Cubs Make the First Cut for Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani is the most anticipated free agent signing of the offseason. He is perhaps the most unique player of the modern era. Ohtani is one of the youngest Japanese players to come over, and so any comparisons to previous imports is apples to oranges. He can hit 100 mph with his fastball, but is also blessed with plus power and speed at the plate. Major League clubs can only offer a signing bonus that is a fraction of his true worth and will be granted the standard six years of control.

This incredibly unique set of situations made him a perfect fit for every team in baseball, and every team was willing to jump through the first set of hoops Ohtani set up. Well almost every team, since the Jeter-led Marlins continued their best Scrooge McDuck impression by deeming it not worthwhile to even try due to the posting fee. Ohtani is turning down at least 100 million dollars by coming to MLB this offseason instead of waiting until he is 25. As such the recruiting of the Japanese import is highly unique with each team capped at a miniscule fraction of that amount.

Ohtani is clearly not primarily motivated by money. He gave every team a homework assignment to help him whittle the list of teams. The questions ranged from assessing Ohtani as a pitcher and hitter to the team’s facilities. The Cubs were poised to do extremely well with this type of scenario, and it appears that they have being one of the teams that will get to meet Ohtani in person. The Cubs will be one of five teams to be given word that they will have the in person meeting. The San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers are the other clubs with multiple reports confirming their status as making the cut. Both Los Angeles clubs are believed to be in the mix, but as of now no one seems to be able to tell for certain if they will get a meeting held in Los Angeles this week.

The major question is what does Shohei Ohtani want. The assumption was that the New York Yankees had a huge advantage in terms of landing Ohtani. The Yankees were tied for the most money that could be spent on him. New York has been a traditional landing spot for Japanese talent, and they were certainly going to be aggresssive in attempting to land the 23 year old phenom. But news broke early that the Yankees would not being given a chance to make their pitch in person. Brian Cashman indicated that the areas the Yankees came up short in was by being a large city not on the West Coast. Seattle and San Francisco were among the first teams confirmed to make the cut, and the assumption was that Seattle was the front runner.

But then the Cubs and Rangers were reported to make the cut as well, and so the need to play in a small market on the Pacific coast didn’t seem like such a necessity in Ohtani’s mind. His desire to not just be a pitcher is unquestionable. This was a factor in his decision to stay in the NPB at the age of 18 when he first flirted with coming to MLB. The assumption has long been that AL would have an advantage over NL teams due to the DH, but some have been questioning that. After all, the only way to guarantee that he would get at bats would be by pitching in the NL. Also by most reports Ohtani is at least an average fielder, and his desire might be to play in the field not just swing the bat. It is hard to know, but what we do know is that Ohtani is meeting with more NL teams than AL teams.

Money is usually the primary factor in any free agent decision. It is rarely the only decision, but the team that can offer the most money usually comes out ahead. This is one of those rare cases where that is certainly not the case. The confirmed teams can offer the following amounts:

  1. Texas Rangers $3,535,000 
  2. Seattle Mariners $1,557,500
  3. Chicago Cubs $300,000
  4. San Francisco Giants $300,000
  5. San Diego Padres $300,000

The two Los Angeles teams don’t complicate the picture too much. The Dodgers are also in the $300,000 penalty box, and the Angels have $1,315,000 to spend on Ohtani. This would certainly seem like the Cubs are at a disadvantage, but again it is clear that money isn’t the driving factor. Ohtani eliminated a team with as much money as the Rangers to spend as well as the vast majority with larger pools remaining. More than half the teams Ohtani picked can spend the least amount of money on him.

