Reports have been leaking out Sunday evening that Shohei Ohtani has been eliminating teams from his list of future employers. The good news here is that the Cubs are one of the few teams not located on the West Coast who are still in the running.
Teams known to be or believed to be meeting with Ohtani, per sources and reports: #Dodgers; #Mariners; #SFGiants; #Padres; #Cubs; #Rangers. Status of #Astros and #Reds not known.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2017
Rosenthal amended that Tweet shortly thereafter to say it was the Angels, not the Astros, whose fate is still unclear. I have read other reports that the Angels are indeed still in the mix. It would shock me if the Reds still were, although maybe Ohtani is a real Skyline Chili fan.
You may notice the big name missing there and that’s the Yankees. Throughout this whole process, most (including me) thought the Yankees would be the heavy favorites to sign Ohtani. However:
Shohei Ohtani’s representatives told the Yankees that they will not be among the teams invited to make an in-person presentation. Brian Cashman said the news was “disappointing.”— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) December 3, 2017
Cashman said that Ohtani’s representatives told the Yankees that the pitcher/DH prefered a “smaller market” and to play on the West Coast. This would seemingly be bad news for the Dodgers, Angels and Cubs, but Jon Heyman clarified that “smaller market” is apparently just a euphemism for “Not New York.” However, Heyman is also reporting that while the Dodgers are still in the mix, they are “not the favorites.”
The Cubs have two strikes against them in the pursuit of Ohtani. They aren’t on the West Coast and they can’t offer him regular at-bats as a DH. However, they do have one thing going for them and that’s the Cubs front office.
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.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) December 4, 2017
With the Athletics reportedly eliminated, if Ohtani’s desire is to play on the West Coast and DH, the Angels and the Mariners instantly become the favorites. However, if Ohtani would rather play in a league without the DH, suddenly the Cubs become very serious threats to sign Ohtani. That the Cubs and the Rangers were the only non-West Coast teams on the list says that Ohtani clearly seems something in both of those teams that would make him overlook geography. And if Ohtani wants to play in the National League and is reluctant to play for the Dodgers (there have been reports that he does not want to play on a team that has other Japanese stars and Kenta Maeda is a Dodger), then the Cubs would be competing against the Giants and Padres (and maybe the Cincinnati Skyline Chilis, but almost certainly not). Both the Giants and Padres are coming off seasons where they lost over 90 games.
Throughout the whole process, the one thing that Ohtani has made clear is that he’s going to do this his own way. And like that TV show I’ve never seen where they hand out roses (although I have watched UnReal, the show that satirizes that other show so I’m familiar with the convention), we just aren’t going to know where Ohtani’s heart takes him until he hands out the final rose.