The dreams of superstar Shohei Ohtani calling Wrigley Field home were dashed Saturday afternoon. There had been conflicting reports on how involved the Cubs were on Ohtani since the Winter Meetings began, but it turns out that the Cubs were not among the finalists in the sweepstakes per MLB Network's Jon Heyman. The finalists were the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Giants according to Heyman.
One can look back to the skepticism expressed by media members on the Cubs' chances during the Winter Meetings and wonder if there was ever a legit chance of landing him. While there was hope held out among the fanbase, the honest vibe was pointing in the other direction.
Reports from USA Today's Bob Nightengale saying the Cubs' chances were "significantly waned" and that they "balked" on a potential deal last Tuesday, followed by ESPN's Jesse Rogers expressing that he did not feel like the Cubs were going to get Ohtani, and then The Athletic's Patrick Mooney saying the Cubs were pivoting and looking elsewhere certainly did not make it seem like there was a great chance. Fans did not want to believe it and questioned the legitimacy of the reports as being fact or speculation.
It was still arguably reasonable for people to have some faith until the end. One reason was how quiet the Cubs were during the process. Quiet and stealthy was how they made the surprising hiring of Craig Counsell. Then there was the roller coaster day that was Friday when Ohtani was apparently on a private jet to Toronto, which ended up being businessman Robert Herjavec as seen on ABC's 'Shark Tank'. Nobody knew what was going on that day, while the two big-time baseball reporters Ken Rosenthal and Jeff Passan were dead silent throughout that whole ordeal. Rosenthal was one of the reporters who said the Cubs were still "in it" a few days prior, for what it's worth even with the Dodgers still being favored.
At the end of the day, it did not happen and was most likely the definition of a pipe dream. As soon as Passan revealed the details of the deal, many Cubs fans immediately knew their team was not going to be making that kind of a financial commitment. Even with deferred money which Passan reported was part of the deal. Whether they were okay with it or not. This is the largest deal in the history of North American sports and 99% of teams are paying this, the Dodgers are among the one or two that would.
The Dodgers were the betting favorites as soon as the offseason started and there was plenty of speculation that the other teams were used as leverage throughout his process. Either way, seems like both sides wanted each other, and even if Ohtani was not going to just automatically accept whatever offer the Dodgers gave, he wanted to be there. He is staying in California and going to a team that is among the favored to win the World Series in 2024...and making $700 million. The fit is there and he is probably ecstatic it all worked out the way it did. It ended up being the team most people deep down figured it would be.
Safe to say there was not much of an expectation of the Cubs getting Ohtani during the 2023 season, but the smoke grew as the offseason came. That smoke gave fans hope and lasted for a month or so. What is now done is done and forward we go. The Cubs can still have a productive offseason even without Ohtani but now the true test for Jed Hoyer begins.