The Shohei Ohtani Obsessive Watch continues, with the latest news being that the Cubs are reportedly very much signaling their intentions to play him as both a starting pitcher and outfielder if he signs with Chicago.
In fact, according to David Kaplan, the “buzz in the baseball world” is that only the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Mariners, Rangers and Blue Jays have a real chance at landing Ohtani. Of course, every single team in baseball will be giving it their best shot, and that’ll start with the seven-question homework assignment Ohtani’s camp sent to every team in the Majors.
That questionnaire, you may recall, solicits responses on Ohtani’s overall evaluation (in the eyes of the organization), fit in the clubhouse, perks of the city, cultural assimilation plans, and more. And to that end (or, rather, with those questions in mind), Tony Andracki makes the case that the Cubs as a perfect fit for Ohtani.
Among his more convincing arguments, Andracki points to the remarkable work done by the Cubs developmental and medical staff to keep pitchers healthy over the past few seasons, despite playing far more games than anybody else (three straight, deep postseason runs will do that to ya). For a young pitcher, like Ohtani, who just recently dealt with a myriad of (non-arm) injuries this past season, that might matter quite a bit.
- But, as I’m sure you can imagine, most teams check plenty of the boxes and every team will be pushing hard for his services – even ones you wouldn’t initially expect:
Source: #Reds have submitted a formal reply to the Shohei Ohtani questionnaire, along with other recruitment materials, and are pursuing the Japanese star. @ctrent reported yesterday that GM Dick Williams says team has “serious interest” in Ohtani. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 29, 2017
- Again, given his youth, talent, and expectedly low cost, the Reds would want Ohtani as much as any team in baseball. That’s why this’ll be so difficult.
- At The Athletic, for example, Eno Sarris makes the case for the Giants, using Ohtani’s questionnaire as a guideline. But before he gets into San Francisco’s appeal, he shares the Dodgers’ seven responses … as returned by Brandon McCarthy:
2. good food (pretty please)
3. money (lots)
4. the best fans (according to our fans)
5. great park to pitch and hit in (is this helping? we're running out of ideas)
7. seriously. please https://t.co/dEeMS11Dcl
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) November 27, 2017
- Okay, that’s pretty hilarious.
- But let’s get back to the Giants … Sarris answers each of Ohtani’s seven questions from the perspective of the Giants, and hands out theoretical advantage/disadvantage/unknown grades on their ability to execute what Ohtani is looking for. According to Sarris, Ohtani will find 1. the relevant market place characteristics, 2. the desirability of San Francisco (both the team and city), 3. the resources for Ohtani’s cultural assimilation, 4. the training facilities, and 5. the player development/philosophies among the Giants’ biggest advantages.
- On the other hand, Sarris believes the Giants might fail to create a convincing, detailed plan for integrating Ohtani into the organization. Why? Well, because the Giants play on the West Coast, their travel schedule is filled with more time-changes than the more centrally located teams. That could make playing the field/batting in-between starts a bit more challenging, as the wear and tear of travel weighs on Ohtani. There’s more in there that actually winds up arguing a team like the Cubs could be a better fit. Give Sarris’ piece a read.
- Rangers Gm Jon Daniels is doing his soapboxing as well, making a passionate case for Texas, including their interest in Ohtani back before he decided to forego Major League Baseball for the NPB right after high school. But he’s far from the only front office executive making his team’s case publicly, as Mike Rizzo (Nationals GM) did the same just the other day. The Rangers ($3.53M) have far more money to offer than the Nationals, who are capped at $300K like the Cubs, but if anything has been clear so far, it’s that it’s not about the money.
- Of course, as soon as you mention the word money in relation to baseball, Scott Boras earns a new suit. And at The Athletic, he explains, via Ken Rosenthal, why he is dismayed with the current IFA system in place, restricting the amount of money Ohtani can ultimately earn. On top of that perceived injustice, he believes that the the current system, in specific relation to Ohtani, provides big market teams with a huge advantage over their smaller market counterparts regardless of bonus pool space. Those big-market clubs, the theory goes, can promise under-the-table lucrative sponsorship deals with existing partners, effectively allowing the player to receive millions more in one market than another.
- Of course, the Commissioner isn’t blind to this fact and has already suggested that he’d keep a close eye on any such shenanigans (but a counterpoint to that counterpoint is the league can’t really stop a player from signing endorsement deals … so, discipline for this one could be tricky).
So what do you think?
Will the Cubs’ training facilities, medical/developmental staff, geographic location, and big market be enough to lure Ohtani to Chicago? I’m inclined to believe that the lack of a designated hitter will still present a roadblock (even with the recent outfield news), but I suppose you never know what could happen. Maybe the Cubs will have just enough going for them to pull it off.
And … maybe every team in baseball is thinking the same thing.