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A Dodgers Offseason Rampage

Clayton Kershaw pitches at home for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After yet another playoff collapse, the Dodgers went nuclear in the offseason, breaking records en route to a highly anticipated season.

The last time we were discussing the Los Angeles Dodgers, I was delivering a disheartened eulogy to the atomic dumpster fire that was the Dodgers’ 2023 playoff run. Since then, the outlook for the team has skyrocketed. But first, let’s rewind to the lowest of lows.

Kershaw’s Lament

It’s the night of November 1, 2023. The Texas Rangers have hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy after overpowering the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games, winning the final game 5-0 thanks to a ninth-inning explosion. SP Clayton Kershaw sat at home watching five of his former teammates celebrate. He undoubtedly thought back to SS Corey Seager, the 2020 World Series MVP who helped catapult Kershaw to his long-elusive ring, then signed with Texas a year later. At the time, he seemed to be prioritizing his mammoth $325 million payday over another deep playoff run, considering the Rangers had just lost 102 games.

But now, despite finishing ten games behind Los Angeles in the regular season, it was Seager who completed the job. He added another World Series MVP to his sparkling, playoff-centric Hall of Fame case, the only area where Kershaw has so little to show for more than a decade of dominance.

But what likely occupied more of Kershaw’s mind in the aftermath of the October Madness that was the 2023 MLB Playoffs was his decision last offseason. That’s when Kershaw came very close to joining the eventual World Series champion Rangers, finding the prospect of playing closer to his hometown appealing. Ultimately, he stuck with the 111-win Dodgers, determined to add another World Series win to his career highlights, this time without the longevity questions that the 60-game 2020 championship let linger.

Initially, his decision to return looked like a great one: he had an All-Star season, finishing 13-5 with a 2.46 ERA across 24 appearances, pitching more innings than he had in any season since 2019. Despite stretches over the past few years where multiple starting pitchers on the Dodgers seemed ready to take Kershaw’s “ace” position in the rotation, Kershaw continued to cement his status as the best Dodgers pitcher since Sandy Koufax (or maybe ever). 

Then came the National League Division Series, with Kershaw earning the Game 1 start.

His one-out, six-runs-allowed performance became one of the most prominent duds of his career, up there with the back-to-back home runs he gave up, blowing a winner-take-all NLDS lead against the Washington Nationals in 2019.

Over in the American League at around the same time, the Rangers had just blown a division title in the final days of the regular season but scorched through the ALWCS and ALDS undefeated en route to their eventual championship. Kershaw very easily could have been part of that shocking playoff surge.

And after 2023, he was once again a free agent, in no rush to make another decision about his baseball future, if he chose to have any at all.

Front Office Motivation

For Andrew Friedman, general manager of the Dodgers, the beginning of the offseason was the most vulnerable stretch of his tenure. His reputation for splashy free agent signings along with effective development of homegrown talent (and, by extension, consistent dominance) made him overwhelmingly popular in Los Angeles for most of his career, but the 2023 collapse spared no one from the fury of a continually heartbroken fanbase. 

Without any semblance of October success or an exciting acquisition since 1B Freddie Freeman came to LA in March 2022, Friedman had more pressure on him than ever before. The previous offseason was intentionally inactive, interpreted by many as reloading for the future. With all eyes on Friedman to bounce back, it was time to fire away.

There was no bigger target this winter than the man who needs no introduction, SP/DH Shohei Ohtani. Rarely in American sports, if ever, do players this immensely valuable and game-changing hit the open market. Such is the LA Angels’ effect: Ohtani had never been part of a winning season, and his desire to play meaningful October baseball prompted him to turn down Anaheim’s attempts to extend him before he was free to explore the most lucrative open market in American sports history.

Pursuit of Superstardom

Amidst the furor surrounding Ohtani’s free agency were suggestions of gaudy contract numbers. Would we see a short-term deal akin to the $250 million range elite NFL quarterbacks were receiving, or long-term offers amassing $500 million? Would an owner without any spending hesitation, somebody like Steve Cohen of the Mets, throw out some unfathomable number like $600 million to blow away the competition? How much would this undoubtedly record-breaking contract be worth?

And, more importantly, who would sign the check?

