April 14, 2024

The Dodgers have introduced plenty of star players over the years, but Thursday’s news conference with Shohei Ohtani resided in another stratosphere.

The others weren’t intentionally scheduled at a time to maximize viewership in a country halfway across the globe. The others didn’t attract hundreds of media members. The others didn’t begin with a countdown for the emcee to start on time for the MLB Network broadcast.

It was as much a TV show as it was a news conference, a Guggenheim Baseball production for the world to consume. If if wasn’t clear already, the message was communicated with the signage surrounding Ohtani on the dais.

Alongside the usual Dodgers logos for such events was an unusual addition plastered on the backdrop and podium: Guggenheim Baseball branding. It wasn’t an accident.

Ohtani, 29, is the consensus best baseball player in the world. He’s perhaps the most talented player ever. He will undoubtedly help the Dodgers win a lot of games. But Dodgers ownership’s investment in Ohtani was a business decision for the brand before it was a baseball transaction for the club.

For all the hysteria surrounding Ohtani’s contract — first the jaw-dropping $700 million figure followed by the unprecedented deferrals — the 2024 Dodgers didn’t substantially improve with his addition. The Dodgers need starting pitching help above all else and Ohtani won’t pitch in 2024.

He projects as a considerable upgrade at designated hitter over All-Star J.D. Martinez — in the batter’s box and on the bases — but nothing more between the lines for the upcoming season. Whether he returns to his previous form as a pitcher in 2025 after undergoing a second elbow surgery in September remains to be seen.

What isn’t iffy are the unparalleled revenue streams Ohtani is going to open for the franchise during the next decade.

The Angels, a franchise historically not nearly as popular in Japan as the Dodgers, collected $10 to $20 million a year in revenue from in-stadium and on-air advertising related to Ohtani. The Dodgers, according to one industry expert, could make two to three times as much — and that doesn’t account for all possible revenue streams.

Angels starter Shohei Ohtani gets set to pitch against the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 23 in Anaheim.

The Angels earned $10 to $20 million a year in revenue from in-stadium and on-air advertising related to Shohei Ohtani.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

For now, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his front office have work to do to upgrade the roster for 2024. Ohtani’s willingness to defer a staggering $680 million interest free, which lowered his luxury-tax hit for the Dodgers from $70 million to $46 million, affords the team more flexibility for roster construction.

That flexibility will be best used to address starting pitching. As it stands, the Dodgers’ starting rotation for 2024 is headed by Walker Buehler coming off his second Tommy John surgery and Bobby Miller coming off an impressive rookie season.

That is expected to change this weekend with the Dodgers likely acquiring Tyler Glasnow from the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a four-player trade that would also send outfielder Manuel Margot to Los Angeles in exchange for right-hander Ryan Pepiot and outfielder Jonny DeLuca.

The deal, which is contingent on Glasnow agreeing to a contract extension with the Dodgers, would give Los Angeles the frontline starter they’ve prioritized this offseason. Glasnow might not be the only one.

Clayton Kershaw is contemplating whether to return to the Dodgers or sign with the Texas Rangers after undergoing shoulder surgery last month. Lucas Giolito is an accomplished buy-low candidate coming off two substandard seasons.

Then there’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The Japanese right-hander, the winner of the Nippon Professional Baseball’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award the last three seasons, has had his stock rise this offseason with contract projections climbing from $200 million to as much as $300 million.

Several big-market clubs are recruiting Yamamoto. The Dodgers are among them. They met with Yamamoto at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. Ohtani was among the Dodgers players in attendance, one day after his signing became official, to pitch his World Baseball Classic teammate on joining him in Los Angeles.

Yamamoto would give the Dodgers two Japanese stars. But Ohtani is different.

On Wednesday, the day after that meeting, Ohtani’s unmatched appeal was highlighted when Fanatics announced that his No. 17 Dodgers jersey had set a record for sales within its first 48 hours of availability, topping the jersey releases for international soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The accomplishment was blasted on the Dodgers’ official social media channels. That wasn’t an accident, either.

Two years ago, Tucker Kain left the Dodgers to become Fanatics’ chief strategy and growth officer while Dodgers owners Mark Walter and Todd Boehly became investors in the company. Ohtani hasn’t been a Dodger for a week and he’s already proving to be a moneymaker.

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