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5 Moves the Dodgers Should Make After Signing Shohei Ohtani to Become World Series Favorites 

After signing Shohei Ohtani to the largest contract in sports history, the Dodgers have reason to celebrate. They landed baseball’s biggest star, arguably the most talented all-around player in history, and issued the largest contract in sports history to do it.

Even with Ohtani on the roster, the Dodgers still have work to do to be the favorites to win the 2024 World Series. They have some holes on their roster, notably in the starting rotation, that will be difficult to fill from within.

Here are five moves they should make to take them over the top.

1. Trade for right-handed starter Corbin Burnes

It’s perhaps the most obvious move for the Dodgers to make, but Burnes would bolster the rotation better than any starting pitcher available via trade. The team could also go after free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but their prospect capital for making a trade might be greater than their free-agent budget after Ohtani’s contract becomes official.

Burnes has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past three years. He would provide the true ace-level pitcher the Dodgers lack on paper, until or unless Walker Buehler returns to his pre-Tommy John surgery form. Last season with the Milwaukee Brewers, Burnes posted an ERA of 3.39 and a WHIP of 1.07.

Pairing Burnes alongside Buehler and Bobby Miller would lend immediate legitimacy to the Dodgers’ 2024 rotation. They could always try to extend Burnes’ contract as well – he’s a free agent after next season – but he is a Scott Boras client, which increases the likelihood he will test the open market.

2. Sign Japanese pitcher Shota Imanaga

The left-handed Imanaga would be a big signing for the Dodgers. Although scouts might not view him as favorably as Yamamoto or Blake Snell, he could serve the Dodgers’ rotation quite well.

MLB Trade Rumors projects Imanaga to sign for five years and $85 million – a lower average annual value than many of this year’s top free agent starters are projected to earn – while still producing at a high level. Last season, he went 7-5 with an ERA of 2.66 for the Yokohama BayStars.

Imanaga would add depth to a solid Dodgers’ pitching staff, while also providing them with a left-handed pitcher to build out the rotation without Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías. Japanese fans already watching the Dodgers for the sake of watching Ohtani certainly wouldn’t complain.

3. Sign right-hander Lucas Giolito as a flier

I’ve been very persistent on the Giolito-to-LA train this offseason, a change-of-scenery move that would benefit both parties. Before he got caught up in the whirlwind of being traded (twice) and put on waivers (once) in 2023, Giolito was a very good pitcher last season.

He posted an ERA of 3.79 in 21 games with the Chicago White Sox and was one of the hottest names available at the trade deadline. Giolito has been linked with the Dodgers for some time now and is a Southern California native. He would likely be very open to playing in Los Angeles, and has a lot to prove.

If pitching coaches Connor McGuiness and Mark Prior help Giolito re-establish his value, he wouldn’t be the first. For that reason, a short-term deal could be a good fit for the player and the team. Giolito briefly played alongside Ohtani with the Angels and he has said he would love to be teammates again.

4. Re-sign utilityman Kiké Hernandez on a multi-year deal

Hernandez rejoined the Dodgers after being acquired at the trade deadline last season, and he looked like a completely different player. He struggled for much of the first half of the season with the Boston Red Sox, hitting .222 with six home runs and 31 runs batted in over 86 games.

After he joined the Dodgers, Hernandez hit .262 with five home runs and 30 runs batted in over 54 games. He clearly felt comfortable putting the L.A. uniform back on, and the front office should capitalize on Hernandez’s willingness to play multiple positions.

Hernandez’s versatility is extremely valuable to any team, but the Dodgers have taken advantage of maximizing his bat against left-handed pitching and deploying his glove wherever needed. Signing Hernandez would give LA another outfielder to have on its roster, even after re-signing Jason Heyward.

Historically, Hernandez has performed well in the postseason. In 72 career games, he has a .274 batting average with 13 home runs and 29 runs batted in. Given the Dodgers’ October struggles since capturing the 2020 World Series, it makes sense to keep Hernandez in blue.

5. Cut ties with Austin Barnes, and bring in veteran Gary Sánchez

The Dodgers don’t have to look far to find a better backup catcher for Will Smith. Barnes, popular with fans and pitcher Clayton Kershaw, set career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging last season. He was a negative WAR player according to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs (whose version of WAR accounts for catcher framing).

Sánchez showed some pop left in his bat after he joined the San Diego Padres. After their acquisition of Kyle Higashioka, the Padres are unlikely to need Sánchez. He could be a perfect backup for this Dodgers team without sacrificing experience behind Smith.

A veteran of eight seasons, Sánchez hit .218 with 19 home runs and 46 runs batted in with the Padres in 2023 – a more than serviceable batting line. Barnes represents an easy area for upgrade.

Bonus: Re-sign Clayton Kershaw

This would just be an addition to bring Kershaw back for one last run. He deserves to return to the team if he is able to do so after recovering from shoulder surgery. There’s a chance that he could retire, or join the Texas Rangers, but re-signing Kershaw would allow him to finish his career where it began on his own terms.

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Matt Levine

Matt earned a Master of Science degree in Sport Management from Louisiana State University in 2021. He was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, growing up a huge fan of the Dodgers and Lakers. Matt Kemp was his favorite Dodgers player growing up.


  1. I agree regarding the Dodgers starting rotation. My fear is that Freidman will head for the sales “isle” and sign a few “recovering from (fill in the injury)…” starting rotation guys who will fall apart by August. Combine that with the rest of the rotation and you’ve got another team that won’t play more than 3 games in October.

    This club needs more healthy, quality, starting pitching and that should be the sign on Freidman’s office door, his restroom door and on the ceiling over his bed.

  2. Cut ties with Barnes, yes, Get Sanchez NO. He strikes out way to much. If you are going with a back-up for Smith, its time to give Diego Cartaya a chance, All he can do is get older so its time to bring him up and see what he can do. Give him a chance or trade him. Kersh is probably going to be out most of the year (if he signs again) so letting Barnes become a free agent is not going to cause any problems on that front, and he hasn’t hit his weight for a while. Otherwise, I agree with everything you sais.

  3. Friedman has never been one to risk big dollars for pitching because he believes the risk of injury is greater than the reward of an elite and expensive rotation. Yamamoto might be different because he’s elite and only 25, but the Dodgers have just spent $700 million on a single player, making it highly unlikely they will outbid all the other teams seeking a staff ace that has yet to reach his peak. Look for the Dodgers to make a trade for Burns, Glasnow, or Cease, then fill in the rest with mid-level journeymen on short-term deals. They know that Buehler will get healthy, along with Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Clayton Kershaw. Then in 2024, Ohtani will return as a two-way player, completing their rotation. Don’t get too bent out of shape hoping the Dodgers will lock up every top-level free agent. They are smart, and they are playing the long game.

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