Los Angeles Dodgers made key roster decision with Shohei Ohtani chase in mind

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ decision not to extend All-Star designated hitter JD Martinez the $20.3 million qualifying offer earlier this week caught some by surprise.

In his first season with the Dodgers, Martinez hit .271 with 33 homers and 103 RBI. That’s some darn good production for $20-plus million annually.

However, there is some reasoning behind this madness. According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Los Angeles made this decision in part due to Shohei Ohtani’s presence on the MLB free agent market and the team’s interest in the two-way star.

All 134 games in which Ohtani took to the field as a non-pitcher this past season came at the designated hitter spot. With the star unlikely to pitch at all next season, it stands to reason that the Dodgers want to see if they have a chance to land him before committing to Martinez. Per Heyman, Los Angeles would like to retain Martinez if all things are created equal.

Related: Top 2034-24 MLB free agents

Los Angeles Dodgers among teams planning for Shohei Ohtani chase

shohei ohtani, mlb free agency, los angeles dodgers

This is the clearest indication yet that the Dodgers are going to go all out in the pursuit of Ohtani during MLB free agency. His pitching pedigree aside (10-5 record, 3.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in 2023), Ohtani brings one of the best bats in the league to the plate with him.

Ohtani, 29, led the American League in homers, OPS, on-base percentage, slugging and total bases this past season. He’s a potential league MVP despite missing the end of the season due to an elbow injury that will keep him off the bump in 2024.

As of right now, Los Angeles is in prime position to make a major play for Ohtani by offering a total contract that will likely be for north of $500 million.

Spotrac has the Dodgers’ current 2024 payroll at a mere $108.8 million after it was as high as $240.3 million a season ago.

Even then, there are major decisions front office head Andrew Friedman must make in order to fit Ohtani into an otherwise free-spending budget while being able to fill out other major holes on the roster.

In addition to Martinez, the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Enrique Hernandez and Joe Kelly are all on the MLB free agent market. Will Smith, Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Gavin Lux are also eligible for arbitration this offseason.

Acquiring Ohtani would be an absolute boon for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But they also have to concern themselves with a starting rotation that was injury-plagued throughout the 2023 season. Even if Ohtani is able to return to the mound in 2025, that doesn’t help matters much over the short-term.

Los Angeles is going to face tough competition for Ohtani, including from the division-rival San Francisco Giants. At this point, both New York teams and the Texas Rangers are also said to be in on the star two-way player. The Chicago Cubs are also an under-the-radar candidate.

It’s going to be a very interesting sweepstakes for one of the most-coveted MLB free agents in modern baseball history. But at least for now, the Dodgers are setting themselves up to be major players in his market.

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