You read that number correctly. The total value of the deal is nearly $300 million more than the next biggest ever given to an MLB player. Well, sort of. Turns out $680 million is deferred until after the 10 years are up -- an unprecedented arrangement that offsets the opportunity cost of signing Ohtani and is sure to be met with hand-wringing throughout the game. But it's somehow fitting that that's how the most anticipated free agent courtship in history comes to an end.
As is generally the case for the biggest free agents, the implications of this signing are greater for real life than for Fantasy. Players this good aren't subject to a role change with a new team, and their skills would typically translate anywhere.
But if we were to rank the best destinations for Ohtani's Fantasy value, the Dodgers would have been near the top of the list. While Statcast ranks Angel Stadium as the fifth-best venue for home runs over the past three years, it ranks Dodger Stadium second. In 15 career games there, Ohtani has hit .357 (10 for 28) with a home run, two doubles and two triples.
Even more than that, he's joining a lineup already headlined by two Hall of Fame-caliber hitters in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, who wreak so much havoc at the top of the Dodgers lineup that each had a combined 233 runs and RBI in 2023 -- a massive total that propelled each to a top-four finish in both major scoring formats. If you thought Ohtani and Mike Trout made for a dynamic duo, just wait until you see what this trio can do.
|Projected Dodgers starting lineup
There will of course be great interest in where Ohtani bats in the lineup, whether the Dodgers split up the lefties and bat him leadoff or keep Betts in the leadoff spot and have Ohtani and Freeman hit back to back in some order. Personally, I'd like to see Freeman bat leadoff, followed by Betts and Ohtani, but I'd also say that's the least likely permutation.
Of course, that discussion is purely academic. We know they'll be the top three in the Dodgers lineup, and where one bats in relation to the others is mostly just a matter of him having more runs or more RBI. In fact, the plain truth is that, for all the talk of venue and supporting cast, Ohtani figured to do what Ohtani does no matter where he wound up.
No, the biggest question for Fantasy purposes was never where he would go but how his recovery would go.
He just had surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament, after all -- his second such procedure in six years -- and while it sounds like it was more of an internal bracing procedure than full-blown Tommy John this time, it does make his timeline less than clear. We know that pitching is out for 2024. He's expected to be ready to hit by opening day -- and this lesser form of the procedure makes it all the more likely -- but it's also less proven than Tommy John. It worked wonders for Rhys Hoskins, but the jury's still out for Trevor Story.
And just because it'll allow Ohtani back sooner doesn't mean he'll be back at full strength. Bryce Harper just set a new standard for how quickly a hitter can make it back from Tommy John surgery, following basically the same timeline as Ohtani, but his power didn't actually show up until three months into his return. Again, it doesn't sound like Ohtani had full-blown Tommy John, but also again, we just don't have much experience with this new kind of procedure. And what we do have is mixed.
Getting down to brass tacks, I rank Ohtani 17th in both categories and points leagues for 2024, making him a mid-second-rounder regardless of format. It's where I had him before this signing, and it's where he remains. He of course has first-round, even top-five, potential -- potential that he delivered on in 2023 -- and I do think he's one of 17 first-round caliber hitters in next year's draft pool. But given the uncertainty surrounding the elbow, I prefer to rank him toward the back of that group. Perhaps a big spring training replete with home runs would change that.
Just as the change to Ohtani's outlook is minimal, so are the ripple effects for Fantasy. Nobody of any real significance figures to lose at-bats with this signing -- maybe Will Smith, but the DH spot wasn't available to him last season either with J.D. Martinez in the fold. There's a chance a hitter of Ohtani's stature could impact RBI production further down the Dodgers lineup, but it's clear at this point that I'm straining for an angle and should probably hit the brakes before I say something I don't actually believe.
So I will. To sum up, Ohtani is a Dodger now. Take note of it, but be careful not to overpay based on all the pomp and circumstance of his free agency. The time to go crazy will be 2025, when the elbow injury is behind him and he's back to being a two-way player.