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Shohei Ohtani joins Dodgers, signs record $700 million pact

Soto's fantasy value won't leap with move to NY
D.J. Short and Eric Samulski talk about Juan Soto's move to the Yankees and whether you should take him over Freddie Freeman in upcoming fantasy drafts.

Shohei Ohtani got his $700 million in free agency and didn’t even have to pack up his house. Baseball’s best player smashed the all-time record with his 10-year deal Saturday, signing with the Dodgers over his other finalists, supposedly the Angels, Blue Jays and Cubs.

Much of the talk Friday was that Ohtani would take his talents north of the border, with a Los Angeles-based reporter going so far as to write that Ohtani and the Blue Jays had agreed to terms. How much truth there was to those dealings is something we might find out in the future, but it’s pretty certain no one else was willing to top the Dodgers’ offer, even if it is worth less than $700 million in present day value with its included deferments. The previous high contract signed by a major leaguer was Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426.5 million deal with the Angels.

Ohtani will spend 2024 as a very expensive DH, joining Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman at the top of the order. Those three all finished in the top three of their league’s MVP balloting in 2023, with Ohtani taking the AL honors and Betts and Freeman finishing second and third, respectively, in the NL. It was Betts’ fourth time finishing in the top two for MVP, while Freeman has placed in the top four in the NL in four of the last six years.

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What this does give the Dodgers is an awfully lefty heavy lineup at the moment:

2B - Betts - R
DH - Ohtani - L
1B - Freeman - L
C - Will Smith - R
3B - Max Muncy - L
RF - Jason Heyward - L
LF - Chris Taylor - R
CF - James Outman - L
SS - Gavin Lux - L

Still, the Dodgers could bring in another right-handed-hitting outfielder and mix and match with Miguel Vargas and Miguel Rojas. The lineup should be one of baseball’s best even if southpaws do pose some problems. The rotation still needs some work, but Ohtani’s deferrals could prove key there, allowing the team to add a legitimate top-three starter to go along with Walker Buehler and Bobby Miller.

From a fantasy perspective, this should benefit Ohtani a bit; Dodger Stadium isn’t nearly the pitchers’ park it once was and is actually favorable when it comes to the home run. Anaheim was still a little better in that regard, but Ohtani’s superior supporting cast more than makes up for that. Plus, once Ohtani is ready to pitch in 2025, following his rehab from Tommy John surgery, he’ll in a far better situation with the Dodgers. In the meantime, he should probably go in the 10-15 range in mixed-league drafts, with the likelihood that he’ll move up a couple of spots if he shows he’s healthy in spring training.

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With Ohtani off the board, all eyes now turn to the newest Japanese star arriving in the United States, right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto. One imagines most of his biggest suitors were happy with Saturday’s development, since it reduced the amount of money the Dodgers have to play around with. The Dodgers figured to be amongst the highest bidders for Yamamoto if they had missed out on Ohtani, and it’s still possible they will be anyway. However, teams like the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox have to be feeling better about things at the moment. Expectations are that the 25-year-old Yamamoto, who went 16-6 with a ridiculous 1.21 ERA for the Orix Blue Wave last season, will command a contract in excess of $200 million. At this point, $300 million might even be on the table.

The Angels, meanwhile, are left to pick up the pieces. Expectations always were that Ohtani would move on after never reaching the postseason in six years with the team, but there still was some lingering hope that, as a reported creature of routine, he might stay put. The Angels said earlier in the week that there was no chance of a Mike Trout trade, which was always a given unless Trout chose to instigate the matter himself. The Angels aren’t necessarily a lost cause as a Wild Card hopeful if Trout can stay healthy and a couple of pitchers break through. Most likely, they’ll make a run at one of the best non-Yamamoto pitchers, with Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery presumably at the top of the list. Still, things are bleaker now than they’ve been at any point since Ohtani arrived, and no one could blame Trout if he eventually requests a deal.