The Dodgers were the favorite to land Ohtani for more than a year before the hammer dropped. The previous offseason’s silence from Los Angeles had sent a loud message to the rest of the league: the path to Ohtani runs through us. Friedman had the cash to get Ohtani, but once the bidding started, it was anyone’s game.

And that game seemed headed north. For about 12 hours on Friday, December 8, the baseball world was flooded with shock and excitement after MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported Ohtani was on a plane to Toronto, preparing to announce his signing with the Blue Jays. It might have been the biggest development in Canadian baseball since the Montreal Expos opened in 1969. A private jet on its way from Los Angeles to Toronto was extensively tracked by baseball fans hoping to figure out whether the reports were true. On the tarmac in Canada, journalists awaited the emergence of Canada’s new king for a photo op that would certainly go down in sports history. The man who exited the plane was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Except it wasn’t a newly superwealthy Ohtani. It was Robert Herjavec, a businessman best known for his appearances on Shark Tank. Ohtani was chilling back home in Newport Beach, watching the frenzy unfold as his agents maintained that no deal was imminent. Dodger fans who had comforted themselves throughout a heartbreaking previous offseason and an infuriating end to the postseason with assurances of the Ohtani signing breathed a collective sigh of relief. They were still in it.

Off-the-Rails Contract

The next morning, the world of sports was thrown into a frenzy again, probably more so due to the number being thrown around than the team. And this time around, the reports were true.

Seven. Hundred. Million.

And yes, he went to the Dodgers. The ten-year deal featured the largest number in the history of sports around the world, beating the Saudi league deal for Cristiano Ronaldo in total value. Andrew Friedman, the mastermind behind the OF Mookie Betts trade, the Freddie Freeman signing, and a fleet of elite home-grown talent had cemented his legacy. The swing-for-the-fences PBO had secured the most valuable free agent in baseball history.

But the true genius of the Ohtani deal was revealed days later when the details of the contract were released. The contract was not simply a 70-million-per-year deal. In fact, Ohtani would receive just $2 million per year during his time with Los Angeles.

Wait, what?

Somehow, the Dodgers had gotten away with deferring $680 million of their payment until after the contract was over. That’s more than 97% of the deal. For the ten years after Ohtani’s contract is up, he’ll be paid $68 million annually. You might have heard of Bobby Bonilla Day. This is like Bobby Bonilla Day on steroids.

Except this is actually a great deal, as opposed to the laughingstock that the Mets’ contract with Bonilla has become. It’s a win-win for both sides. The Dodgers will have plenty more money lying around in the meantime to spend around Ohtani and improve the entire team, which benefits everybody. For the Dodgers, when the bill comes due, it’s very likely that contract inflation will make $68 million less intimidating. There’s no question it will still be a lot, but it will be easier to work with ten years from now than it would be today.

For Ohtani, he won’t by any means be strapped for cash, thanks to reportedly making around $50 million annually from endorsements alone, a number that will likely rise now that he plays for one of the biggest brands in sports. Once he finishes out his contract (and possibly retires), he can dodge California’s income tax (legally, to be clear) by moving wherever he’d like and retaining more of his money earned, saving an estimated $98 million.

Star Compatriot

So, after securing the prize of the offseason, Friedman surely had to be satisfied. Dodger fans relaxed and planned ahead for an exciting regular season, expecting a slew of small roster touch-ups before spring training while the other teams scrapped for the remaining big free agents, from OF Cody Bellinger to SP Blake Snell to SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Friedman could let them have their fun.

Or not. Or he could just go shatter another record.

After Ohtani’s deal took him off the market and made the Japanese pitching phenom Yamamoto the most sought-after remaining guy, Friedman decided to infuriate every non-Dodger fan again. And he did so in grand fashion, locking Yamamoto up straight out of NPB for 12 years and $325 million. Friedman shelled out the most expensive pitcher contract ever to a player who had never thrown an MLB pitch. 

The highest level of baseball in Japan has a competitive level generally regarded as lower than that of MLB but above that of Triple-A. Its competitiveness with the majors was further illustrated last year as Team Japan dominated the World Baseball Classic, defeating an utterly stacked Team USA in the championship, although that came with help from Major Leaguers Shohei Ohtani, SP Yu Darvish, and OF Lars Nootbaar. 

