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The Dodgers and the Asian FA Market

There has been some discussion on the LAD interest in KPB CF, Jung Hoo Lee.

I have no problem with the pursuit of Jung Hoo Lee by AF/BG, however he does not give the team the perceived need of a RH bat.  I believe it is a real need, but that is just me.  Lee is a LH hitting OF, with average to below average HR power.  And if the Dodgers do somehow some way end up with Shohei Ohtani (I still do not see it happening), that is still yet another LH bat.  Gavin Lux is a LH bat.  The Dodgers will lose RH hitting JD Martinez.  The current Dodger RH bats…Mookie, Will Smith, CT3, Miguel Rojas, Austin Barnes, Jonny Deluca, and Miguel Vargas.  Outside of Mookie and Smith, I do not think the opposing pitchers are going to fret a lot with those RH bats.

It is widely speculated that it will either be Vargas or Michael Busch with LAD in ST, but not both.  If the Dodgers keep Busch, that is another LH bat.  That would seem to move the needle more for keeping Vargas over Busch.  Then again, there are more RHP than LHP making the platoon happy Dodgers more inclined to keep Busch.  IMO, what it will come down to is which of the two the trading team prefers.  I have already said that I am on the Busch train rather than the Vargas train, but nobody from LAD has called for my opinion (I know, hard to believe, right?).

Also, some are calling for Feduccia to replace Barnes as the backup catcher, which is a real possibility.  There is another LH bat.

We continue to read reports that the Dodgers are in on every Asian FA.  Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jung Hoo Lee, and Shōta Imanaga.  The Dodgers being reported to be pursuing any FA is not news, but it also does not mean anything.  I can’t count the number of FA the Dodgers were “supposedly linked” to and never came to fruition.  And I am a CPA and should be able to count that high.  So I tend to not put a lot of faith into any of these “insider” reports.

I have changed my stance on Shohei Ohtani 180 degrees.  I never believed the reports that the Dodgers would sign him.  He is not needed to drive attendance.  They already have two genuine MLB superstars in Mookie and Freddie.  $600MM ($450MM to $600MM) is a lot to give to one player.  Contract terms reports for free agents have not generally been off that much.

However, LAD owners love their marketable superstars, and Ohtani is the quintessential marketing unicorn.  Not just in MLB but globally.  We are going to see Ohtani jerseys in LAD blue all over Japan.  How do you think that will impact the LAD value?  The franchise value could increase the full $600MM once he is signed.   The Angels have nowhere close to the name recognition of the Dodgers.

The Dodgers recently hired Lorenzo Sciarrino as their senior vice president of global partnerships.  I doubt that this was done in a vacuum.  Chief marketing officer, Lon Rosen, said this about Sciarrino,

“he has an incredible grasp of the complex sports ecosystem that features worldwide sponsorship at its center and dynamic business opportunities in its orbit. We are thrilled to welcome him back to the Dodgers and can’t wait to see what he brings back to the organization.” 

Does anyone think that Shohei Ohtani was in mind with this hire?  Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

Both NY teams will be bidding (excessively bidding) for Yamamoto.  The Giants are also believed to be heavily considering putting together a significant package for Yamamoto.  Farhan Zaidi recently returned from Japan where he watched Yamamoto. Brian Cashman (NYY) was on hand when he threw his no-hitter.

The Athletic’s Will Sammon reports that Yamamoto wants to play in a large market, which should work in the Mets’ favor.  Kodai Senga is pushing hard for Yamamoto to become a NYM.  It will come down to NYM, NYY, SF, and LAD.  AF/BG/Kasten better be able to pivot quickly from Yamamoto if negotiations start to slip slide away.  I don’t see Steve Cohen being outbid if that is what he wants.  For the Dodgers and 28 other teams, it is not fantasy baseball.  It is a business.

Also per Will Sammon…

“According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the Giants did not receive a final opportunity to counter New York’s offer because Senga was keen on joining a Mets rotation that included Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer when the season began. After trading both future Hall of Fame pitchers, the Mets cannot offer that enticement to Yamamoto now. And there’s a sense within the industry that the Giants won’t allow another team to outbid them for his services.”

This could be another FA option the Dodgers will come in 3rd or 4th.

Zaidi has also been reported to very much favorably consider Jung Hoo Lee to be their CF.  SF seriously needs a quality CF to roam Oracle Park, especially triples alley.  Lee figures to be a lot less expensive than Bellinger.  But I have to believe that either Lee or Bellinger will be in SF next season.  Bellinger will be getting a lot of attention from NYY, Chicago Cubs, Houston, and Philadelphia.  Chicago is gearing up for a marathon negotiation session with Boras that figures to go beyond the posting period for Lee, and into 2024. Lee might be the better option for SF.  Get the bird in the hand…

SF has also missed out on Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, and Carlos Correa over the last few years, so I fully expect them to make a BIG run at Ohtani.  They NEED that star. Zaidi did not get Melvin to manage the Giants and not put together a top roster.  The days of Yastrzemski or Flores or Estrada as the face of their franchise will be over this Winter.

