On at least three separate occasions this week, I dumped cold water on friend's pipe dreams involving Shohei Ohtani coming to the Cubs in free agency. Emphatically. Without leaving the door open to even the slimmest of chances. So, naturally, Bruce Levine came out and linked the Cubs to Ohtani on Saturday morning during a segment on 670's Inside the Clubhouse.
And you know what? I still haven't changed my assessment of the situation in the slightest. Of course the Cubs are going to do their due diligence. So will at least two-thirds of the league because we're talking about the greatest two-way talent the game has ever seen. Not doing your homework and tossing your hat in the ring would be criminal, especially for a big market franchise like the Cubs.
Cubs aren't going to be serious players in a Shohei Ohtani free agent pursuit
But kicking the tires on a player and being a serious contender are two wildly different things. Yes, the Cubs need left-handed power. Yes, they need another power arm in the rotation. Yes, they were reportedly among the finalists during Ohtani's initial free agent experience after coming over from Japan. The situation, however, has drastically changed since then and it's worth breaking that down.
Vying for Ohtani's services prior to the 2018 season was notable, sure. But he came with the same question marks that every player who makes the jump from NPB comes with: how will he handle the increased level of competition? Will he stay healthy given the length of the regular season and the tens of thousands of miles worth of travel? What will the cultural adjustment look like for him and his family?
But now, Ohtani has answered all these questions - specifically, the 'how will he handle MLB competition' one. He's not only risen to the occasion, but he's dominated big league opponents, both on the mound and at the dish. He's on pace to tie Roger Maris' 61 home run mark and could knock Aaron Judge from the top of the single-season AL home run leaderboard after just one year.
On the mound, he continues to rack up strikeouts and leads the league with 5.9 H/9 in his 20 starts this year. This week, he tossed his first career shutout and then homered later in that same day in the nightcap of a doubleheader. These things just don't happen in our game. Period.
What it took to land Ohtani financially five years ago and what it's going to take this time around are two wildly different things. We've seen numerous projections that set the floor on what his contract will net at a half-billion dollars. That's right: $500,000,000 - at a minimum.
Cubs ownership has given us zero indication they'd even consider such a staggering amount for one player - and Jed Hoyer's front office seems to be a proponent of a team is the sum of its individual parts, opting for more balance in the payroll, and not putting all the club's eggs in one basket.
The fit is there. It's a major media market and would be the loudest proclamation Tom Ricketts could make to announce his team's return to the top of the game. But it's not in the cards, barring some off-the-wall, shorter-term contract structure that blows AAV records out of the water (even then, it's the longest of long shots). If this is a 10+ year deal, there's no way Ohtani calls Chicago home. It's as simple as that.