Yamamoto, across seven seasons with the Orix Buffaloes, posted unreal numbers. He had a career ERA of 1.82, a 0.93 WHIP, a 0.4 HR/9 rate, and a 70-29 record. His arsenal, highlighted by a four-seam fastball with good velocity and deceptive vertical break, made him the premiere starter on a club he took to the Japan Series (the NPB equivalent of the World Series) each of the past three years, including a championship in 2022.

These two moves, worth upwards of one billion dollars, were not even the only big moves of Dodgers free agency. Friedman went all out, but signing arguably the two most popular baseball players in Japan is what will define the offseason: a spending spree that might turn a country across the Pacific into an international Dodger nation.

But it wasn’t until months later that this year’s Dodgers team truly came together. In early February, Kershaw made his decision: he wasn’t done with LA just yet. He re-signed for 2024 on a contract that includes a 2025 player option, so an Ohtani-Kershaw top of the pitching staff is still on the table for next year. 

With Kershaw returning, the Dodgers had tied up their loose ends from the 2023 debacle, ready to start anew with a storied franchise’s most exciting roster ever.


  • OF Jason Heyward re-signed for one year, $9M
  • RP Joe Kelly re-signed for one year, $8M
  • SP/DH Shohei Ohtani signed for 10 years, $700M
  • Acquired SP Tyler Glasnow & OF Manuel Margot
  • Glasnow extended for five years, $137.5M
  • SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto signed for 12 years, $325M
  • OF Teoscar Hernandez signed for one year, $23.5M
  • SP James Paxton signed for one year, $7M
  • Acquired prospects P Matt Gage and P Christian Zazueta Jr.
  • SP Clayton Kershaw re-signed for two years, $10M
  • RP Ryan Brasier re-signed for two years, $9M
  • Acquired prospect SS Noah Miller
  • IF/OF Enrique Hernandez re-signed for 1 year, $4M


  • SP Lance Lynn signed with St. Louis Cardinals for one year, $10
  • SP Ryan Pepiot & OF Jonny DeLuca traded to Tampa Bay Rays
  • Margot & prospect SS Rayne Doncon traded to Minnesota Twins
  • SS Amed Rosario signed with Tampa Bay Rays for one year, $1.5M
  • RP Caleb Ferguson traded to New York Yankees
  • OF David Peralta signed with Chicago Cubs on minor-league deal
  • J.D. Martinez and Julio Urias remain unsigned, though neither is expected to return to the Dodgers (and in Urias’ case, not expected to sign with anyone, considering his domestic violence arrest last September)

In addition to these additions and departures, Dodger fans can anticipate the return of two popular, familiar faces from injury: SS Gavin Lux after his ACL tear just over a year ago and SP Walker Buehler after his second Tommy John surgery in August 2022. Lux is on track to make the Opening Day roster, although Buehler will take his time.

The start of the regular season will not be Opening Day for the Dodgers. About a week before hosting the Cardinals on March 28, they will travel to Seoul for a two-game series that kicks off the games that matter. According to Juan Toribio of, new acquisitions Yamamoto and Glasnow will headline that series. If you’d like to watch that live, keep some Red Bulls around– both games start at 3:05 AM PT.

Opening Day Rotation

The rotation to start the season could have either of the Korea series pitchers at the top, considering the weeklong break until Opening Day (with a Spring Training Freeway Series in between), so my prediction for the five-man start to the season goes like this:

  1. Yamamoto
  2. Glasnow
  3. Bobby Miller
  4. Paxton
  5. Emmet Sheehan

Starting Lineup

  1. SS Betts
  2. DH Ohtani
  3. 1B Freeman
  4. C Will Smith
  5. 3B Max Muncy
  6. LF Hernandez
  7. CF James Outman
  8. RF Heyward
  9. 2B Lux

Michael Grove may start the season in the bullpen (and piggyback Sheehan), and Gavin Stone also remains in contention for that final rotation spot before Kershaw or Buehler return. If things pan out how I projected above, that would be a completely different rotation from last year’s injury-ravaged staff to open the season: Urias, Dustin May, Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, and Grove.

Baseball’s marathon of a regular season rarely gets huge audiences, especially at the start. The final games of March Madness, the well-scheduled chaos of the NFL offseason, and the NBA and NHL stretch runs give sports fans plenty of reasons not to watch. But a quick look at the Dodgers’ top of the lineup, with Betts, Ohtani, and Freeman, begs the question: How could you not?

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