Throughout the entire course of the Shohei Ohtani saga, all we’ve had to go off of are hints, allegations, and things left unsaid. The collective soul of this whole process lies in a lock box tucked back in a vault buried a mile and half underground. And while it’ll be opened no later than 11:59 pm ET on Friday, December 22, we still want to know more about exactly what in the hell is going on.
Thing is, none of the teams involved are saying a peep, and that includes the Cubs. Ken Rosenthal was the first to report that the Cubs had met with the two-way Japanese star Tuesday in Los Angeles, but the attendees and contents of that clandestine meeting remain nebulous at best.
Even the Cubs’ responses to Ohtani’s questionnaire are unknown, though we’ve learned a little about what may have been in it. The volume was turned up on previously whispered assumptions when ESPN’s Jesse Rogers joined David Kaplan Tuesday afternoon to discuss Ohtani’s courtship.
“They had some video presentations from players and even possibly players’ families about playing for the Cubs and living in Chicago,” Rogers said. “They had players ready to meet with Ohtani if need be this week. They’re all-in.”
Okay, that’s cool, but it doesn’t really pull back the curtain or offer anything that we hadn’t already assumed. Why, though, are we all being forced to guess at what’s really going on here? And by “we,” I mean literally everyone with interest in the matter. Even the most entrenched reporters like Rosenthal and Jon Heyman are either guessing or picking up info more or less the same way regular Joes are.
“There’s something going on there that we just don’t know,” Rogers admitted. “There is a code of silence from all these teams. I’ve been involved in this before, and that usually comes from the agent. If the agent says to these teams, ‘If anything leaks from your side, you’re out.’ And that means these teams will go quiet and that’s what they’ve done.”
Cubs fans have seen this before, most notably with the first huge free-agent signing made by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
“Exactly right,” Rogers agreed when Kaplan brought up Jon Lester. “That happened with Lester and the agent will absolutely blow up and could blow up a deal if you don’t obey those rules, sort of the code of silence type of thing. And that’s why you’re not hearing anybody from the seven teams on the record, or even off the record.
“The information that you’ve gotten, that I’ve gotten, is from teams that are out of it or other agents. Anybody involved in the process has been real quiet and that’s why we don’t know exactly what’s going on, what exactly he wants. We still don’t know. But that the fact that the Cubs are in it and the Yankees are not, that says volumes. I just don’t know why.”
To this point the most revealing insight into Ohtani’s decision-making process came from Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who shared some information with the media following his team’s elimination from the competition.
“I knew that our presentation was excellent,” Cashman said. “The feedback from that was outstanding, but I did get a sense that I can’t change that we’re a big market and I can’t change that we’re in the east.”
Though the suspicion had already been out there, Cashman’s assessment kicked the idea that Ohtani preferred the West Coast into overdrive. And then there was the small market thing, which added credence to the respective candidacies of both the Mariners and Padres. But neither geography nor market size explains how the Cubs and Rangers are still alive.
So was this just a matter of sour grapes on Cashman’s part? New Yorkers are, after all, notorious for their belief that their city is the only one that really matters. That probably explains some of it, though it’s also understandable that Ohtani wouldn’t want to play inside the overcrowded fishbowl that is the Bronx. And compared to New York, pretty much every market is smaller.
More information will continue to trickle out as the process continues and more teams are eliminated, but we may not learn anything for sure until after Ohtani actually signs. My sincerest hope is that that takes place in Chicago and we hear about it from Kap and Rogers, though I’m anxious to get the full story no matter where Ohtani ends up.