What will be next dominos to fall now that Ohtani has made his decision?

December 9th, 2023

The sweepstakes came to an end Saturday, as the two-time American League Most Valuable Player signed a stunning 10-year, $700 million deal to join the Dodgers.

A majority of the free-agent and trade markets have been waiting for the two-way superstar to sign before conducting other business, so Ohtani’s decision could very well open up the Hot Stove floodgates in the coming week.

Here’s a look at which players could be the next dominos to fall and how Ohtani’s decision may impact their market:

The star pitcher from Japan is the other major domino that has been holding up the market, and although Yamamoto’s timeline is unlikely to be impacted by Ohtani’s decision, the teams pursuing Yamamoto could look different now that the Dodgers have signed Ohtani.

The Yankees are expected to meet with Yamamoto on Monday, while the Mets have already done so when owner Steve Cohen and president of baseball operations David Stearns flew to Japan last week. Yamamoto will continue to meet with teams in North America next week, after which he could make his choice.

Having missed out on Ohtani, the Blue Jays could decide to take the money they had allocated for Ohtani and make a serious run at Yamamoto, who is expected to command a deal well north of $200 million -- and possibly as much as $300 million.

The Blue Jays currently have Kevin Gausman, José Berríos, Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi in the rotation, but adding Yamamoto at the top would give Toronto the strongest rotation in the AL East -- and possibly the entire league.

Bellinger was the second-best all-around hitter on the free-agent market behind Ohtani, and now that Juan Soto is off the market following his trade to the Yankees, Bellinger -- the 2019 National League MVP and this past season’s NL Comeback Player of the Year -- stands out as the best overall hitter available.

Ohtani’s move to the Dodgers leaves the Blue Jays searching for another bat to add to their lineup, one which already includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and George Springer. Bellinger might be a good fit, as he can play center field (Kevin Kiermaier, who started 111 games there for Toronto last season, is also a free agent) or first base, giving Guerrero an opportunity to get some days as the DH.

The Giants, Mariners and Cubs are also expected to be in the mix for Bellinger, though another potential suitor -- the Yankees, who acquired both Soto and Alex Verdugo in trades earlier this week -- is now out of the mix.

Everybody else
Bellinger was the hitter most impacted by Ohtani’s status, but other free agents including Jorge Soler, Matt Chapman, Jung-Hoo Lee, Teoscar Hernández and J.D. Martinez should start to see movement now that Ohtani has made his decision.

The pitching market? That’s another story altogether. Yamamoto is the domino that must fall before that begins to open up, and while there’s no timeline for him to make his decision, the process is moving along.

Once Yamamoto makes his choice, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, a major contributor to the Rangers’ World Series run in 2023, are likely to see their markets begin to clarify, while teams with prime pitching trade candidates -- the White Sox (Dylan Cease), Rays (Tyler Glasnow) and Brewers (Corbin Burnes) -- could also see those markets begin to take better shape with clubs that miss out on Yamamoto.