After trying to sign Shohei Ohtani for almost a decade, and being finalists in a weird and unprecedented week-long circus, Ohtani has signed with … not the Dodgers. Instead, he has elected to sign with the Angels, a surprisingly short and bittersweet ending to the long saga. The Angels were probably the team that people thought of as one of the least-likely of the finalists for Ohtani, but nothing about this process has been ordinary, has it?
Without knowing what the Dodgers did and did not offer to Ohtani, it’s a little difficult to analyze this in much depth. Ohtani’s agent provided the following extremely non-specific statement:
In the statement announcing Shohei Ohtani will sign with the Los Angeles Angels, agent Nez Balelo said: “In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball.”
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 8, 2017
To be honest, it always felt like the Dodgers were on the back foot coming into these negotiations. Ohtani pretty thoroughly demonstrated that he does not care about money (just ask the Mariners) so being capped at a $300,000 bonus likely didn’t matter much. However, the lack of a designated hitter spot meant that letting him hit would cause more physical breakdown than the American League alternative. Allowing Ohtani to play defense would have increased his hitting value since it would allow for more patience for his bat to develop, but it’s hard to say if it would have had longer-term ramifications on his health. There’s also an extra degree of familiarity there, since DH has been Ohtani’s role on the Fighters for the past four years.
Of course, the Angels already have an entrenched DH in Albert Pujols, but they indicated during the bidding process that they would entertain the idea of letting him play more first base. Ohtani will instantly slot near the top of their rotation (which is still largely terrible) and will get to play with Mike Trout. As a general baseball fan, getting to watch those two play together on a regular basis will be a blast. As a Dodger fan, it still stings. However, at least it wasn’t the Giants or the Cubs. Even the Padres would have hurt more than this. In the American League, the only real damage he can do to the Dodgers’ World Series hopes is in the World Series itself, which would mean that the Dodgers made the World Series. That’s not bad.
Ohtani moving to the Angels probably doesn’t change the Dodgers’ long-term picture by that much. Given where the team was, he was more a luxury than a necessity. Just don’t do that thing where you pretend he’s not good anymore because the Dodgers didn’t sign him, or pretend that you never wanted him anyways.
I’ve watched Ohtani since 2014, and the Dodgers have watched him since 2009. This isn’t the ending that either of us wanted. And yet, as Giancarlo Stanton still looms in the distance, there may still be reasons for Dodger fans to celebrate this offseason.
Meanwhile, my weird NPB-watching brain can move on to further celebrating the Eagles’ (my team’s) ace Takahiro Norimoto:
Yet another Norimoto splitter GIF pic.twitter.com/LJRBh3ukzH
— Daniel Brim (@DanielBrim) September 3, 2017
GIF: Takahiro Norimoto is nasty pic.twitter.com/EupbYEpGrc
— Daniel Brim (@DanielBrim) August 12, 2017
He’ll be posted in 2-3 more years if he can stay healthy (and if he wants to be posted in the first place). He’s a terrible hitter though.