Instead it will be about fit. What Ohtani thinks is the best fit for him is hard for us to guess. There have been conflicting reports about what he wants. Some have suggested that he doesn’t want to go to a team with a Japanese star on it already, but the potential inclusion of the Dodgers casts doubt on that. Also the current favorite is the team most connected to the most famous Japanese player in MLB history. What we do know is that the Cubs are led by some very talented salesmen. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are known for their attention to detail and their ability to recruit. They did it in Boston convincing Curt Schilling to pick them. They did it with Jon Lester and Jason Heyward here.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Cubs have poured considerable time + money into their recruitment of Shohei Ohtani. According to an executive of a rival team that was eliminated they are a major threat to sign him. However, others I spoke with still believe West Coast teams have the advantage.</p>&mdash; David Kaplan (@thekapman) <a href=”https://twitter.com/thekapman/status/937525131680854017?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>December 4, 2017</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>MLB executive just told me that Theo and Jed are pulling out all of the stops to impress Ohtani. “Theo and Jed are being incredibly creative with their pitch. They’ve thought of everything. And I mean everything. Still going to be tough to land him but they are in there hard.”</p>&mdash; David Kaplan (@thekapman) <a href=”https://twitter.com/thekapman/status/937526540824383490?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>December 4, 2017</a></blockquote>
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The Cubs are not the favorite, but they will give it their all. Shohei Ohtani has until December 22 to make his decision, and it is going to be nail biting until Ohtani makes his potential franchise changing decision.

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  • Lets hope that our great young team will influence him.
    Also Theo will explan to him the great history of the team and
    show him the great new clubhouse build. Theo will have to use
    all his tricks to convince him

  • I hope we find out what “all the stops” were. I can’t imagine how you begin to court an entity like this whose culture and ambition differ so much from the typical ball player. Hats off once again to Theo & Co. for their intuitive & dignified approach making the north side a contender here. Makes me proud.

  • The Yankees topped everyone’s list, including Ohtani’s agents reportedly, and yet they were eliminated immediately. San Diego is two or three years from competing and yet most seem to have them and Seattle in the lead neck and neck. There is no telling what this young man is going to do so I’m not even going to guess. We know Theo and company will give it their very best shot and that’s all you can ask. Ohtani is s game changer for our boys, let’s hope we get a chance to see it.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Ha ha, If I was an agent doing my job, the big spending Yankees would be on top of my list as well. Looks like Ohtani is in charge of his own destiny. Good for him. I hope he picks the Cubs too.

  • Would love to be in on the Theo/Jed presentation.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    I bet they focus on ending the drought. “It has been an entire year since the Cubs won the World Series!”

  • FO, historic franchise (good and bad), Team, players, and culture are why the Cubs are getting a chance.

    The Cubs have the best team fit for any FA and obviously Ohtani. We can only hope these issues are the deciding factors when he makes his decision. I am glad we have Theo, Jed, and Joe along with Ricketts running this franchise.

  • "widdle"? Should = "whittle."

  • In reply to markw:

    should of

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    should *have

    Liked the article though! :)

  • In reply to hawkmcd:

    Thanks.

    And that was the joke.

  • Looking at the list of final candidates, there is obviously a geographic preference toward the west coast. We must have done something right to make it this far, and now we get a chance to sit down face-to-face. I like it.

    I know he has until the 22nd to decide, but I believe it will happen well before then, even with such a life-altering decision. He seems like a humble and respectful guy, and I think he won't want to hold up the market any longer than necessary.

  • Forgive me for not knowing this but how would his situation be handled in the AL as a pitcher who hits? Would it basically the same as NL rules when he pitches? What happens when he's replaced by a reliever? Is he a DH . Am I overthinking this?

  • In reply to Sdiarch:

    Yes, if he signed with an AL team and hit for himself on the days he pitched, they would have to use pinch-hitters after he left the game, like the NL (you know, REAL baseball). They couldn't swap in a DH. There is also the possibility he isn't a good enough bat to automatically be the DH on days he doesn't pitch. That has been a common misconception among the media (and myself, to some extent), that the AL would get a big boost by being able to offer the option of the DH. In the NL, he would be guaranteed AB's on the days he pitches, and judging by his list of finalists, he is taking that into consideration.

  • Is anyone more excited about this then Maddon? Think of all the fun he would have tinkering with a toy like Ohtani.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    "A toy". I like that. Someone here mentioned awhile back of the possibility of him becoming a closer. I could see Maddon sending him straight from his OF position into the bullpen to warm up while we bat, then bringing him on to face a few batters before returning to his spot in the OF, kind of a reverse Travis Wood. The possibilities are endless.

