Phillies' path to the World Series just got tougher as Shohei Ohtani joins Dodgers

With the greatest baseball player ever now in the National League with the Dodgers, the Phillies have their work cut out for them.
Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels
Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

It's finally official. Shohei Ohtani has made his decision and he's taking his talents to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two-way Japanese phenom has signed a record-setting 10-year, $700 million contract to make Chavez Ravine his new home.

Baseball writers and fans can all rejoice; our international crisis is now over, and free agent signings are ready to land. Sorry, Toronto Blue Jays. Too soon?

The Philadelphia Phillies never had a chance. More accurately, they were never really connected to Ohtani at any time during his free agency. That was never going to be a direction the Phillies were going to explore with a roster that already has a number of high-priced contracts of its own. Will they sign free agents this offseason? Sure. But $700 million for a player recovering from his second Tommy John surgery since 2018? Dave Dombrowski and company said "hard pass."

Ohtani with the Dodgers is nightmare fuel for NL contenders

Ohtani is still a fearsome hitter, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to be the stuff of nightmares for pitchers who have to face them in 2024. Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy, Will Smith, and now Ohtani in that lineup? Not an easy assignment for any unlucky pitcher slated to toe the rubber on game day.

Will Ohtani recover from his second Tommy John procedure and be a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Dodgers? They paid him like he will. That isn't a possibility the Phillies or any other team have to worry about right now or any time soon. But that will certainly be a leading narrative heading into 2025. Due to his status as a two-way player, he may recover in time to take over as a regular DH sometime in May or June if he follows a recovery timeline similar to the now questionably underpaid Bryce Harper during the 2023 season.

The Phillies already have major competition in the NL East to worry about. The Atlanta Braves are still the team to beat in the division, despite what the Phillies have been able to do to them over the last two Red Octobers. The Marlins are building a contender in Miami, and you can never rule out the New York Mets making a big splash in a sneaky attempt to compete in 2024.

With the Yankees dominating the front page headlines of daily newspapers in the Big Apple this week following a couple of massive trades, things seem quiet in Queens. A little too quiet.

Where do the Phillies stand in the NL?

Considering what we currently know to be true of other contenders, are the Phillies the third-best team in the National League after the Dodgers signed Ohtani? That could be optimistic. An argument could be made that they are currently fourth if you count the Arizona Diamondbacks in this discussion. If that's really the case, the Phillies window to win a championship during this run is looking more difficult by the day.

Armed with that knowledge, are Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies baseball operations department willing to turn their backs on all of that talk of sustainability they were preaching last week at the Winter Meetings and add a substantial free agent or complete a headline-worthy trade? Has that become a critical position the team needs to explore?

It's beyond possible. But if the Phillies front office and most of the baseball world already knew behind the scenes that Ohtani was going to sign in one or two known destinations from rumors alone, they are likely sticking to a set offseason plan. Now that the free agent market is expected to start moving again, the Phillies' actual agenda is sure to come into clearer focus.

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