For a little more than a month, the baseball world was waiting for something, anything coming from Shohei Ohtani’s camp to guess where he’d sign for the upcoming MLB season. Rumors were rampant; many were unfounded.
Then came the news on Dec. 9, 2023, via Ohtani’s Instagram that he was signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and since then, it seems like the Dodgers have been getting whatever baseball players they want via trade or free agency.
Really, it only seems that way, but it’s close, and there are fantasy implications far and wide with the players moving teams.
Signing with the Dodgers 13 days after Ohtani was Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the star pitcher of the Nippon Professional Baseball League who will instantly become one of the top starters for L.A. and likely a strikeout machine in MLB. And the Dodgers still weren't finished (more on all those deals below).
While it only seemed like the Dodgers were acquiring every available player during the Hot Stove League, other teams were plenty busy, and that will impact fantasy baseball quite a bit in 2024.
For fantasy managers who have been concentrating on football the past couple of months, here’s a quick rundown on some of the major (and minor) offseason acquisitions and their fantasy impacts.
As mentioned above, you might notice a particular shade of blue on the first few names in this lineup.
NOTE: This story will be updated when stars such as Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman and Jordan Montgomery sign with new teams.
Big moves, Dodger division
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers
The best player in the game steps to an even bigger stage in Chavez Ravine, making this the most impactful free-agent move for an athlete in any sport since LeBron James signed with the neighboring Los Angeles Lakers in 2018. The only downer amidst all this excitement is that Ohtani won’t be able to pitch until 2025, but he’ll still move the needle plenty with a bat in his hands.
Hitting at the top of the Dodgers lineup with Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, Ohtani’s 2023 numbers of 44 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 102 runs, 95 RBI with a 1.066 OPS could be just the starting point. The RBI opportunities for Will Smith and Max Muncy behind him will be plentiful, and without having to take the mound once a week, could Ohtani be even better at the plate in 2024? Even as a DH, Ohtani will be an early first-round pick with his elite power-speed combination.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers had to do something to shore up a pitching staff hit hard by departures, so they signed Ohtani’s Team Japan teammate in the World Baseball Classic. The 25-year-old won the past three Sawamura Awards — the Japanese League’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award — with a pitch mix that will transition well to the major leagues. In his most recent season, he flashed a 1.16 ERA with a 17-6 record.
Spencer Strider and Yoshinobu Yamamoto will turn heads in 2024. pic.twitter.com/4x3TVw12I2
— MLB (@MLB) January 23, 2024
He will now have to get used to a different baseball and pitching more than once a week, but with an elite arm in a pitcher’s park, backed with a good defense and an explosive lineup, Yamamoto will be a great source for wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
And he’ll have some company in L.A.'s rotation, too.
Tyler Glasnow, Los Angeles Dodgers
One of the most talented pitchers in baseball, Glasnow has a checkered injury history. Last year’s 120 innings were the most in his eight-year career by more than 30, but in that workload, he posted a dominant 162 strikeouts.
He finished the season healthy, which is a great sign, and the Dodgers’ recent history with pitchers has been very good. Again, with that ballpark and that lineup, Glasnow will do a lot of good when he is on the mound.
Just one warning for fantasy managers: Don’t make him your ace. If you do, be ready to draft a deep pitching staff to prepare for any missed time from him.
Teoscar Hernández, Los Angeles Dodgers
This one came out of — pun intended — left field. That happens to be where Hernandez is slated to play and bolster a Dodgers lineup that is an embarrassment of riches. With the loss of J.D. Martinez to free agency (replaced by Ohtani), the Dodgers could use another right-handed bat in the lineup.
Hernandez hit 26 home runs with 93 RBI for the Mariners last year, his fifth consecutive full season with at least 20 home runs. Projected to hit after Smith and Muncy, Hernandez will still have a lot of RBI opportunities and is my nomination for Scott Pianowski’s 2024 Raul Ibañez All-Stars, the players past age-30 who, without fanfare, will put up solid numbers on fantasy rosters.
It's hard to imagine a Dodger without much fanfare, but Hernandez might be one, considering who else is in the lineup.
