An early Tuesday morning Obsessive Ohtani Watch?
Oh it’s gonna be a good week …
- According to Ken Rosenthal on Twitter, Ohtani will reportedly wrap up his meetings with all seven finalists (again: Angels, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Mariners, Rangers, and Cubs) by the end of this week. Which, wow, he’s really keeping this process moving. Apparently, he’s meeting with multiple teams on certain days, and has already met with each of the Dodgers and Giants yesterday.
- Not much is known about the Dodgers’ meeting (that I could find), but the Giants reportedly sent a large contingent to the meet with Ohtani yesterday, including Larry Baer (CEO), Brian Sabean (VP of Baseball Ops), Bobby Evans (GM), Jeremy Shelley (Assistant GM), Bruce Bochy (manager), and even Buster Posey (cool dude) joined by phone! Separately, I always found that involving players is a nice touch and a good way to make your target a bit more comfortable, and, interestingly enough, the Cubs may be doing just that (more on this in a minute).
- Next up, according multiple sources on Twitter, is the Rangers, who are reportedly already on the ground in Los Angeles ready to deliver their pitch to Ohtani later today (it’s not yet clear if another team is scheduled for today, too, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough (also, don’t stress about the order of these meetings too much, it’s just as likely about scheduling as anything else)). But remember, the Rangers are capable of offering Ohtani more than any other team in baseball ($3.53M). And while Ohtani has made it clear that money won’t talk, there’s a big difference between $3.5M and what, say, the Cubs can offer ($300K). And to that end, the Rangers are quietly confident that they will be the final team with a rose when all is said and done.
- I do feel it’s worth pointing out that, among the finalists, only the Rangers ($3.53M), Mariners ($1.57M), and Angels ($1.315M) can offer a bonus of consequence. Everybody else, including the Cubs, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, are restricted to just $300,000.
- But the Cubs continue to be a pretty serious dark horse in all of this, it’s just that, well, no one really knows exactly why. After all, they’re not on the West Coast, can’t boast the largest offer, and don’t have a DH spot open for Ohtani’s bat. At ESPN Chicago, Jesse Rogers theorizes that the lack of an existing Japanese superstar might be part of the equation, while one other longtime executive noted that “Theo Epstein can sell a franchise.”
- As to how they snuck into the group of finalists in the first place, Rogers writes that the Cubs initial pitch included video testimonials from current players (and “perhaps even their family members”), which is a nice touch. And apparently, a few key players have been put on notice this week to be ready to fly to Los Angeles in case they’re needed for a face-to-face meeting with Ohtani.
- Rogers also contends that if the Cubs do wind up with Ohtani, they’ll be saying goodbye to one of their outfielders, specifically mentioning Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, and Albert Almora. “At that point,” Rogers writes, “the Cubs could settle for the best offer instead of holding out for a top-three starter, something they are unlikely to get unless Addison Russell or Javier Baez is part of a trade. A top-three or -four pitcher won’t be needed as desperately if Ohtani is on board.”
- Excuse me, I’m just over here drooling at the idea of adding Ohtani’s arm to the rotation and bat to the outfield, as well as whichever pitcher one of those three outfielders can bring back in a trade. The Cubs could improve so much without spending almost ANY money, and a front-four of Ohtani, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, and Jon Lester is downright terrifying. (And that money could be used, for one huge example, to pursue Bryce Harper next offseason.)
- But before you get too excited, remember that every one of these remaining teams has an extremely good shot, and each for different reasons. Even the San Diego Padres, who are clearly looking up at the Dodgers and Giants, at least, in the NL West, can offer Ohtani the chance of being *the* face of the franchise and rebuild. Sometimes, that sort of offer is just as enticing as joining an existing powerhouse.
- But that’s sort of the crux of all this: nobody seems to know what he really wants (to be fair, maybe he’s not even entirely sure). At Kyodo News out of Japan, Jim Allen tries to get to the bottom of the question and offers a number of guesses, most notably including structure. In Japan, Allen writes, Ohtani had plenty of structure surrounding his quest to be a two-way player. Perhaps in MLB, then, he’ll be looking for a team with a thoughtful, dedicated plan to chase that same dream. Frankly, if that’s the case, I’m betting the Cubs are looking mighty attractive right now. Not only are Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer out-of-the-box thinkers, they are notoriously detailed and thorough. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of their pitch was a specific plan to get Ohtani X number of starts and Y number of plate appearances. On top of that, they can pimp a manager who’s already once tried to turn one of his pitchers into a two-way player (yep, Joe Maddon tried to do it as a Minor League coach back in the 90s – more on that later).
- One Cubs-specific bit from the Kyodo News piece: “When the Fighters played a practice game against South Korea’s KT Wiz on Feb. 8, Ohtani did his rehab work that day at the Cubs’ spring camp site and was impressed by the new facility’s size and training equipment.” It’s something!
- The Cubs remain a long-shot, of course, but hey, they’re clearly in it and have plenty to offer. With any luck, Christmas will come early this year and the Cubs will land a truly generational talent.
That's an extremely large present under the tree at Wrigley. I'm not saying it's definitely Ohtani, but I'm poking some air holes just to be safe. pic.twitter.com/BRKVtaCZl1
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 5, 2017