Obsessive Ohtani Watch: Cubs' Creative Pitch, Stacking Up Against the Other Finalists

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Obsessive Ohtani Watch: Cubs’ Creative Pitch, Stacking Up Against the Other Finalists

Chicago Cubs

If you missed last night’s very big update to the Shohei Ohtani saga, he made his first round of cuts, and is down to seven finalists who are expected to meet with him this week: the Mariners, the Giants, the Padres, the Dodgers, the Angels, the Rangers, and … THE CUBS.

Of that group, there’s a pretty clear preference for the West Coast, so the Cubs will be a bit behind the eight-ball on that front. The other non-West Coast team, the Rangers, has the biggest signing bonus available to offer Ohtani – over $3 million more than the Cubs. It remains debatable how much that will matter, but it’s definitely non-zero.

Given that Ohtani clearly does not have a preference for the AL over the NL, though, maybe the Cubs can work the pitch that being in the National League, where he’ll absolutely be forced to hit, is going to be better for him if he wants to see as much two-way action as possible. (Plus, you know, Joe Maddon is *known* for creatively using his players.) They could also separate themselves from the Rangers by pointing out that, with them, Ohtani would be endlessly compared to Yu Darvish. He wouldn’t be able to escape it. And if that’s not something he wants, he can’t sign with the Rangers. (They should start creating images of Ohtani in a Rangers uniform with the phrase “The Next Yu Darvish!” overlaid.)

If the Cubs can pull that argument off, together with all the other benefits of being on the Chicago Cubs at this moment in time, you still have to be honest with yourself and see the steep competition from those West Coast teams. Each can offer a pretty compelling reason to sign (yes, even the Padres, who could make Ohtani the face of their rebuild). Although everyone will say the Mariners are the favorite, given their connections to Japan, the Dodgers will always make me the most nervous. That front office is a machine, not unlike the Cubs’.

Some more on the Ohtani front …

I’ve been thinking about this side of the pitch. The “creativity” necessary to convince Ohtani to come to YOUR team. Is it possible that the Cubs would even go so far as to say that they’ll go with a six-man rotation – like Ohtani is used to in Japan – just for him? To be honest, I’d be on board with that plan anyway, as the data consistently shows that pitchers are at their best with an “extra” day of rest, and if they’re all pitching a touch deeper in their individual games because of that, you don’t have to lean on the bullpen as much – which allows you to carry one fewer reliever and accommodate the “extra” starter.

With a six-man rotation, it also becomes much more plausible that Ohtani could see some time as a position player in between starts, and the Cubs could be making that part of their pitch. Note that other teams could be pitching this very same thing, of course, but the Cubs do have the advantage of a manager who has demonstrated, arguably better than any in baseball, the ability to creatively use his players in outside-the-box ways.

More from Kaplan on what he’s hearing:

This front office, you may remember, has been in on Ohtani for years. They knew he’d be coming at some point, and they knew he had the potential to arrive as an ace in his early 20s. To borrow a phrasing Kaplan has used before, that’s seriously White Whale territory. They will do everything they can – within the rules – to try to land him. I think there’s no reason not to believe they’ve at least got an equal 1-in-7 shot, even stacked against the Rangers’ money and the other clubs’ geography.

At least the Cubs will now have a chance to really make their case. I don’t want to get folks’ hopes TOO high – I’m here telling you I’m pleased that they have a 14.3% chance, after all – but there were times when it looked like even getting to this point was going to be impossible. The Cubs can offer only $300,000 to sign. The Cubs don’t have a DH. The Cubs aren’t on the West Coast. Those are hurdles they’ll have to overcome, but, hey, they’ve gotten this far. So why not?

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.