Two-way Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani has reportedly met with six of his seven finalists – Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Mariners, Cubs, Rangers – leaving just the San Diego Padres’ meeting for, presumably, sometime today. (*whammy* *whammy* *whammy*)
After that meeting, he’ll likely whittle his list down further (either officially, or privately), and maybe take a few more meetings, before making a final decision sometime next week – though, to be sure, he does have until December 22nd to decide.
By now, much has been said about the advantages and disadvantages of the seven remaining finalists, and while the Cubs still clearly stand a chance, most see them as something of an outlier.
After all, the Cubs can not offer more than $300K, have no designated hitter spot for Ohtani, and, perhaps most importantly, are not located on the West Coast (Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres) or in an always-warm climate (Rangers).
But maybe the relative geographic location of Chicago isn’t such a bad thing after all. In fact, maybe it’ll actually work in their advantage.
At FanGraphs, Travis Sawchik explores this very idea by citing the total travel miles flown from last season. Perhaps expectedly, because of their central location on the continent, the Cubs covered the second-lowest miles in all of baseball (ahead of only the Pirates).
And, more to the point, they traveled fewer miles than any of the other finalist … by A LOT:
Anaheim Angels (2nd most): 46,346 miles
Seattle Mariners (3rd): 45,129 miles
San Francisco Giants (5th): 41,555 miles
San Diego Padres (7th): 38,185 miles
Los Angeles Dodgers (8th): 37,060 miles
Texas Rangers (12th): 33,133 miles
Chicago Cubs (29th): 23,130 miles
As we explored earlier (via Eno Sarris), the fewer travel miles are not just a pleasant convenience for Theo Epstein and company to tout – it could actually provide an important separation from the other teams.
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.
That was more about time changes, but the added travel information only makes the concept more prescient.
In the end, Ohtani may prefer the West Coast regardless of travel miles (it is a lot closer to his home country, after all), but I’d say this is an angle worth exploring and possibly something worth pinning some hope to.
You have to believe that the Cubs remain long-shots for Ohtani’s services, but maybe these many tiny advantages will eventually add up to an organization-changing free agent addition. We can only wait and hope.