The Dodgers just agreed to give Shohei Ohtani the largest guaranteed contract in the history of athletic competition, but they still have a lot of work to do on the pitching staff. Ohtani won’t take the mound at all in 2024 and his future is anything but certain following a second procedure on his right elbow, so LA may look to add both short- and long-term security in the rotation.
They won’t find it in all-timer Clayton Kershaw, who underwent surgery in November to repair the glenohumeral ligaments and capsule in his left shoulder. The big lefty is a free agent after playing on one-year deals in each of the past two seasons and could still return to the Dodgers, though some have suggested he could close out his career with his hometown Rangers. Even if he does come back to LA, a late summer return is probably optimistic.
That’s why the Dodgers “remain in the mix” for another Japanese superstar, 25-year-old righty Yoshinobu Yamamoto. His projected contract of around $300 million could mean adding $1 billion in obligations for just two players, a figure that would have been unfathomable even a week ago. How is that even possible? Well, here’s the thing: the heavy salary deferrals in Ohtani’s contract could reduce its average annual value by $20-30 million, with one estimate putting it at roughly $43 million.
That would bring the Dodgers’ projected CBT payroll to around $217 million, which puts them $20 million shy of the first tax threshold. They were at $267 million for 2023 and $293 million the year before, so it’s probably safe to say they aren’t scared of adding Yamamoto at $30 million a year. They might even look to do more than that, particularly if the additions are for shorter durations.
According to Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, who’s also responsible for the note on Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow has “emerged as a prominent Dodgers trade target over the last week.” No deal is close and there are several other clubs in contention, including the Cubs, plus this is being presented as a fallback should the Dodgers not be able to land another monster free agent.
Ardaya also mentions Dylan Cease, who has been the subject of discussions between LA and the White Sox going all the way back to the trade deadline. Bruce Levine confirmed the Dodgers’ pursuit of Glasnow and noted that they match up very well with the Sox on Cease, who would cost more in player return but less in salary. Glasnow will make $25 in his sole remaining year of control while Cease should only earn a little more than that over his next two years of arbitration eligibility.
I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Dodgers to try for Yamamoto and a trade, especially if it’s Cease. Those pursuits could have a direct impact on the Cubs, who have also been in on Glasnow for a few weeks as they look to firm up their own rotation. Cease may not be as realistic a target, though they’d be foolish not to at least check in.
I’ll close this as I have a number of other pieces so far this offseason, with hope that Jed Hoyer gets an impact move or two done quickly. But how much you wanna bet their first move is for a middle reliever or something like that? While those guys are necessary, it would be funny — and maddening to a not-insignificant portion of the fanbase — if that’s how the Cubs get things started.