The afterglow of the, the best and most famous baseball player in the world, to a record-shattering $700 million contract has consequences for all of Major League Baseball. "All of Major League Baseball" of course includes the National League West, Ohtani's new divisional home.
With Ohtani now lodged in L.A. for the next decade, let's take a look at that division and what Ohtani's presence on the Dodgers might mean for it in 2024. We'll do this on a team-by-team basis starting with – bold decision forthcoming – Ohtani's own Dodgers.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Let's lay out some realities before even getting into Ohtani. The juggernaut Dodgers have racked up three straight 100-win seasons, and if the COVID-abbreviated 2020 campaign would've been a standard one they'd probably have five straight 100-win seasons in the books. The Dodgers have also won 10 of the last 11 NL West titles, with the only exception being 2021 when the 106-win team was edged out by the 107-win Giants.
In 2023, Dave Roberts' squadron amassed 100 wins despite heavy attrition in the rotation and finished a full 16 games ahead of the second-place Diamondbacks. As well, the Dodgers last season had a run differential of plus-207 – second only to that of the Braves in all of baseball. That figure is almost twice the second-best run differential in the NL West, which was the Padres' plus-104. Head-to-against their NL West competitors last season, the Dodgers were 34-18, which scales to a 106-win pace across a full season. That's a foundation of dominance even before you get into the Ohtani addition.
Now let's get into the Ohtani addition. He won't pitch in 2024 as he continues to recover from a procedure to address the UCL tear in his throwing elbow, but he will continue being one of the best pure hitters in baseball. The Dodgers had strong production from the DH spot last season, thanks largely to outgoing free agent J.D. Martinez. However, Ohtani with his blend of power and patience and top-of-scale batted-ball metrics figures to soar over that already impressive baseline at the position. That's to say nothing of the impressive base-running value that Ohtani provides, particularly by the standards of a DH role that tends to feature lumbering sluggers. Throw in the fact that Ohtani as a hitter won't be hindered by any pitching-related fatigue in 2024, and the Dodgers will be much improved on that front.
What's also very relevant is that the Dodgers, assuming the reporting is a reliable guide, remain heavily committed to addressing the rotation. Ohtani's heavily deferred contract creates flexibility in terms of the Competitive Balance Tax thresholds, and lead decision-maker Andrew Friedman intends to use that flexibility. Walker Buehler returns from Tommy John surgery, and high-ceiling youngster Bobby Miller figures to be a fixture. After that, though, things are uncertain. A short-term reunion with franchise icon Clayton Kershaw is a realistic possibility, but they'll be without Tony Gonsolin as he recovers from a TJ surgery of his own. It's possible they could get Dustin May (elbow) back for a chunk of the second half, but he's hardly a known quantity right now.
So the post-Ohtani Dodgers are likely to make another big splash. They're real threats to land Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a 25-year-old ace out of Japan who's been posted and will likely command something close to $300 million. Trades for Corbin Burnes, Dylan Cease, or Tyler Glasnow are also possibilities. Regardless of what details emerge, the Dodgers are seemingly going to add one or more ace-grade arms to the rotation, and that will reinforce their unassailable status as heavy favorites in the division.
The reigning NL champs have an impressive young core and may be motivated spenders this winter, at least by their usual standards. The D-backs, however, are coming off an 84-win season in which they posted a negative run differential. The glory of going on a hot streak in October and claiming the pennant obscures what's a rather modest baseline.
Looking forward to 2024, general manager Mike Hazen has already made a couple of nifty targeted strikes. His Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. Adding a corner outfielder should be next on his list. The D-backs seem unlikely to pay the going rates for Cody Bellinger, but a reunion with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is a worthwhile consideration. They could also use some punch at DH, and recent rumors tying them to J.D. Martinez are encouraging.gives the Snakes a dose of power and addresses the need at third base. His to a four-year free-agent pact gives the rotation needed depth behind
Regardless of how all this shakes out, the D-backs look like wild-card contenders as opposed to real threats to the Dodgers in the NL West. As we've seen time and again, though, wild-card teams often meet with playoff glory.
San Diego Padres
The Padres in 2023 ran the highest payroll in MLB of any team not located in New York, and that got them a mere 82 wins. Getting dropped by Bally Sports last season in the midst of Diamond's bankruptcy led to real uncertainty when it comes to their local-television revenues, and that prompted their ongoing payroll trim. The Pads last season endured a frankly absurd run of bad luck when it comes to one-run and extra-inning outcomes, and that's the kind of thing that almost always self-corrects in the subsequent season.
The problem is that they undermined that coming bounce-back to some extent by Blake Snell and All-Star closer Josh Hader, both of whom are free agents, and that will be another body blow. As well, Michael Wacha's 24 strong starts also seem likely to depart via free agency.. While the trade gave them some much-needed MLB-ready arms, it also stripped the lineup of one of the best hitters in baseball. The Pads seem unlikely to bring back NL Cy Young winner
Again, the Padres are probably in for a rebound based on the bad luck they suffered this past season, but the departures will be keenly felt. They also figure to have little appetite for significant spending to address those needs in the rotation and outfield (Trent Grisham was also shipped off in the Soto deal). Better health for Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts and a full season of Fernando Tatis Jr. will of course help matters, but they have too many roster holes to be a real threat to the Dodgers. Wild-card relevance is certainly possible in Mike Shildt's first season.
San Franciso Giants
Team prez Farhan Zaidi has done a very nice job of roster-building when it comes to complementary pieces and "coached up" mid-level contributors. The problem is that's pretty much all the Giants have and have had for some time. They badly need to swing big in free agency and or blockbuster trades, but even though it's still the first half of December, notable names are coming off the board. Even then, the Giants' capacity for landing those big names is left to question. It's going to take multiple additions to make a team coming off a minus-45 run differential into a contender in what's a pretty tough division. This is a roster crying out for star power, particularly in the lineup, but this isn't really the offseason to be in need of such things. As presently assembled, the Giants aren't serious contenders.
The best thing you can say about the Rockies is that they make, from an outside standpoint, "pleasingly weird" personnel decisions. In an era of front-office homogeneity, the Rockies stand out as a bad team that, unlike all the tanking teams that infest baseball, doesn't know why it's bad. So they'll continue being bad and weird, powered by fresh mountain air and an absence of the kind of vibes that usually accompany being bad and weird. The Rockies are unique in today's game, but they are not good.
The bottom line? The Dodgers by any reasonable projection probably had better than a 90% chance of winning the NL West in 2024. Now that Ohtani's been added, that figure is significantly closer to 100%. Should they follow assumptions and fortify the rotation, that figure will be effectively 100%. The divisional Dodger dynasty isn't going anywhere.