Shohei Ohtani , left, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, right, of the...

Shohei Ohtani , left, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, right, of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Credit: AP/Ahn Young-Joon

Looking for baseball’s model blueprint for the 2024 season? It won’t be draped in Dodger Blue. You think every franchise has more than $1 billion ready to burn on two free agents in one winter? It’s a nice luxury for the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, but what about everyone else?

For that crowd, we present the Diamondbacks, the team that showed how you can carry a bottom 10 payroll (No. 21), win 84 games during the regular season, scrape for a wild-card berth and still make it to the World Series. Sure, the D-Backs lost to the Rangers in five games, but that’s beside the point. It was a thrilling ride in Arizona, right?

Now comes the hard part — trying to repeat such a run.

Arizona bolstered its talented young roster by signing starter Eduardo Rodriguez (four years, $80M) and outfielders Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk. It also traded for third baseman Eugenio Suarez and kept Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (three years, $42M). Those moves have vaulted the defending NL champs to the middle of the pack money-wise (No. 16, $130M), but that’s the price of success.

We all know the Dodgers won the winter, but Shohei Ohtani will only DH as he comes back from elbow surgery.

Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto is adjusting to a different baseball and bigger workload in his first MLB season — he was rocked in his debut game last week in South Korea. Don’t forget the addition of former Rays ace Tyler Glasnow, a relative bargain on his five-year, $136M deal. L.A. also still features MVP-caliber Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.

The Padres shipped Juan Soto to the Yankees but still have Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Xander Bogaerts. They traded for Dylan Cease to supplement the pitching haul from the Bronx, and hired Mike Shildt as manager after letting Bob Melvin go back to the Bay Area to manage the Giants.

As for San Francisco, a place where few marquee free agents dare to tread, Blake Snell (two years, $62M), Matt Chapman (three years, $54M) and Jorge Soler (three years, $42M) all took spring training deals for a team that badly needed a boost. Yes, the Rockies still exist, but after a 103-loss season, no one outside of Denver pays much attention.

Over in the Central, the Brewers created more headlines for who they lost this offseason. Manager Craig Counsell bolted for the Cubs (not the Mets) for a $40 million deal, co-ace (and pending free agent) Corbin Burnes was traded to the Orioles and David Stearns, architect of Milwaukee’s playoff runs, wound up in Flushing. They did sign Rhys Hoskins, but the other co-ace Brandon Woodruff is likely out for the season after shoulder surgery, and All-Star closer Devin Williams will be sidelined for three months with stress fractures in his back.

Not only did the Cubs poach Counsell from a division rival, they eventually got Cody Bellinger back on a team-friendly three-year, $80M deal (with opt-outs), and signed Japanese lefty Shota Imanaga to a four-year, $53M contract.

The Cardinals named newly signed Sonny Gray their Opening Day starter, only to put him in limbo a week later with a hamstring strain. St. Louis is the favorite in the division due to the 1-2 MVP punch of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.

The Reds are the answer to the question: Who took Frankie Montas? The former Yankees headache will be the Opening Day starter in Cincinnati, an indication of where the rotation stands. They do have Elly De La Cruz, however. As for the Pirates, top pick Paul Skenes is an ace in the making, and 25-year-old star shortstop Oneil Cruz is back after fracturing his leg.

The East again is a powerhouse, only way more top heavy this season. The Mets will cast in more of an underdog role, positioned behind Atlanta, which has won six straight division titles, and the persistently competitive Phillies.

If healthy, Chris Sale is a weapon behind Spencer Strider and Max Fried for Atlanta. Offensively, MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. headlines a dangerous group. And who doesn’t think Jarred Kelenic — a former Mets first-rounder traded for Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano — won’t haunt his old team?

The Phillies didn’t add much this winter, but spent anyway in re-signing Aaron Nola (seven years, $172M) and Zack Wheeler (three years, $126M) to solidify their rotation. It’s also a roster with two straight NLCS trips to its credit.

The Marlins reached across the state to grab the Rays’ Peter Bendix as their new president of baseball operations, an expert at doing great with less. He’ll need to do without ace Sandy Alcantara, who had Tommy John surgery in October. Remember when the Nationals won the World Series in 2019? Us neither.

NL power rankings to begin 2024 MLB season

(with projected 26-man roster team payrolls, via

  1. Dodgers $304 million
  2. Atlanta $231 million
  3. Diamondbacks $130 million
  4. Phillies $246 million
  5. Cardinals $185 million
  6. Cubs $224 million
  7. Padres $167 million
  8. Mets $316 million
  9. Reds $102 million
  10. Brewers $110 million
  11. Giants $177 million
  12. Marlins $102 million
  13. Pirates $85 million
  14. Nationals $125 million
  15. Rockies $145 million

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