Resetting the MLB landscape with an eye on the Red Sox after an eventful weekend...
Shohei Ohtani ended up in the right place. The Dodgers were the favorites from the start, and despite amateur flight trackers following every private jet from California to eastern Canada, it's hard to imagine he was ever going to land in Toronto.
The Dodgers deserve him. They're a marquee franchise, they're impossibly well-run, and they did the legwork. By some accounts, they've been planning for this day since 2012. They cleared the books by making hard decisions on Trea Turner, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger, by walking away from Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Craig Kimbrel, and by remaining not just competitive, but dominant.
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They claimed a World Series in 2020 and they've won at least 100 games every year since. Ohtani desperately wants to play for a winner, and the Dodgers give him a better chance than anyone.
It's astounding what the Dodgers have managed over the last four years. In 2020, they stole Mookie Betts from the Red Sox. Two years later, they acquired Freddie Freeman. Now two years after that, Ohtani. MVP, MVP, and MVP.
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Contrast that with the Red Sox. They were never in on Ohtani because they had nothing to offer. They've finished last three times in four years, their farm system might be good, but isn't obviously loaded, and they play in baseball's toughest division. For anyone prioritizing championships, the Red Sox simply aren't a destination.
As they enter Year Five of their plan to win from within, they feel even further away than the team Chaim Bloom inherited in the fall of 2019. That squad included Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi. Now Devers is all that remains, and he's simply not a franchise player, even though he's being paid like one.
The Red Sox desperately need to regain the stature that made them players for all-time superstars like Ohtani, but it's not happening anytime soon. ...
One move that should help as long as it's followed by something bigger is the acquisition of Cardinals outfielder Tyler O'Neill. Fans might remember his monster 2021, when he slammed 34 homers, won a Gold Glove, and earned MVP votes, but it was always a bit of a mirage, since he struck out roughly once every three plate appearances.
The ensuing two years have been marred by injuries, as well as an inability to hit right-handed pitching. That makes the belief that he's Alex Verdugo's replacement a tad misguided. Verdugo, despite his struggles against lefties, could play every day. O'Neill should start primarily against lefties.
If he's being acquired to platoon, he'll have some value. If he's asked to play against everyone, prepare for Wily Mo Peña 2.0. ...
The baseball world now turns its attention to the second-biggest free agent of the offseason, and that's Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto. With Ohtani off the board, Yamamoto should be the next domino to fall, and there are reports that he'll meet with teams in California this week.
The Mets jumped the queue by traveling to Japan before the winter meetings, where owner Steve Cohen made his pitch in person. New York's resources are basically limitless, which makes the likelihood of John Henry winning a bidding war remote, at least in this current frugal incarnation.
The Yankees also lurk, hoping to pair Yamamoto with their other big splash, outfielder Juan Soto. Oh, and making matters worse, all of the deferrals in Ohtani's contract have made it even easier for the Dodgers to hand out big money to someone else.
Perhaps Craig Breslow's powers of argument and persuasion will convince Henry to blow away the field – a defensible position if your scouts truly believe Yamamoto is an ace – but the more likely result is that the Red Sox once again end up sidelined before turning their attention to NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell or Rangers postseason stalwart Jordan Montgomery.
As long as they add a legitimate No. 1 arm atop their rotation, we'll just have to live with big-spending rivals having the real fun.