The Dodgers were never really in on any of those FA.  They also swung and missed on Gerrit Cole, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts (that one is for you, Badger), Zack Greinke, Anthony Rendon, and Carlos Rodón.  Actually, I think they were half swings that were ruled they went around.  I should add that Harper, Cole, Seager, Bogaerts, Rendon, and Rodón are all Scott Boras clients.  And yet there are those who truly believe that the Dodgers will sign Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, both Boras clients.  For those who want to see Lee in a LAD uniform in 2024, please note that he is also represented by Boras.  But he figures to sign before Bellinger (also a Boras client).

Who does that leave?  Shōta Imanaga.  He is older (30) and will not require a deal in excess of 5 years (if that).  Like it or not, this is who the Dodgers have shown they prefer.

Imanaga started against Team USA in the World Baseball Classic gold medal game. Imanaga was credited with the victory after allowing one earned run in two innings.  The lone run came from a solo HR off the bat of Trea Turner.  He also struck out Paul Goldschmidt with a devastating splitter and caught Cedric Mullins looking at a 94-mph fastball on the outside corner.

Ken Rosenthal reported that U.S. players noticed similarities between Imanaga and Braves star Max Fried, due in part to the southpaw’s effectiveness against right-handed batters.  The Dodgers could do far worse than with a LHSP with a comp to Max Fried.


I do believe that Imanaga is a real possibility.  The Dodgers show they preferred Kenta Maeda and not so much Masahiro Tanaka, and Imanaga is more of a Maeda comp than a Tanaka comp.

Others to watch:

Yuki Matsui, LHP, Age on Opening Day 2024: 28

One of the top relievers in Japan, Matsui has the advantage of full international free agency; as a result, he’s attached to neither a posting fee nor MLB Draft pick compensation. Matsui, 27, is very likely to explore options in North America, and many in the industry believe he’d prefer to sign with a Major League team.

MLB clubs often talk about assembling bullpens that feature diverse blends of arm angles and pitch arrays. Matsui will help in that regard. He stands 5-foot-9 and throws a splitter, slider and 4-seam fastball with good carry.

No posting fee, no loss in draft compensation?  A top LHRP?  Seems like a perfect match for AF/BG.


Naoyuki Uwasawa, RHP, Age on Opening Day 2024: 30

Uwasawa hails from the same team that both Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani came from.  Uwasawa profiles as a long reliever or 6th man.  The Dodgers have a cupboard full of these types.


Kōna Takahashi, RHP, Age on Opening Day 2024: 27

MLB evaluators believe Takahashi profiles best as a reliever in the long term. He relies mostly on a fastball and splitter, with his four-seamer climbing as high as 98 mph. But Takahashi is probably not going to be posted this year.

I figure AF will engage and “negotiate”, but will not get signatures on a contract for the best of the Asian FA.  I will gladly be wrong on this one.


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They need pitching, and Yamamoto is the best out there, I like him better than Snell


Well, that was both informative and depressing. And probably realistic. But the fact remains that the Dodgers need a #1 ace starting pitcher. Personally, I’d like to see Friedman swallow his bile and deal with Boras for Snell, who is the best FA starter available. Anybody else just won’t be good enough to fill that role.


I disagree. Snell is a five inning pitcher most of the time. He has had 2 good years out of 8 seasons in the major leagues.


Then he’ll fit right in with the Dodgers.
Unless Friedman swings a trade for somebody – who?

RC Dodger

I understand the concerns with Snell since he is a Boras client, has a high walk rate, and rarely pitches more than 5 or 6 innings. However, I think he has had more than 2 good years in the MLB. He has had 2 Cy Young winning years including this year. His ERA was 1.89 in 2018 and 2.25 this year. Fantastic seasons. In his other 6 years his ERA has ranged from 3.24 to 4.29. Those ERAs are very good to solid. For comparison Aaron Nola had an era of 4.46 this year and his career ERA is 3.72 yet he is projected as a top free agent. Snell has a career ERA of 3.20 which is not only better than Nola, but also better than Verlander at 3.24 or Montgomery at 3.68. Snell has the arm talent and has proven he can get MLB players out, even if there may be attitude and durability concerns.


He threw 180 innings this year, the most since he was 25. He did have a really good year. He’ll be 31 at the beginning of what should be a long contract. Can he be trusted to keep pitching like this for 6-7 more years. I don’t know but I kinda doubt it. I’m sure Friedman is interested, certainly in the next few years.


2016 6-8 3.54 ERA 89 innings. 2017 5-7 4.04 129 innings 2018 21-5 1.89 180 innings. 2019 6-8 4.29 107 innings. Not going to count 2020, 2021 7-6 4.20 128 innings. 2022 8-10 3.38 128 innings. 2023 14.9 2.25 180 innings. That is two very good years, and the rest mediocre now, sorry, there is nothing in that record that tells me is he A. durable, B an Ace and worth a 5 year deal.


Keith Law’s Top Ten list of the best FA’s available:


If SF lands Ohtani I suggest we go after Montgomery, Snell and Rodriguez because Ohtani clobbers RH pitching and RH pitching is all we got.


