As I obsessed over the implications of last night’s twin-Twins trades for international free agent pool space, and then as I mulled why I was spending literal hours obsessing over the subject, a few thoughts occurred to me that I figured were worth sharing this morning, in case you were doing some of the same obsessing.
The thing to remember on why we’re all so nutso about Ohtani: It’s not just that he projects to be very good and very unique, and it’s not just that signing him now allows you to have him under control for at least six prime years. It’s also that, for many of those years, his payroll number will be almost nothing.
Consider the implications for teams – like the Cubs – that figure to frequently be considering how they’ll deal with the luxury tax cap, and how they can stay under it while maximizing their roster. By signing Ohtani now, one team is going to receive what amounts to an unfair payroll advantage for several years. It’s not just that you’ll have Ohtani’s performance impacting your team. It’s also the *other* things you can do because you’ve got a rotation spot (and maybe part of your outfield or DH spot, too!) locked down for cheap.
That’s an enormous part of why teams, and by proxy their fans, are obsessing about Ohtani. Yes, he’s very good in isolation. Were he a true free agent, set to cost $150 to $200 million, teams would still very much want him, and you’d very much be hoping the Cubs would get him. But it’s all the more crazy-fying that he’s not going to cost that much. For a team with enough resources, adding Ohtani is like adding a “free” superstar to your roster.
So it would be naive to think that the involved teams are not doing *EVERYTHING* they possibly can to get even the *TINIEST* edge in the process. Spending an enormous amount of time and money on your presentations? Yup. I bet they’re doing that. Digging as deeply into Ohtani’s background as possible to tailor your presentation as personally as possible? Yup, that too. Think about it this way: if you believed signing Ohtani to have a $200 million value, and you believed you had a, say, 20% chance to sign him, then it would be wholly rational to spend nearly $40 million just trying to land him.
These teams are doing everything in their power to make it happen. Probably many, many things things we don’t know about and haven’t even considered. Some aboveboard, some less so.
But it would also include things like trading for extra IFA pool space, just so that your final offer can be the best it possibly can.
In other words, things like what happened last night (the Angels and Mariners trading for extra pool space, something the Cubs are not permitted to do) probably don’t tell us as much as we thought as the trades were going down. Not only because we are in the dark as outsiders, but also because the teams themselves are probably operating somewhat blind, too.
They know the absurd value that comes with Ohtani, and they wouldn’t be able to face losing out on this opportunity not knowing that they did every single thing they possibly could to land him.