Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
When the 2023 season concludes and free agency gets underway, the Los Angeles Dodgers are expected to be among several teams looking to sign Shohei Ohtani despite his recent right elbow surgery.
Having missed out on Ohtani in the winter of 2017, his eventual signing with the Los Angeles Angels paired the two-way All-Star with Mike Trout, another generational talent. Ohtani’s meteoric rise in Major League Baseball since then has culminated in a trophy case of individual awards but without any playoff history to round it out.
That’s where the Dodgers’ interest looms largest. Because of their recent run of 11-straight postseason appearances and 10 National League West titles during that span, Ohtani could be lured by longstanding history of contending and make quite the impact.
However, even if the Dodgers sign Ohtani, his addition would still leave them in need of starting pitching.
The Dodgers have already dealt with an unbelievable amount of uncertainty in their starting rotation this season and the future is equally as cloudy.
With Clayton Kerhsaw encountering some health obstacles, there’s always the potential he isn’t re-signed or retires, and Julio Urías’ career with the Dodgers is presumably over after being arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence. At minimum, Urías is due to become a free agent after the 2023 season.
Operating under the assumption of just who the Dodgers have under contract for next year, the view is bare. The upside with rookies Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, Michael Grove and Gavin Stone is intriguing, but the Dodgers are currently without an ace locked in for the future aside from Walker Buehler possibly returning to form.
Of course, the likelihood of Buehler getting back to dominating next year in his first full season since a second Tommy John surgery is not a safe bet or fair expectation.
The Dodgers have an estimated $137.5 million payroll for 2024, a number that includes an $18 million club option for Lance Lynn.
The Dodgers’ ongoing interest in Ohtani has long been the talk of the sport, with manager Dave Roberts recently calling himself a fan of the Angels star.
Ohtani required a surgery to address some damage to his ulnar collateral ligament, putting him out of contention as a pitcher for next season. However, the Dodgers’ payroll flexibility is wide enough that they could endure a season with him just as a hitter while waiting for the elbow to fully heal.
The emergence of Miller, Pepiot, and Grove are enough to fill in the top part of the Dodgers rotation, and perhaps Lynn’s option is picked up because of his ability to eat innings.
The organization expects a number of prospects, perhaps the likes of Nick Frasso, River Ryan and Landon Knack, to all contribute at some point next year as well.
Shohei Ohtani decides on elbow surgery
Aside from his MVP bat, Ohtani’s ability as a pitcher are what make him a true phenom, and the first player in the modern era to do what he’s on pace to accomplish.
Dr. Neal ElAttrache, Ohtani’s surgeon, is confident in the outlook for Ohtani, even if it means a longer-term view for a full recovery.
“The ultimate plan, after deliberation with Shohei, was to repair the issue at hand and to reinforce the healthy ligament in place while adding viable tissue for the longevity of the elbow,” ElAttrache said in a statement.
“I expect full recovery and he’ll be ready to hit without any restrictions come opening day of 2024 and do both (hit and pitch) come 2025.”
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