Cubs might just get their shot to trade for Shohei Ohtani this winter

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

With a potential sale of the franchise hanging over everything and a lengthy postseason drought, things have been better in Anaheim, where the Angels continue to squander two generational talents in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

This year, the club limped to a 73-89 mark, trying just about everything to get things going after the wheels came off, including firing former Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who has since gone scorched earth on the dynamic between front offices and dugouts. As for Ohtani, he’ll undoubtedly be an American League MVP finalist yet again, with his only real competition coming from Yankees outfielder (and prospective Cubs target?) Aaron Judge, who hit an AL-record 62 home runs this year.

But despite agreeing to a record $30 million deal to cover his third and final year of arbitration, the two-way superstar didn’t mince his words upon returning home to Japan this week.

"“I have to say that August and September in particular felt longer to me than last year,” Ohtani said, speaking in Japanese. “We were not able to play as many good games as we would like — including 14 consecutive losses. So I have a rather negative impression of this season.”"

Los Angeles hasn’t made the postseason since 2014 – and, barring a trade this winter, it’s a certainty Ohtani will test free agency following the 2023 season. But it’s in that very possibility, a trade, that will garner plenty of attention from Cubs fans this offseason, especially since such a move by Jed Hoyer would cross off not one, but two major needs for the team.

Cubs could strike, using a dramatically replenished farm system

Over the last two years, Chicago has reloaded its farm system, shedding established player after established player – ranging from Yu Darvish to Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo and just about every proven veteran reliever the last two years.

It would take a haul to land Ohtani, but simply pulling off the trade won’t be enough. If you’re unloading the caliber and quantity of talent it’ll take to facilitate such a blockbuster move, the Cubs will also have to hammer out an extension to keep the Japanese superstar on the North Side for years to come.

This year, Ohtani was worth 9.6 bWAR – putting up a 145 OPS+at the plate to go along with a 2.40 FIP and 1.012 WHIP in 28 starts. It’s not like he was resting on off-days, either. He appeared in 157 games this year, which come on the heels of 155 in 2021. Oh, and he earned a second consecutive All-Star selection, to boot.

The Cubs have major holes both in the outfield and the rotation – not to mention at DH, where Ohtani typically spends his non-pitching days. Swinging a trade for him could change everything for both the short and long-term outlook; let’s not forget: Ohtani doesn’t turn 29 until next July.

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It would take a lot to make it happen, but Ohtani is clearly unhappy with the Angels and the Cubs are poised to burst back onto the scene in a potentially big way in 2023. There’s no bigger statement Chicago can make than bringing in a once-in-a-lifetime talent heading into the peak years of his career.