The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their blockbuster offseason late Thursday night by signing Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a whopping 12-year, $325 million contract. When added to the $50.6 million posting fee the Dodgers had to pay Yamamoto’s former team in Japan, their commitment to him is more than $375 million.
The fallout from that deal, along with the record $700 million contract for two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, has made the Dodgers the talk of Major League Baseball, and it is not all in a positive light. It has also put them in a position where they are either going to be the most hated, villainous team in baseball … or its biggest laughingstock if they fail to produce results.
By signing Ohtani and Yamamoto to contracts that will carry more than $1 billion in financial commitments over the next decade, the immediate question is whether this is actually good for MLB. Fans (and owners) in the majority of markets around the league are going to answer that question with an emphatic no. How could it possibly be healthy for a sport to only have one team (or at most only a small handful of teams) have any reasonable chance of signing players of this caliber?
Meanwhile, teams like the Dodgers and New York Yankees are going to say they are simply playing by the rules and spending the money they have to build the best possible teams, and actually the teams not making the best effort that are bad for baseball.
The Dodgers’ ability and willingness to be that team also brings forth extremely high expectations, not only from their own fans, but from the entire league. When you add players like this to an already great roster and see your payroll balloon to unprecedented heights, there is only one result that will be acceptable: Multiple World Series titles.
For all of the money the Dodgers have spent over the past decade and all of the regular-season games they have won, their lone title in this stretch came in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign but has really been defined by postseason failures.
They have already carried around an underachiever and “disappointment” label for only winning one World Series over the past decade. Even that World Series carries an asterisk because of the circumstances of it coming in the COVID-shortened season. That label has clearly resonated with an ownership group that has become a financial Death Star for the rest of the league and is willing to spend whatever it takes to win.
If the Dodgers fail and fail repeatedly, they will go from baseball’s ultimate villain to baseball’s biggest laughingstock. The only thing sports fans love more than seeing their own team win is seeing a hated team fail. The New York Mets became one of the biggest punchlines in baseball during the 2023 season for their failures after spending only a fraction of what the Dodgers have spent this offseason.
The Dodgers did what they feel they have to do to win. Now they have to actually do it.