Re Ohtani, it was just @ a week ago it seemed like I was the only one posting here saying Ohtani wasn’t a good fit for the Dodgers. I’m glad that now I have Jeff on my side. And re these pitchers, I’m afraid your assessment might be true, but Yamamoto seems like the one we really should go after.


Good article. I like them all.


The Dodgers need a left pitcher and Shōta Imanaga would be a good add. Would he need a Japanese teammate to help him settle in with the Dodgers?

A incentive laden contract for Ohtani that kicked in based on innings pitched would be the safest way to pay for the innings he may or may not pitch through his contract.


It would appear that me and Friedman are the only ones that want to see Ohtani in Dodger Blue. He’s the best player in baseball and deserves to be paid. That said, I expect Friedman to be outbid by somebody. In fact, I believe the Dodgers will “be in” on several of the names listed but outbid on most of them. The Dodgers have young assets and might get who they need through trade. Who? I don’t know. I could throw names out there all winter but I’m not going to do it now.


And me.

He’s a superstar, and he, when given the chance, absolutely shined on the biggest stage while we saw Mookie do his usual disappearing act in Oct, along with Kershaw.

The contract numbers will look bonkers all year long, until October. Then, we’ll see if he was worth that ridic contract or not. Bryce Harper shows in Oct he’s worth it. Corey Seager shows he’s worth it. Mookie Betts shows he’s not.

But, I also agree we need at least 2 impact starting pitchers this winter, so let’s see. I won’t cry if we sign Ohtani, but I’ll understand if we get crazy outbid by SF.


I’m super stoked for Ohtani, but I do worry about the preponderance of LHB.

That said, superstars are rare. Collect them.


If Vargas and Busch dont make the team it’s because one was traded.

Jeff Dominique

Correct. You expect both to be on the roster?



For now Muncy is DH

Lux is SS and Betts is RF

3B/2B are open for Vargas/Busch

They mishandled Vargas last year. He’s going to be a big leaguer.

Rojas is a bench guy

RC Dodger

Excellent article Jeff!
I don’t have your knowledge of these great Asian players, but it seems like Imanaga is more likely to be a Dodger than Yamamoto. The Giants, Mets, and Yankees are aggressively pursuing Yamamoto and will probably outbid the Dodgers.
Tim Britton of the Athletic had a detailed article on projected salaries for free agent pitchers. He estimated 7 years and $203 million for Yamamoto, and 4yrs/$52 million for Imanaga.
He also projected 5/$135 million for Snell and 3/$72 million for Sonny Gray. I could see the Dodgers opting for Imanaga and Gray for about half of the guarantees to Yamamoto or maybe Snell and Imanaga. And they could still pursue Ohtani.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Ohtani agreed to a high AAV deal with the Dodgers that gave him an opt out after two years. He would be a DH only in year 1, and could prove his pitching ability in limited duty in year 2 before Re-entering the free agent market. Ohtani is not motivated by only money, and took less to play in Anaheim. Maybe he wants to be a Dodger.

Jeff Dominique

Imanaga and Gray are the two most likely IMO.


I’m good with that. I like what the Dodgers have in-house. I like Wacha and Giolito as well but both are righties.

My first trade preference is for Witt and then Arenado if Muncy is part of the package.


Singing the Blue

We haven’t heard anything yet about the Dodgers decision on offering JDM a QO. That deadline is tomorrow.

You have a very valid point, Jeff, about the lack of righty bats in the lineup. If we offer JDM a QO that’s an immediate indication that we aren’t planning to get Ohtani. Somehow, I doubt that AF will play it that way, so I’m expecting that we’re going to go out and get a right handed hitting outfielder between now and the end of the year. He isn’t going to be willing to count on season-long production from DeLuca, who hasn’t proven himself yet.

Free agents Teoscar Hernandez or Jorge Soler? Not very exciting but definitely getable if AF wants to go in that direction.

Trade for Bryan Reynolds (switch hitter)? Pirates have control for 7 more seasons at salaries between 10-15 million per year. Very reasonable salaries although that takes him through age 35. We have lots of young pitching and catching we could offer Pittsburgh. They still aren’t ready to contend so might be willing to do a reset by getting multiple younger players in exchange for Reynolds.

It’s also possible that JDM and JT will still be out there once Ohtani has signed and if we don’t get him we could sign one of them to DH.

So many variables. That’s what makes Hot Stove so interesting.


That’s a great point re if we offer/don’t offer a QO to Martinez and how that may be due to chasing Ohtani.


Turner could be fallback signing if higher priority signings are not made.

Singing the Blue

Dodgers will NOT be picking up Joe Kelly’s 9 mil option.
Wise decision since he’s usually injured for half the year.
Maybe there’s still room to bring him back at a substantially lower price.
Or not.


The Dodgers announced their full list of option decisions, including the previously-reported news that the club options on Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, and Alex Reyes were all declined. Los Angeles also declined Daniel Hudson’s $6.5MM club option for the 2024 season, but the team is exercising its club option on reliever Blake Treinen. Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times reports (via X) that Treinen’s club option is worth $1MM.


It’s hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain

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