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The Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly hope to make a run at Los Angeles Angels superstar pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani in free agency next year.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Ohtani is the “player they truly want,” which could lead the Dodgers to be less aggressive in free agency than usual this offseason.
While Rosenthal noted the Dodgers could make a run at shortstop Carlos Correa on a short-term deal after losing Trea Turner to the Philadelphia Phillies, they may also be content with value signings like bringing back third baseman Justin Turner and adding outfielder Kevin Kiermaier in anticipation of going after Ohtani.
Ohtani was one of the biggest free agents to ever come out of Japan, and the Angels beat out several suitors to sign him ahead of the 2018 season.
In October, the Angels signed him to a one-year, $30 million contract to avoid arbitration, marking the largest one-year deal ever given to an arbitration-eligible player in MLB history.
They have yet to reach a long-term extension, however, and he could hit the open market next year.
Ohtani has been every bit as good as advertised as a two-way player, especially over the past two seasons.
In 2021, Ohtani made the All-Star team for the first time and won the American League MVP award by virtue of hitting .257 with 46 home runs, 100 RBI, 103 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. If that wasn’t enough, he started 23 games as a pitcher as well, going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 156 strikeouts in 130.1 innings.
If New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge didn’t break the single-season AL record with 62 home runs, Ohtani likely would have won a second consecutive MVP award in 2022.
His offensive numbers were down slightly, as he hit .273 with 34 homers, 95 RBI, 90 runs and 11 steals, but he turned into a bona fide ace pitcher.
The Japanese star set career highs in starts (28), wins (15), innings pitched (166) and strikeouts (219). His 2.33 ERA and 1.01 WHIP were career bests as well.
Ohtani earned an All-Star selection for the second time, and he finished second in MVP voting and fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting, putting a bow on one of the most remarkable seasons in MLB history.
For as great as Ohtani and teammate Mike Trout have been, the Angels have not reached the playoffs since 2014. That could lead Ohtani to test the market and could push the Angels to rebuild.
If any of that happens, the Dodgers may be an ideal landing spot for Ohtani, as he wouldn’t have to go far.
The Dodgers have been a model of consistency, reaching the playoffs in 10 straight seasons, including World Series appearances in 2017, 2018 and 2020 and a World Series win in 2020.
The Dodgers are stacked enough in pitching and offense to be World Series contenders in 2023 without a big-name signing, but the arrival of Ohtani for the 2024 season might make them clear-cut favorites again.