  • From a baseball standpoint. I think the cubs have the best opportunity for otani but location and culture are factors too. Seattle,L.a.,San Francisco have way bigger asian populations than chicago & also closer to japan.The best opportunity to win, gain exposure on the biggest stage and develop is chicago hands down so I hold out hope theo and co can convince him. But brian cashman and jon heyman both said otanis reps preferred the west coast and a smaller market so seattle or san diego seem ideal.

  • In reply to bolla:

    NY said he preferred smaller markets to give themselves an excuse for being rejected. LA and Chicago don't seem like small markets to me and they are still in the running.

  • Just for comparison sake, a commercial flight from Chicago to Tokyo is 2 hours or less longer than from any of the west coast contending cities with more direct flights than most of the remaining cities. I don't know if he and his family would be taking commercial flights to and fro. A private jet flight time can vary greatly by type. Is the use of a private jet provided by a team calculated as part of compensation for MLB and luxury tax purposes?

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I don't know all the specifics of the rules, but I know that several perks such as private flights, hotel suites, and even ticket packages have been included in many previous contracts. My guess is they would have to be included for luxury-tax purposes, otherwise a team could provide housing, automobiles, etc. to bend the rules.

  • I can only imagine all the info and stats the Cubs gave to Ohtani and his reps. I could see the Cubs showing him the best way to maximize both his pitching and hitting talents is to play for them. The could cast vision: a creative and proven manager, in the lineup every five games, multiple pitch hitting opportunities every week, and an occasional start in the OF (if he proves good enough). This could add up to about 150-250 at bats a year. I imagine they would show him this amount is a good balance to allow him to excel both as a starting pitcher and hitter. Plus, Chicago is a major market, but not overwhelming, with many outside money opportunities to offset the singing bonus some teams can offer, but they can't because of the int'l signing rules. Also, the fact they've been really good and are lined up to be very good for a long time is probably a big positive. The bottom line, Theo and company have left no stone unturned, so I'm sure they've made a compelling case and have a better than 1 in 7 chance of getting him.

  • The value of my Harry Carey Fukadome shirt is rising by the minute:)

  • It was 10 years ago the cubs signed another Japanese star in fukudome and everyone remembers his debut on opening day 2008.I seriously Hope history repeats itself

  • We seem to be breaking out the big guns. This is a situation that may require covert strategies. Who knows to what depths teams may sink to seal the deal. Theo said he would soak himself in deer urine to land Lester. I'm not a fan of creepy stalking, and this song is all about creepy stalking, but it may be worth a shot:

    "I will drive past your house
    And if the lights are all down
    I'll see who's around.

    One way, or another,
    I'm gonna find ya.
    I'm gonna get ya, get ya, get ya, gey ya, get ya."

  • Wish he had a chance to see Chicago before making a choice. That said, weather isn’t ideal right now, and would certainly stand out compared to LA. I feel like CAA would nudge him to LA, but I’m hoping he chooses Seattle, assuming the Cubs are merely perfunctory at this stage. Kudos to the FO for getting this far, but I can’t envision a scenario where the finalist with the lethal combination of lowest bonus (tied), 2nd largest market, and furthest from the West Coast (essentially tied) becomes the desired destination.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    We have no reliable info as to what his criteria are other than the 6 questions in the homework assignment. And I would bet the Cubs organization put together the best presentation on that, knowing how they roll.

  • I am kind of surprised that out of the 7 teams Ohtani picked 4 are NL teams. Also, the Yankees said he does not want to play in a large market. Again 4 out of the 7 teams are in the #2, 3 and 4 largest markets in Dodgers, Angels, Cubs and Giants.

  • fb_avatar

    IF you include San Jose and the entire “Bay area” does San Francisco become baseball’s fourth largest market? I guess I never knew that!

  • In reply to Christopher Wolff:

    Yes, I believe San Francisco is the 4th largest market. I'd even put Oakland in there also.

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