In the end, it was the Los Angeles Dodgers all along. We were beginning to doubt, as reports started flying that Shohei Ohtani was en route to Toronto and Yusei Kikuchi had rented out an entire sushi restaurant in celebration of his impending signing. But the opportunity to sign with one of the sport’s glamour franchises, remain on the West Coast and make more money than god were simply too much for the two-way phenom to pass up. L.A. now has World Series dreams dancing through their heads, arguably the best player the sport has ever seen in tow.
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 if he wants to add another Commissioner’s Trophy to the case in 2024. Who might he target next? Let’s break it down.
What should Dodgers do next this offseason?
Figure out the starting rotation
Now that the Ohtani sweepstakes has been won, this becomes items No. 1-10 on the Dodgers’ list. Clayton Kershaw is currently a free agent, and was last seen getting shelled by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS; Ohtani is unavailable on the mound until 2025; Julio Urias’ career is in limbo after another disturbing assault allegation; Walker Buehler hasn’t pitched since early 2022 due to Tommy John surgery; Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are set to miss most if not all of 2024 with serious operations of their own.
The point is: L.A.’s rotation is very much up in the air right now. As things stand, the Opening Day five would be Buehler followed by promising young righties Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Emmet Sheehan — lots of potential, sure, but very little in the way of certainty. Friedman could use a lot more of the latter, and the good news is that there are plenty of names to target in the free-agent market. It seems unlikely that the team will be in on a big fish like Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Blake Snell, but Southern California native Lucas Giolitio or lower-tier options like Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo would make a ton of sense here. Or Friedman could swing really big, dipping into his enviable farm system to acquire someone like Corbin Burnes, Tyler Glasnow or Dylan Cease.
Find another outfielder
Ohtani slots into the DH spot previously occupied by free agent J.D. Martinez, giving the Dodgers among the best tops of the order in the league. But with Mookie Betts shifting mostly to second base next season, they have a hole at corner outfield next to the returning Jason Heyward. That spot is currently occupied by Chris Taylor, but the veteran fits best as a utility man rather than an everyday left fielder. The good news is that the market isn’t short on viable options, 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.
The Dodgers’ bullpen was a strength last year, ranking third in baseball with a 3.42 ERA. Evan Phillips and Brusdar Graterol are an elite one-two at the end of games. Still, every time with an eye on the postseason could use more relief depth, and L.A. relied too heavily on subpar options at times in 2023. Josh Hader feels like a long shot, but former Astros setup man Hector Neris? Rays breakout Robert Stephenson? Flamethrowing righty Jordan Hicks? Expect Friedman to add at least one more arm here before the winter is through.