Oh My: Cubs Reportedly Into the Idea that Shohei Ohtani Could Pitch AND Play the Outfield For Them

Want a serious challenge on one of the biggest stages, in the greatest ballpark, with one of the best teams in baseball?

The pitch to Shohei Ohtani would look, in part, something like that for the Chicago Cubs, who are going to pursue him as seriously as possible, despite their IFA-induced $300,000 bonus limit. The serious challenge? How about pitching AND playing in the outfield in the National League?

That’s what Dave Kaplan has heard about the team’s intentions, writing today: “MLB sources have confirmed to me that the Cubs have spent significant time and money in their pursuit of Ohtani. The club has sent multiple scouts to Japan for weeks at a time and they have watched him pitch and play the outfield and they believe he can indeed do both on the north side of Chicago.”

That the Cubs are seriously invested in Ohtani should be no surprise, given their organizational resources and the substantial value in a 23-year-old, 100 mph possible ace, who’d come with six years of team control. Ohtani is perfect for basically every team in baseball, but if there were such a thing as being really, really perfect, he’s really, really perfect for the Cubs.

As a pitcher.

But what about as a bat? And specifically, as an outfielder?

Saying now that they’re interested in Ohtani as an outfielder is part of the price of poker, and maybe he really does want the extreme challenge of being a completely two-way player. But it’s important to note a couple things: (1) Ohtani hasn’t played in the outfield since 2014, and last did it regularly in the NPB in 2013 … when he was 18; and (2) the Cubs have a fairly full stable of corner outfielders as it is.

That second part is not to say that you wouldn’t accommodate Ohtani’s bat if it translates as well to MLB as we think it can. Ohtani posted a 1.004 OPS in 2016 in the NPB, and then a .942 OPS this year after coming back from an ankle injury. The power is very real, and does project to translate. He’s got some long levers that’ll probably lead to holes that MLB pitchers will expose, but if he’s able to make the necessary adjustments (while, you know, pitching every fifth or sixth day), he has enough¬†talent to be a first division regular in a corner outfield spot.

I’ll be candid: I have my doubts that he could pull it all off healthily, and still be the kind of ace-level pitcher he’s capable of being. I worry that playing both ways would give you 75% of what he could be on either side of the ball, and I think there’s a chance he’d be more valuable to a team like the Cubs as a pitcher maxing out his development and ability to 100% (while offering pinch hitting opportunities).

But let’s say you’ve gotta really convince Ohtani you can make it happen. Well, perhaps you start by acknowledging that not all the positional players will still be on the roster come Spring Training, and about two to three outfield starts per week will be available to him (not the days he pitches, obviously, and *at least* one completely off day between pitching starts). The Cubs have one of the best managers in baseball at accommodating a unique roster and the accompanying requirements of playing time and maximizing performance. You want to be put in the best position to succeed offensively? Having Joe Maddon as your manager and a great lineup around you will certainly help.

Kaplan’s piece, which is very much worth a read, indicates that 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.

I’ve tried to keep myself realistic throughout this process, and I still want to stay there. If Ohtani is absolutely committed to being a two-way player, being able to DH is better than *having* to play in the outfield. It’s easier on the body, it doesn’t require extra all-out throws in-between starts, and doesn’t require doing that whole “becoming an effective defensive outfielder” thing.

But if the Cubs are very serious about pitching Ohtani the idea of giving him a chance to a true two-way superstar, then I would get a little more excited about the possibilities …

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

more cubs news

More from the Shota-Seiya Matchup, With Jokes, Nasty Stuff, and an Early Win

A story can be only so big at Spring Training - shy of Cody Bellinger strolling onto the practice field - but yesterday's big one was newly-signed lefty Shota Imanaga facing, among others, Seiya Suzuki in live batting practice. More...

Obsessive Cody Bellinger Watch: “Increasingly Difficult to Believe” All Four Top Boras Free Agents Will Get Big Money

After yesterday's comments from Bob Nightengale that suggested he believes the Cubs are the only serious suitor at this moment for Cody Bellinger (and thus, if try, they would be right to hold the line and not bid themselves up),...

Jordan Wicks to Start Cubs Cactus League Opener on Friday

As they often seem to, the Chicago Cubs will give the first Spring Training start to someone in consideration for the opening week rotation, but not yet locked in. Many of the locked in starting pitchers will make their spring...

WATCH: Shota Imanaga Versus Seiya Suzuki

This is what early Spring Training is for, man. Completely meaningless, but fun, at bats between teammates. In this instance, it's Japanese star outfielder Seiya Suzuki facing Japanese ace lefty Shota Imanaga. I have really wanted to see this, and...

