Japanese pitching and hitting sensation Shohei Ohtani’s impending free agency has the hot stove aflutter. Assuming MLB owners ratify the tentative posting agreement between MLB and NPB on Friday, December 1, negotiations with Ohtani can begin in earnest. As we learned this weekend, though, the process has already begun to an extent.
This past weekend, Ohtani’s representatives sent a questionnaire to all 30 teams via the commissioner’s office. According to reports, the impetus for the fact-finding form was to determine how each team views and would utilize Ohtani’s talents.
I began wondering how the Cubs might make their pitch to Ohtani to get him to sign. Here’s what I came up with:
Ohtani’s going to want to play the field and hit in addition to pitching. The Cubs can offer him that. The question is, how much would he play the field? Will it be three times a week or four? Ohtani played in about 70 to 80 games as a hitter per year in Japan, so he is probably going to be wanting something similar in MLB. Jon Jay’s departure via free agency means the Cubs have space in the lineup. Ohtani can also pinch-hit and serve as the DH during interleague road games.
Another draw for Ohtani would be to play for Joe Maddon, whose track record for fitting players into the lineup all over the place is something that might appeal to a two-way player. In addition, Maddon’s reputation as a personable and free-wheeling manager sets him apart from other skippers in the league. I don’t think many free agents would find playing for Scott Servais in Seattle to be that appealing.
Most of the team is signed through 2021, at which time Ohtani will be 27 and right in his prime as well. The aspect of playing alongside other extremely talented players of a similar age is something could well be appealing to the Japanese star.
The Cubs have been to the NLCS the past three years and won one World Series. Ohtani is coming over to play with the best players in the world and he wants to win while doing so. What better place to play than with an organization that is set up to win the next four years?
Bryce Harper could be there in a year
Ohtani reportedly watches video of Bryce Harper hitting in order to improve his own stroke. While it’s far from a given, Harper could be Ohtani’s teammate in Chicago in 2018. It’d be mind-bending to have Harper, Ohtani, and Kris Bryant on one team.
Ohtani said that he will judge his own success by how the fans treat him when his career is done. If he signs with the Cubs, he would be joining a group of players already considered legends for winning a World Series after a 108-year drought. A video of the largest non-religious gathering in human history should be an essential part of the Cubs’ presentation.
Many are skeptical as to whether the Cubs have a legitimate shot at signing Ohtani. They do. However, it is going to be hard to compete with an American League team that can offer him a DH spot every day he does not pitch. Ohtani is not coming here for the money, which he has proven by opting to leave Japan early and forego what would certainly be a monster contract as a true free agent.
Ohtani wants to come play with and against the best because he thinks he is the best. For the Cubs to sign him, they need to effectively appeal to that desire and drive. They need to show how they can help Ohtani to become a legend.