The most fascinating and high-profile free agency in baseball history -- and maybe all of sports history -- came to a conclusion Saturday afternoon. Two-way superstar and two-time unanimous AL MVP Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Dodgers. Ohtani made the announcement himself on Instagram.
Here is Ohtani's announcement and statement:
Ohtani, who is still only 29, led the American League with 44 home runs this past season, in addition to throwing 132 innings with 167 strikeouts and a 3.14 ERA. He won't pitch in 2024 given his recent elbow surgery, but he will hit next year, and hit a lot. Ohtani has moved his career north to Chavez Ravine and will no longer play in the shadows of Disneyland.
With that in mind, here are some quick reaction winners and losers from Ohtani's deal with the Dodgers.
Winner: Ohtani and the Dodgers
The game's most dynamic talent is heading to Los Angeles proper to join a Dodgers team that won 100 games this past season, but also got swept in the Division Series. Manager Dave Roberts will start his lineup with Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman in some order -- three players on the Hall of Fame track -- and back them up with Will Smith, Max Muncy, and others. Ohtani won't pitch next season and that's what the Dodgers really need, pitching, but they need his bat too. Simply put, the Dodgers just landed the game's biggest star. They'll be better on the field and off the field too, because he's going to sell a lot of tickets and jerseys and sponsorships in addition to hitting dingers and, when healthy, striking out batters.
Also, Ohtani's a winner here too. I mean, the guy who's signing a $700 million contract is a winner by default. Good gravy.
Loser: The Blue Jays
For a while there Friday, it appeared Ohtani might actually be going to the Blue Jays as internet sleuths tracked a private flight from Anaheim to Toronto (Ohtani wasn't on it, a Toronto businessman was), and conflicting reports about Ohtani's decision emerged. Instead, the Blue Jays lost out on the biggest free agent ever, and are left to pick up the pieces in a thin free-agent market. They'll be OK in the end, they still have Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but make no mistake, this is a major blow to the franchise. Both on the field and off, because no player in the game generates revenue like Ohtani. You can be certain that factored into the Dodgers' decision to give him $700 million.
Loser: Mike Trout and the Angels
Look, it does not come as a surprise Ohtani decided to leave the Angels, but it is still a massive loss, especially because he's staying in Southern California. Ohtani is the game's greatest talent and most marketable player, so much so that he usurped the great Mike Trout as the face of the franchise. The Angels are in dire straits right now. The major-league roster lacks talent, the farm system is barren, they share a division with the last two World Series champions, and now Ohtani left. Trout and the Angels seem headed for a prolonged down period. Not all because Ohtani is leaving, but that certainly plays a role in it.
Winner: Yoshinobu Yamamoto
The teams that lost out on Ohtani -- Blue Jays, Cubs, Giants, etc. -- figure to pivot hard to Yamamoto now. was the most sought after player in free agency even before Ohtani came off the board. The Mets want him, the Red Sox want him, the Yankees want him, and now all those teams that didn't get Ohtani really want him too. There are rumblings Yamamoto's contract could approach 10 years and $300 million. Now that several teams have Ohtani money burning a hole in their pocket, count on them throwing it at Yamamoto. The young man picked an excellent offseason to make the jump to MLB.
Winner: Juan Soto
Aaron Judge set the market for a best-in-the-league kind of hitter at $40 million per year through age 39. For Soto, that would mean 14 years and $560 million beginning in 2025. Sound crazy? Maybe! But less crazy than it did before Ohtani signed his massive contract. With another Soto-esque season in 2023, Soto is well-positioned to become the second $500-plus-million player in baseball history., Soto is a year away from free agency and Ohtani just moved the salary bar up considerably. Soto won't match Ohtani's $700 million but no longer does a $500 million contract seem out of reach. Soto will become a free agent days after his 26th birthday and new teammate
Mostly because Ohtani is staying on the West Coast and the majority of his games will continue to be played when a huge chunk of the sport's fan base is in bed. You're free to call this East Coast bias if you want. The fact is Ohtani's games will be no more visible or more accessible to more people than they were when he was with the Angels. That's just how time zones work. The later Ohtani plays, the fewer eyeballs on him. It's not on Ohtani to make sure his games are easy to watch, but yeah, MLB probably isn't thrilled he's staying on the West Coast.
Loser: Fans for having to listen to the media complain
Speaking as someone who covers baseball, it is not the media's job to promote the game. That's on Rob Manfred and his cronies at the commissioner's office. There was too much complaining this past week about Ohtani's free agency being a missed opportunity for baseball, but we are not entitled to a play-by-play of his free agency. Can anyone tell me which teams Cody Bellinger has visited? We didn't know Judge met in-person with the Padres until after he agreed to return to the Yankees last offseason. Ohtani's free agency has been no different than any other star player's in that regard. I'm sorry baseball fans were subject to articles and video clips deriding Ohtani's lack of transparency. There were so many better stories that could've been told this past week instead.