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Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a Dodger. What’s next for the Cubs?

Will the free agent logjam break now?

Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitches during the 2023 World Baseball Classic
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

This is a companion piece to my “Shohei Ohtani is a Dodger. What’s next for the Cubs?” article posted a couple of weeks ago when Ohtani signed to play the next decade for the Dodgers.

Here are the details of the deal that righthander Yoshinobu Yamamoto has reported to have signed with the Dodgers:

I am reminded of this article in The Onion from more than 20 years ago. Headline:

This is what the Dodgers appear to be attempting to do. They’ve now committed over $1 billion in new contracts between the Ohtani and Yamamoto signings, plus the contract extension given to Tyler Glasnow, who was acquired by trade. It seems clear that, as was the case with Ohtani, that Yamamoto was never going anywhere but the Dodgers.

This, of course, guarantees nothing. The Onion’s satirical headline feels appropriate at this time. (Oddly, of course, the Yankees DID win the 2003 pennant, but lost the World Series, and have appeared in just one World Series since then.)

The only thing that seems certain is that the Dodgers will make a tremendous amount of money from the popularity of Ohtani worldwide, and the popularity of Ohtani and Yamamoto in Japan. There’s no question that L.A. will become MLB’s No. 1 team in Japan; I’m sure you can imagine the number of Dodgers Ohtani and Yamamoto jerseys that have already been sold. Further, MLB is committed to playing a season-opening series in Tokyo in 2025 and I’d think this pretty much guarantees the Dodgers will be one of the teams — yes, even after L.A. is going to be one of the teams (vs. the Padres) in a season-opening series in Seoul, South Korea, this coming March.

But what does it mean for L.A. in terms of winning a World Series? Probably nothing. The Dodgers have already made the postseason 11 years in a row and won the NL West 10 of those 11 years (and in the other one, they won 106 games and finished second).

So they’ll win the NL West, likely easily, perhaps by 20 or more games. All that gets them is a bye into the division series round. We’ve seen over the last couple of years how that hasn’t been optimal for some 100-win teams — including the Dodgers, who didn’t get out of that round in either 2022 or 2023 and got swept by the 84-win Diamondbacks this past October.

So there’s that. Is all of this good for baseball? My gut feeling is “no,” but as always, we await developments.

Then there’s the Cubs. There have been numerous post-Yamamoto comments already noting that this signing could maybe, possibly, start the free agent market going. Here’s one of those:

The Cubs absolutely, positively need to be part of that thaw. There are still a lot of very good free agents on the board. I’ve noted elsewhere that I think they absolutely, positively need to re-sign Cody Bellinger. That should be a no-brainer, Jed.

Further, I’d like to see the Cubs sign Jordan Montgomery. Or Shoto Imanaga. Or, what the heck, both of those lefthanders. Add a couple of solid relievers (not Josh Hader, but maybe Brent Suter and/or Phil Maton) and the bullpen should be shored up. Or make a trade, or two.

That’d be a good offseason and make the Cubs a better team, likely favorites to win the NL Central.

There’s my gauntlet, thrown. Pick it up and run with it, Jed. Do something, and soon. It’s time.