Big acquisitions, non-Dodger division
Juan Soto, New York Yankees
Is there a better all-around hitter in baseball than Soto? Six seasons with more walks than strikeouts, five seasons with at least 20 home runs and a lifetime OPS of .946. And he’s shuffling into his age-25 season.
The Shuffle that never sleeps.
#22, Juan Soto. pic.twitter.com/8NKfYvX2ub
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) December 12, 2023
Soto will fit nicely in the Yankees lineup after being traded by the Padres, teaming up with Aaron Judge to become arguably the most powerful duo in baseball. Even though he has power to all fields, that short porch in right field will be so inviting for Soto. Same for the several band-box ballparks in the AL East. Mark him down for 40-plus home runs, 100-plus runs and RBI and a sneaky double-digit steals mark. He'll be a first-round pick in fantasy drafts.
One note on what the San Diego Padres got in return: Michael King was the main piece going back to the Padres. He'll look to build upon a season with a 2.75 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 104.2 innings and could be worth a late-round flier in drafts.
Corbin Burnes, Baltimore Orioles
On Feb. 1, the Orioles made a major move, trading for Brewers' ace, Corbin Burnes. The 2021 Cy Young Award winner goes to one of the most exciting young teams in the game. Baltimore is coming off a 101-win season but needs frontline starting pitching. Burnes is the No. 3-ranked pitcher in our 2024 rankings, and is on a three-year run where he's made 93 starts with a cumulative 2.94 ERA and 0.994 WHIP. He struck out 677 hitters in that run and allowed just 408 hits in 562.2 innings. And he did all this pitching half his games in a hitter's park in Milwaukee.
Now pitching for the Orioles, Burnes will be an ace backed up by a high-powered offense that could push his win total into the high teens, especially since he goes deep into games — his 193.2 innings were tied for 10th in the league. Since he'll be pitching in his walk year for free agency, bank on a big season from this stalwart pitcher who is no stranger to pitching for a contender.
Josh Hader, Houston Astros
Even with 90 saves over the past three seasons, Ryan Pressly will be placed in a setup role with this move. Hader joins Houston coming off a three-year run with 103 saves, 268 strikeouts and a 2.45 ERA in 165 innings. In a word: dominance.
Pitching for a team with 291 wins the past three seasons, there should be plenty of save opportunities, so expect Hader to be one of the first relievers taken in fantasy drafts.
And projecting beyond the regular season, imagine Hader facing Ohtani in the World Series. Get the popcorn ready.
Major acquisitions, international division
Two other players are coming to the major leagues after being stars in Asia, and they could have prominent roles that make them players fantasy managers need to keep an eye on.
Jung Hoo Lee, San Francisco Giants
Former KBO MVP Jung Hoo Lee has reportedly been posted by the Kiwoom Heroes.
Where will the 25-year-old outfielder land? pic.twitter.com/Kyb4lXD0Ri
— MLB (@MLB) December 4, 2023
Known as “Grandson of the Wind,” Lee was one of the premier hitters in the KBO with a .340 average, .407 on-base percentage and .898 OPS in his seven-year career. He’s just 25 and hit 23 homers with 113 RBI in 2022 — he missed about three months of the 2023 season due to ankle surgery.
Shōta Imanaga, Chicago Cubs
Shōta Imanaga is going to fit right in at Wrigley Field. 😂 pic.twitter.com/pVTjXQbXqW
— MLB (@MLB) January 12, 2024
Imanaga joins the North Siders coming off a pair of dominant seasons in Japan, where he went 12-4 with a 2.04 ERA in 2022 and 7-5 with a 2.66 ERA last year. The lefty struck out 339 hitters in 317 2/3 innings over those two seasons.
Other transactions with fantasy relevance
Whit Merrifield, Philadelphia Phillies
Rhys Hoskins, Milwaukee Brewers
Sonny Gray, St. Louis Cardinals
Chris Sale, Atlanta Braves
Marcus Stroman, New York Yankees
Eduardo Rodríguez, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jeimer Candelario, Cincinnati Reds
Mitch Garver, Seattle Mariners
Eugenio Suárez, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jarred Kelenic, Atlanta Braves
Vaughn Grissom, Boston Red Sox
Justin Turner, Toronto Blue Jays
Jorge Polanco, Seattle Mariners