Forever Dodger Green?

If you’re a Yankee, Met, Phillie or even a Cub fan, the announcement that came down last night was the equivalent of a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking.  As CNN’s Jacob Lev told the world:

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ offseason keeps getting better and better.

The Dodgers have agreed to a 12-year, $325 million deal with Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, citing unnamed sources.

According to Passan, the Dodgers will pay an additional posting fee of $50.6 million and Yamamoto’s deal is the largest for a pitcher in MLB history, beating New York Yankee pitcher Gerrit Cole’s contract by $1 million.

The right-hander, who boasts a fastball comfortably in the mid-to-high 90s, has enjoyed success on the international stage as well, helping his country win gold at the Tokyo Olympics, before clinching the World Baseball Classic in March.

On the heels of the Dodgers’ other moves in December, it has all but sent the rest of the baseball-loving universe into fits of depression.  BLEACHER REPORTS’ Andrew Peters, which tends to do the best job in chronicling overreactions on social media, picked up on an especially resigned tone of anyone who may not necessarily love LA:

Following Yamamoto’s signing, MLB fans (and reporters alike) voiced their opinions on social media, calling the Dodgers’ seemingly unlimited wealth unfair.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale : The Dodgers have spent more than $1.1 billion this winter with the signings of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Shohei Ohtani and Tyler Glasnow. Unreal offseason.

Max Ralph, Ohio, USA: MLB is so broken. The Dodgers do this… and then there’s the Pirates. Zero competitive balance WHATSOEVER. Ridiculous.

Goomba Shane: MLB free agency is broken. “Small market owners need to spend more” you do realize that the Dodgers have spent more this off-season than what several franchises are worth right?

I’d share a few of the observations from Mets and Yankees fans who dominate my own social media, but we try to maintain a family appeal to this site.  Suggestions for Steve Cohen in particular to perform acts of self-flaggelation are particularly odious.

To everyone who is bitching and moaning about what appears to be the annointing in December I would only remind them of a few small actual facts:

Once the Dodgers signed Shohei Ohtani, any current Japanese player would naturally be immediately drawn like a moth to a flame for the chance to be his teammate as they were in those aforementioned international competitions.  No disrespect to Kodai Senga or Seija Suzuki, but if you have the chance to perform opera with the living equivalent of Caruso would you settle for Pavarotti?

Hideki Matsui?  Had one darn good post-season and a ring.  But he wasn’t a pitcher and he’s been retired for a while.

And for the small market teams?   Reminder: Ohtani’s on the books for $2 million a year.  Your accountants could have thought of that angle, too.

And it’s that primary reason why the Dodgers were in a position to be able to afford to address their even greater need, particularly in light of their recent post-season flame-outs.  They need arms.  Ohtani’s won’t be available till at least 2025.

And it’s not that both Glasnow and Yamamoto don’t each have some risk.  Remember, Japanese pitching rotations are six men, a fact of life the Angels struggled mightily with to accommodate Ohtani.  Yamamoto has pitched roughly 193 innings in two of his three most recent seasons, but admittedly against  somewhat lesser Nippon Professional Baseball competition.  Glasnow’s injuries have limited him to roughly 120 innings of late.  We honestly don’t have a handle on how either of these arms will look against in October against top-tier teams who now are more determined than either to deny the Dodgers a regular-length season title for the 35th time since they last won one when Tommy Lasorda was fat and happy and Orel Hershiser was Yamamoto.

There’s no doubt that the Dodgers on paper are markedly improved from where they were, and perhaps they may indeed cakewalk into the post-season.  But a great regular season is no guarantee for any championship.  Just ask the 2001 Seattle Mariners and their 116 wins.  I have a hunch Yamamoto and Ohtani both remember that particular team, since someone who was arguably the face of Japanese baseball a generation before them, somebody named Ichiro, was its star.

So for fans, players and yes, writers who are quick to concede the balance of this decade to the Dodgers and their largesse, one final sage tidbit of advice:

Let’s at least wait until the season starts to see how this looks for real.  And let’s see what these new Dodgers, as well as some of their underperforming teammates, look like next fall.

The only green you need to worry about for now are those of the pine needles falling from your trees.


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