Back in town where their season ended, the Dodgers resorted to familiar behavior this week. Like their hitters in October, their executives froze in the batter’s box at baseball’s winter meetings.
Justin Verlander signed with the New York Mets.
Trea Turner left her for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Aaron Judge returned to the New York Yankees.
There’s still plenty of time in the off-season and there are plenty of high-quality players who remain in the market, but read between the lines of what Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts are saying and it’s clear the plan is for them to keep theirs Payroll below the luxury tax limit, unless an irresistible bargain suddenly materializes.
There’s only one way the Dodgers can justify this head-scratching approach.
If Shohei Ohtani becomes a free agent next winter, they need to sign him.
What else do you do?
This feels like a dangerous game for the Dodgers to play as their cost-saving strategy could see them sacrificing what’s left of the window where their top two hitters will both be elite performers. Mookie Betts is 30 and Freddie Freeman is 33.
And even if the Dodgers can go after Ohtani next winter without worrying about the penalties that come with a repeat luxury tax evader, there’s no guarantee they’ll land him.
Next year’s winter meetings will be the Ohtani meetings, where the Japanese two-way player is expected to be able to sign the most lucrative contract in the sport’s history.
Ohtani has already been the subject of wild speculation at this week’s meetings at the Manchester Grand Hyatt as the 28-year-old will be eligible to test the open market when his one-year, $30million deal with the Angels expires at the conclusion of the 2023 season.
“If he stays healthy,” said one team owner, “who knows how much he’ll get?”
These are winning times in the game, Judge signs for $360 million, Turner for $300 million and Jacob deGrom for $185 million with the Texas Rangers.
Judge and Turner can’t pitch, deGrom can’t bat. What is the value of Ohtani who can do both?
Team leaders I spoke to this week said they expected Ohtani to sign a deal worth more than $400 million, with some wondering if he’ll break the $500 million mark could.
As to whether the Angels’ next owner is willing to make the necessary financial investments to keep Ohtani, the assumption around the game is that he’s gone, having expressed displeasure at the team’s inability to win .
In a recent interview with Japanese sports publication Number, Ohtani said he was willing to be traded last season as a deal would have made sense for the Angels if they had taken a ‘long-term’ view of their situation. It doesn’t sound like he plans on staying, does it?
In the same interview, Ohtani mentioned the fact that not every team can afford him.
“The teams that a high salary player can go to will always be limited,” Ohtani said in Japanese, “and in many cases the player has to go to a team that doesn’t care about the luxury tax.”
A team like the Dodgers, who have paid nearly $200 million in luxury taxes under their current owners.
The Dodgers came close to signing Ohtani when he was in high school. They made another attempt to sign him when he moved to the major leagues five years ago.
A prominent agent unrelated to Ohtani said the Dodgers’ investigations into his clients were still in their early stages and put forward this theory: “They are preparing to attack Ohtani.”
But would Ohtani want to play for the Dodgers? This is an unknown.
A Boy Scout who has followed Ohtani since high school pointed out that he wants to do things others don’t.
Over the years, Ohtani has resisted proposals to give up either hitting or pitching. The year before he came to the United States, his former high school coach and trusted advisor Hiroshi Sasaki was skeptical about signing with the Dodgers or Yankees and speculated he would choose a team that didn’t have a long history with Japanese players would have .
Ohtani revealed earlier this year that he has not timed his move to the big leagues to maximize his earnings, but to maximize his chances of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The aforementioned scout wondered if Ohtani would consider a move to the Dodgers too conventional.
At the same time, there is evidence that Ohtani’s views about his profession have evolved. Speaking to Number, he explained that trades are perceived differently in the United States than in Japan, where they are taken as evidence that a team has given up a player.
So, who knows, maybe five lost seasons with the Angels have convinced Ohtani that reaching the World Series will require him to walk the path that’s busiest.
The Dodgers better hope that’s the case.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-12-08/column-dodgers-shohei-ohtani-angels-andrew-friedman-dave-roberts Are the Dodgers preparing to make a run at Shohei Ohtani?