If you are a Dodgers fan, wow, what a 24-hour span you’ve just had. You just learned that you will have Shohei Ohtani -- the most unique, and perhaps best, baseball player in a generation -- on your team for the next 10 years. A lot is going to happen in all of our lives over the next decade, and so many things will change. But that won’t, Dodgers fans: Shohei Ohtani is yours. Congratulations.
However: If you are not a Dodgers fan, and you thought your team might have had a chance at Ohtani … well, this has maybe not been the best 24-hour span. You allowed yourself to dream, and your reward for this dream is getting to watch him play for the Dodgers. Ouch.
So, what happens next? With Ohtani signed, there are five teams who feel poised to do something big, but it’s a little unclear what exactly that might be. The five clubs are on the spot, whether they like it or not.
1. Blue Jays
Such was the intensity of the last few days of online flight tracking and rumors of celebratory signing parties in Toronto that the fanbase that probably feels the worst about not inking Ohtani isn’t the one he had played with his entire career up to this point. Ohtani made so much sense for the Blue Jays, in so many ways, that it almost seems like they lost him even though they never had him at all. The Blue Jays are supposed to be in their prime right now, with stars at their peak all aligned. Yet this group of Blue Jays has yet to win a postseason game despite reaching the playoffs in three of the past four seasons. Ohtani was going to be the spark -- what’s the spark now? Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is set to be a free agent after the 2025 season, and figuring out a contract extension with him would certainly give the fans something to feel good about. You’ve presumably got to do something with that money earmarked for Ohtani, after all.
OK, now for the team that did lose Ohtani. The Angels were holding out hope that Ohtani would choose familiarity over the unknown, but that felt like a longshot to many observers. So now that he’s gone, and now that they traded away a bunch of young players for an attempt at the postseason last year, what happens? The Angels are on record as saying they’re not trading Mike Trout, which makes sense and is admirable but does leave you wondering how in the world this team is supposed to get better, in the short term or the long term.
My colleague Mike Petriello argued that no team needed Ohtani more than the Giants, but hey, that was true of Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa too, and the Giants didn’t get them either. The Giants still need that superstar, and the issue they face is twofold: They need to persuade one to sign with them, and they need to make sure the one they do persuade is, in fact, a true superstar. If they decide they must have one right now, well, Cody Bellinger is the best option among position players … but it is certainly up in the air whether he will in fact play like a superstar moving forward. If they wait a year, they can try to outbid everybody for Juan Soto, but, well, we saw how that worked out with Judge, Correa and Ohtani. Giants fans are maybe getting a little tired of Lucy pulling away the football.
The conventional wisdom around baseball over the last two years has consistently been, “if Mets owner Steve Cohen wants a guy, no one will be able to outbid him.” But the Mets never really seemed to be a contender for Ohtani, and now they have to decide: Is it Yoshinobu Yamamoto or bust? The Japanese pitcher is the biggest ticket item left, and the Mets certainly need pitching, this year and in the future. But then again, Cohen and president of baseball operations David Stearns could keep their powder dry, see what their young players give them this year, maybe extend Pete Alonso and go big in 2025. (Soto would be a great fit here too.)
We’ll never get to know how perfect Ohtani would have been at Wrigley. (He would have been so perfect.) The Cubs never seemed nearly as serious of bidders for Ohtani as many assumed they might be, and now it’s unclear how they are going to get better in 2024. You don’t bring in Craig Counsell to be your manager if you don’t plan on getting in the playoffs, but here is where we remind you that the Cubs missed the postseason last year and are in danger of losing two of their best players in free agents Cody Bellinger and Marcus Stroman. The Cubs have patterned themselves as a team on the verge of making a big move this offseason. But they do actually have to make one.