump, and it’s not hard to see why given Ohtani’s impact, even if he’s limited to just (“just”) DH duties next year. Still, it’s hard to recommend jumping on the Blue Jays’ bandwagon at this particular moment, at least not with your wallet.
Sure, landing possibly the greatest player ever is exciting, and it very clearly pushes L.A. forward as a team, but signing Ohtani isn’t a cure all; if it were, the Angels would be the three-time defending world champions right now. Even with Ohtani in tow, VP Andrew Friedman still has lots of big questions to answer — first and foremost, who’s pitching most of the innings for this team next year? Clayton Kershaw remains unsigned, and got shelled the last time we saw him in the NLDS. Julio Urias’ career is in limbo after another disturbing assault allegation. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May will miss most if not all of 2024 after elbow surgery, while Walker Buehler hasn’t pitched since early 2022 with his own Tommy John operation. Right now the rotation is Buehler and promising youngsters Ryan Pepiot, Bobby Miller and Emmet Sheehan; plenty of upside there, but very little in the way of certainty.
Granted, Friedman is awfully good at this, and there remain several free agents who would slot in nicely to the Dodgers rotation — free agents who are bound to take the team’s pitch even more seriously with Ohtani around. But while Ohtani’s presence puts L.A. in a class clearly above, say, the Phillies (or even the Yankees or Orioles or Astros), it’s hard to see what really distinguishes them from the Braves in the NL picture. Like the Dodgers, Atlanta has a powerhouse lineup, but they seem to have more rotation answers on board right now. +550 is just not enough juice to make it worth it, especially given that the number will likely come back a bit as other free agents sign with other contenders.