What’s next for Dodgers after Shohei Ohtani signing: Corbin Burnes, Blake Snell among top targets

If anyone knows the value of being surrounded by good players, it’s Shohei Ohtani. 

Even as he was the best player in the universe during his last few years with the Angels, the Dodgers’ newest star spent most of his time looking up at better teams in the standings. He watched, year after year, better teams get to the postseason. 

He watched the Rangers not only sign Corey Seager, but Marcus Semien and Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob deGrom and Andrew Heaney, and trade for guys like Max Scherzer and develop young stars like Josh Jung and Evan Carter, then use the combination of all that talent to win the 2023 World Series. 

All that to say, yeah, the Dodgers just signed Shohei Ohtani, but there’s still work for them to do thing offseason before the Opening Day roster is set. 

There are no instant-fix players in baseball. It’s all about the top-to-bottom team.  

So what’s next on the agenda for the Dodgers? Let’s take a look.

FAGAN: Winners and losers from Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes

The rotation

In theory, Ohtani will join the rotation in 2025 and beyond, but he’s not pitching this year after surgery. It’s his second major surgery on his pitching arm, so it’s a question. The Dodgers certainly paid him like a two-way star, but that’s not really part of the equation. 

As of right now, the Dodgers have exactly zero sure things in their rotation. Walker Buehler should be back in form, but he’s coming off Tommy John surgery. He was hopeful to make it back by the end of the 2023 season, but that didn’t happen, and there’s often an adjustment period after a rehab like his.

Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Emmet Sheehan are immensely talented youngsters penciled into the rotation at the moment, with Gavin Stone in the mix. Will the Dodgers really spend all that money for Ohtani and then start three youngsters in the rotation? Doesn’t seem likely. Michael Grove and Ryan Yarbrough are in consideration as well. 

Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are injured and not part of the picture. 

So what do they do? Ohtani’s contract figures to take them out of the Yoshinobu Yamamoto conversation (but maybe not?), and maybe you have to squint to see them winding up with Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery. They could sign bounce-back candidates like Jack Flaherty and/or Lucas Giolito — those two were high school teammates in Los Angeles and that would be a fun story — or bring in a solid but not bank-breaking free agent like Marcus Stroman or Michael Wacha. Is Trevor Bauer an option?

More likely is swinging a trade. The Dodgers have prospect depth, and they been connected to pretty much everyone, but especially Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes. He’s a free-agent after the 2024 season, but an extension certainly would be possible, and if not he’d give the 2024 team a legitimate ace atop the rotation. Shane Bieber and Tyler Glasnow are available for the right price, and like Burnes both are free agents after the 2024 season. The price will be higher for White Sox ace Dylan Cease, but he has two years of club control remaining and that’s appealing if the cost is top prospects anyway. 

The defensive alignment

This need isn’t as pressing as the rotation, but with Ohtani locked in as the full-time DH, it’s worth asking: are the Dodgers OK with their starting defensive alignment as it’s currently structured? 

The plan, Dave Roberts announced at the Winter Meetings, is to move Mookie Betts into the infield full time. That means the outfield looks like this: CF James Outman, LF Chris Taylor and RF Jason Heyward. Is that enough offense? Heyward had a nice bounceback season in 2023, but his 117 OPS+ was the first time he’s been over 100 in that category in a full season since 2015. Outman was offensively streaky in his rookie season, and Taylor has been wildly hot or cold often during his time with the Dodgers. 

Here’s guessing that isn’t the outfield alignment after the All-Star Game. 

And with Betts now at second, it’s fair to ask if the Dodgers are comfortable with starting Max Muncy at third base every day, where he’s ok but not exactly in the upper echelon defensively. Now, though, it’s pretty much the only spot he can play, with Ohtani at DH, Betts at second and Freddie Freeman at first base. Muncy just signed a two-year extension with the club. He’s played a couple games in the outfield, but it’s been years. 

MORE: Dodgers projected batting order | Three-MVP lineups

The bullpen

As bullpens go, the Dodgers are in good shape, with Evan Phillips and Brusdar Graterol in the back, along with Caleb Ferguson, Joe Kelly, Blake Treinen and others.

But what contender couldn’t use another elite bullpen arm? 

Signing Josh Hader seems doubtful — he’s looking to break salary records for a closer, reportedly — but how good would the bullpen look with lefty Jose Alvarado back there as a setup man? Hector Neris? Even David Robertson or Wandy Peralta? 

The Dodgers’ goal is always to win the World Series, and the spotlight is bright. But now, with Ohtani on board, everything has jumped up a notch. 


Source : ESPN.com

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