There has been some significant news to come up over the past few days. News we certainly need to cover. It appears as if the Chicago Cubs Hot Stove is finally warmed up.
Shohei Ohtani is the baseball version of Meghan Markle. Every media outlet will be talking about both of them, nonstop, for at least the next year. If Theo Epstein can perform the greatest Jedi mind-trick of all-time, Cubs fans will love the attention he’ll get.
Yeah, I fit two separate, non-sports related, current events into that last paragraph.
The path to the Cubs signing Ohtani is convincing him that he will get to pitch and hit. According to David Kaplan, that’s what Theo plans to do. Here is what a source told Kap.
“MLB sources have confirmed to me that the Cubs have spent significant time and money in their pursuit of Ohtani. The club has sent multiple scouts to Japan for weeks at a time and they have watched him pitch and play the outfield and they believe he can indeed do both on the north side of Chicago.”
That isn’t all, MLB executives believe the Cubs are on Ohtani’s shortlist.
“Theo has been fascinated by this kid for a long time,” the executive said. “He and Jed have been strategizing on how to land him in Chicago. They have the support system needed to make this work. They landed Daisuke Matsuzaka when he was in Boston and they have a good relationship with Ohtani’s agent (Nez Balelo) at CAA.
“They are definitely one of the teams on his short list. But will he end up in the National League? That’s the big challenge.”
So basically, how does Theo sell to Ohtani the idea that he would get the necessary at-bats on Chicago’s Northside? Well, that is exactly what Evan Altman at Cubs Insider covered. In the piece, which you’ll be damned if you don’t, Evan talks about how Ohtani has averaged 234 plate appearances in five years in Japan. Assuming that a ballpark number of 250 is ok (which Evan guesstimates he may wish for more) it wouldn’t be a far off stretch to get him to that number.
“Even if we go with a conservative estimate of 25 starts, we’re looking at about 50 plate appearances as a pitcher. But that’s if Ohtani bats in a traditional spot at the bottom of the order, which may not be the case. Convention be damned, he could bat fifth or sixth even as a starting pitcher. Now we’re up to maybe 75 or so PA’s. Throw in 45 more as a pinch-hitter and another 40 from 10 interleague road games and we’re at 160. Finally, sprinkle in 40 starts in the outfield to add in another 140 plate appearances and Ohtani’s grand total is 300 (give or take a few),” Evan wrote.
If Ohtani were to play in the American League he would have the advantage of being the DH. But even as a DH he will have limitations on availability due to pitching. He would not play in games following a start, and I would bet he would likely have two days off between starts. So if he were to get a conservative 25 starts, let’s put the number of days off around 65. So if he was the DH in those 97 remaining games, and keeps his 3.67 PA/game average, he would have 356 PA in the American League.
We are basically nitpicking between 50 PA in the AL verse the NL, a number which Joe Maddon can certainly find for the Japanese star.
Well, well, well… it seems that other media outlets (I loosely consider this media, it is mostly a fun side thing I like to do) have finally picked up on this. The Cubs do have an offer out to Alex Cobb. I first ran this a couple of weeks ago and fans met it with skepticism, which I can understand, this is a small blog which I admit isn’t “media.”
Cobb is sort of on the backburner for the Cubs as they await the Ohtani decision. Admittedly, Ohtani is a long-shot. I think he will wind up in the American League somewhere. I do think he needs to choose to become a full-time pitcher to fully develop into an elite MLB star, but the AL gives him more opportunity to fool around with hitting as a DH. Now I do think pinch hitting in the NL could certainly be sufficient, but as his career progresses, but some AL team will promise him 400-500 PA to start.
Once Ohtani makes his decision, expect the Cubs to lock up Cobb immediately. He already has a 4 year $56 million deal on the table from the Cubs. Cobb had asked for a bit more, and perhaps the Cubs up the ante after the Winter Meetings.
Morrow is in the same spot Cobb is in, although I’m not exactly sure what the hold up is with him. Again, this was another pitcher I had claimed a few weeks back had an offer from the Cubs, and Bruce Levine spoke about this in his article.
The Cubs have also had some talks with Baltimore about their closer Zach Britton, although I do not see them doing anything unless they can also get a starting pitcher out of it. Theo and Jed Hoyer have said all the right things in regards to Wade Davis as well, but again, they are not the organization that signs closers to lucrative long-term contracts.
With the team expected to sever ties with former closer Hector Rondon by not offering him arbitration, Morrow would be the perfect fit. He could be incentivized to close or continue in his set-up role he was so good in last season. I had also listed several relievers in the Black Friday article, and a number of them could be good relief fits for the team as well.
With a 3 year deal on the table for Morrow, I think this is another deal that gets done probably during the Winter Meetings.
We have been inundated with a number of trade rumors. I haven’t written about those because I haven’t seen much to confirm those rumors. I do know the Cubs have interest in Tampa Bay closer, Alex Colome, but I have not seen anything suggesting talks progressed very far. I also know the Cubs have interest in the Rays’ Chris Archer. But the talks of Javier Baez being dealt, or in a potential trade are unsubstantiated.
If you listened to Theo Epstein’s end of year press conference, he point-blank said they will consider trading someone from the team’s 25-man roster. But from the information that has been out there, Baez is a lot further down on the Cubs list of potential trade chips than some of the rumors suggest.
The team would be more willing to part with Ian Happ or Addison Russell than Baez, Albert Almora, or even Kyle Schwarber. Now, of course, the Cubs list and other team’s lists will vary. I would not expect someone like Schwarber to get tossed around in potential deals (and thus far this winter we haven’t heard his name other than getting in shape) but in the right deal, anything is possible.
Really the team is like the dude that just got friend-zoned, in a holding pattern until Ohtani makes up his mind.