Doesn’t Sound Like the Cubs Plan to Go Over the Luxury Tax Before the Season Begins

To all the hopeful fans and breathless punditry who've thought the Cubs were going to go nuts in the waning hours of the offseason, I think you are in for a disappointment. If Cubs owner Tom Ricketts' comments this week...

Rafael Devers Does Not Sound Happy About His Team’s Soft Offseason

Last offseason, Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers broke some hearts by signing a long-term extension with his team, just a year before he otherwise would've hit free agency as a 27-year-old, big-lefty-bat, star third baseman. That would've been...

Eric Hosmer is Hanging ‘Em Up

Eric Hosmer's time with the Chicago Cubs early last season, it turns out, was the end of his big league career. Hosmer, who was released by the Cubs in mid-May after hitting just .234/.280/.330/67 wRC+, never did catch on with...

Nick Madrigal Already Helping Christopher Morel Work at Third Base

I don't think it's a secret that everyone associated with the Cubs, from the front office to the coaching staff to the fans, would love to see Christopher Morel become an average or better defensive third baseman. As we discussed...

Rosario Signs, Rays Extremely Crowded Infield, Nico Power, and Other Cubs Bullets

Will somebody please sign Joey Votto soon? We are unquestionably missing out on a lot of great, entertaining stuff by virtue of him not being in camp with some team. There was a time not so long ago when Amed...

Obsessive Cody Bellinger Watch: Cubs Still the Only Serious Suitor? Parallel in Recent History?

After yesterday was once again dominated by the player who isn't at Chicago Cubs camp, there was much less focus today on Cody Bellinger in the discourse. Yesterday you had Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts speaking, which he does...

Latest News

UNLV vs. Colorado State: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

The UNLV Rebels (15-10, 8-5 MWC) host the No. 22 Colorado State Rams (20-7, 8-6 MWC) in MWC action at Thomas & Mack Center, starting at 8:00 PM ET on Saturday, February 24, 2024.In its previous game, UNLV beat Air...

Raptors vs. Nets: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Toronto Raptors (19-36) will attempt to halt a three-game losing skid when hosting the Brooklyn Nets (21-33) at 7:00 PM ET on Thursday, February 22, 2024 at Scotiabank Arena. The contest airs on TSN.The Raptors are coming off of...

76ers vs. Knicks: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

Two of the NBA's best players will be on display when Tyrese Maxey (25.7 points per game, 14th in league) and the Philadelphia 76ers (32-22) welcome in Jalen Brunson (27.6, seventh) and the New York Knicks (33-22) on Thursday, February...

Summit League Basketball Predictions, Computer Picks and Best Bets | February 22

Summit League teams will hit the court in four games on Thursday's college basketball slate. That includes the UMKC Kangaroos squaring off against the South Dakota Coyotes at Sanford Coyote Sports Center, and we have best bets recommendations across the...

America East Basketball Predictions, Computer Picks and Best Bets | February 22

Thursday's college basketball schedule includes four games featuring America East teams on the court, and we're here to help you with best bets. Among those contests is the Vermont Catamounts taking on the Albany (NY) Great Danes.How to Bet on...

NEC Basketball Predictions, Computer Picks and Best Bets | February 22

NEC teams will be in action across four games on Thursday's college basketball schedule, and we have your best bets information below. That includes the Merrimack Warriors squaring off against the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash at Lawler Arena.How to...

Big Sky Basketball Predictions, Computer Picks and Best Bets | February 22

Big Sky teams will be in action in four games on Thursday's college basketball schedule. That includes the Idaho Vandals squaring off against the Northern Colorado Bears at Bank of Colorado Arena, and we have best bets recommendations across the...

WAC Basketball Predictions, Computer Picks and Best Bets | February 22

The Cal Baptist Lancers versus the Abilene Christian Wildcats is one of five games on the Thursday college basketball schedule that features a WAC team. If you look below, you can see our best bets for that conference action.How to...

Big West Basketball Predictions, Computer Picks and Best Bets | February 22

The Thursday college basketball slate includes five games with a Big West team in action. Among those games is the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners squaring off against the Long Beach State Beach. Here are our recomendations for the best bets on...

Big Ten Basketball Predictions, Computer Picks and Best Bets | February 22

The Michigan Wolverines and the Northwestern Wildcats hit the court in one of three games on Thursday's college basketball schedule with Big Ten teams. Want best bets information? You've come to the right place.How to Bet on Big Ten Games[lasso...

more cubs news