Seiya Suzuki plans to recruit Shohei Ohtani to the Chicago Cubs next year
We learned yesterday that Seiya Suzuki was ready to recruit Shohei Ohtani to the Chicago Cubs in free agency next winter. It goes without saying how huge of a fish Ohtani will be next offseason, with perhaps the biggest price tag for a player in MLB history. Rightfully so, as his ability to both pitch and hit at elite levels make him a candidate for MVP year in and year out. Now, we learned that Suzuki has already, in fact, invited Ohtani.
After what he saw what happened with the over-inflation just in the shortstop market this winter, if the Cubs are expecting to be at the forefront of the Ohtani sweepstakes, they need to be prepared to spend like they never have before. I have little doubt Ohtani's AAV will be south of $40MM a season. Will the cubs be willing to pay for what it takes? Let's review how the payroll situation could come to fruition next season.
Pending 2024 free agents:
- Marcus Stroman $21.0M (player option)
- Cody Bellinger $12.0M (mutual option - $5.5M buyout
- Kyle Hendricks $16.0 (club option)
- Ian Happ $10.85M
- Trey Mancini $7.0M (player option)
- Yan Gomes $6.0M (club option)
- Brad Boxberger $5.0M (mutual option
- Michael Fulmer $4.0M
- Tucker Barnhart $3.25M (player option)
- Eric Hosmer 720K
That's a grand total of $91.32M that could come off the books after this coming season. Running through the list, we suspect Bellinger will be gone. Stroman, with any solid season, will more than likely opt out. Happ's extension talks are still ongoing, but given the past, it's hard to remain optimistic. Regarding Kyle Hendricks, whose production has decreased, it's safe to assume that unless he returns to the best version of himself, his days are numbered as well. Same situation for Trey Mancini, who can also opt out if he surpasses 350 plate appearances this season. From an assumption standpoint, you're likely looking at at least $72M coming off the books. Then it gets tricky.
Even if all that happens, we're still talking about signing a player with a potential AAV of $40MM moving forward. The Cubs could blow past the luxury tax next season, as they've said they've been willing to do when the time is right, but you still have to replace the outgoing players. If Stroman leaves, the good news is that Ohtani would replace him in the rotation, so you wouldn't need to address anything there if you get decent enough production from somebody else. Hendricks leaving doesn't cause much of an issue either because the Cubs already have so many depth options that can earn a spot in his place.
Chicago Cubs: How realistic is Ohtani is the Cubs?
Realistically, the Cubs could afford Ohtani's services, especially if they can count on their prospects next season. Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario still have high ceilings if they are healthy, and Pete Crow-Armstrong also has a big league ETA of 2024. Being able to count on those team-friendly, cost-effective bats further allows you to land a big fish next winter.
The Cubs' chances to land anybody significant are always slim. You appreciate the early efforts of Suzuki, but let's remember that, as we saw with Suzuki trying to help recruit Kodai Senga, players will go where they want to, regardless. However, if the Cubs want to make a splash that will completely alter the franchise in the best way possible, Ohtani is the player to land. The Cubs will undoubtedly have the finances and the supporting cast to land his services. The rest will be up to the magic of Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins. And Seiya Suzuki.