Planes were tracked, reporters got wrong information, and fan bases were disappointed. The most anticipated free agency in MLB history has ended with a predictable outcome — yes, it's Shohei Ohtani to the Dodgers for 10 years and $700 million without an opt-out.
A large amount of deferred money also helps the Dodgers with luxury tax purposes. It's good that Ohtani is helping his team build a competitive roster around him, but one might wonder why there are such exploitable holes in a system designed to keep the sport relatively balanced. Naturally, baseball has the least financial parity of any of the major American sports. The sport itself is unpredictable enough to cover some of this. But in the offseason, there are months of reminders of the gap between teams.
There are spenders and non-spenders. Even in Group A, there are teams that sign players like Ohtani and others that don't. There are teams, like the San Francisco Giants, who seem destined to be bridesmaids. Teams like the Dodgers are always in the mix, just as they certainly will be when Juan Soto hits the open market next summer.
If you're a fan of one of these bands, these sagas are interesting. But the reality is that nearly two-thirds of the league never fits players like Ohtani and Soto in free agency. About half the teams won't even compete for Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger and Josh Hader.
Much has been written about how great Ohtani's pitch was in baseball. The consensus in baseball seems to be more money good. And yes, players getting paid money is better than billionaires (not mentioning the names of the owners in particular). But what do these offseason moves look like if you're a fan of a team in a market outside of New York or Los Angeles?
We already have drawings of Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, and Mookie Betts. The same goes for Soto, Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole. Both the Yankees and Dodgers are now among the front runners for potential ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Once again, it's the same small group of teams chasing Yamamoto. While his AAV won't come close to Ohtani's $70 million, it could be close to half that. As of 2024, eight teams have projected 2024 salaries lower than Ohtani's annual salary. You could exclude those eight from any Yamamoto bid, and you could add at least eight other teams to that list.
Conversations about minimum salary or maximum salary are not going anywhere. The lower minimum salaries will not encourage owners to enter the race to acquire Ohtani, but rather force them to hand out expensive one-year deals that could hinder their team on the field. The salary cap is going nowhere with the MLBPA. It feels like baseball is heading toward a crossroads with some of these deals. Both the Padres and Mets Try To buy a ring, both are already retreating from this approach. Many other teams trade stars or near-stars in their final years of arbitration because it has become too expensive for them.
Yes, the easy answer is to ask owners to spend. But this won't happen. Do we need greater revenue sharing to further level the financial playing field? Distributing the money more evenly would allow more flashy owners to pump money into their roster, and could also help teams like the Rays, Guardians and Brewers retain their stars, and perhaps even pursue big names in free agency on occasion.
Ohtani contract He is arousing. Ohtani joining Betts and Freeman is fun, of course, but is this focus on Hall of Fame, and talent at all, a good thing for the league as a whole? This is at least up for debate.
Many fanbases couldn't even dream of having one of these trio, let alone all three. Fortunately for baseball, major leaguers don't guarantee success — injuries and the postseason lottery give us the unpredictability we so desire. Fortunately, Ohtani, Freeman and Betts are not Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Cole, Judge, and Soto are not Team Hills.
There is a strong possibility that neither the Yankees nor the Dodgers will reach the World Series in 2024. The very nature of baseball means barely anything could happen. However, the offseason is perhaps more predictable than any other major sport. As has been widely reported, the Dodgers have always been Ohtani's favorite. Players will always have preferred destinations, but perhaps a few tweaks can increase the number of potential landing spots when the biggest fish hit the open waters of free agency.
It is an exclusive club participating at the moment. Millions of fans are watching a different series of events, wondering if their team can get a deal to rehab an arm or a slugger after a down year.
Only a third of the league even has an A slight Chance in the lottery for this criterion. Is this really a good thing? Sure, marketing Ohtani to a mass market should be easier, but does it have to be this way? The NBA has found a way to market LeBron James to Cleveland. The NFL has had no problem pumping in stars in Green Bay, Kansas City and Buffalo. Bringing together the biggest names in Los Angeles and New York sounds great for viral social media posts, but it raises more questions than it answers.