You know what I like about Jon Heyman? He’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong and he’s totally willing to own his mistakes. I can think of a certain USA Today writer who’d do well to follow that example. In any case, here’s the opening line from Heyman’s latest piece at FanRag about setting the odds in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes:
OK, so many of us in the media were wrong about the Yankees’ chances to sign two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. We have re-evaluated now, and are judging just how wrong we were. We were so wrong that the favorite just may be the team that is the most anti-Yankees.
Sadly, he’s not talking about the Cubs. Heyman actually names the Padres as his favorite to land Ohtani, though he readily admits to “reading tea leaves” in doing so. And then he immediately proceeds to present 14 points that offer some very convincing evidence to back what he estimates are 5-2 odds that the Dads win out.
Next come the Mariners with 3-1 odds, followed by the Angels at 7-1 and Rangers at 9-1. Are you seeing the pattern yet? The West Coast thing is there, sure, but it was bound to be that way with five of seven teams on the list boasting oceanfront property. These teams are also relatively small markets, at least as far as MLB is concerned.
I know it sounds really ignorant to say that about the Angels and Rangers, but they don’t have the same kind of fervor and media presence you see in New York, Boston, or Chicago. The Angels are overshadowed by the Dodgers and the Rangers by football, so they lack that suffocating crush so often found in major markets.
Heyman gives the Dodgers, often seen as A1 behind the Yankees in the early going, 12-1 odds in spite of several seemingly desirable characteristics. Their long shot appears to be based solely on the fact that “some suggest they are a long shot.” He speaks glowingly of the Giants’ advantages and then gives them 15-1 odds due to the likelihood that Giancarlo Stanton could be manning right field.
By now, your superior deductive reasoning has no doubt led you to the conclusion that I have left the Cubs out to this point. Heyman has them listed at 10-1, just behind the Rangers.
The Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer front office seems to find a way, the Cubs are beloved internationally (if that matters; it might not since the Yankees are gone), they have a very good recent history of using players in multiple positions (even if pitcher isn’t one of those positions) and there are great marketing opportunities there (if he cares), though they are the only team east of the Mississippi and have only the minimum 300K to give him as a bonus
Okay, can we not with the bonus limit stuff? It’s pretty clear at this point that money is not a mitigating factor in this decision, even if all three teams at the bottom of Heyman’s list are operating under the same $300,000 cap. It’s important to note, though, that the Padres are similarly restricted.
Other than that one big gripe, this is a pretty solid breakdown of what the Cubs offer. I got into a lot more detail on what Epstein and Hoyer bring to the table and why that helps their chances, but it’ll still be difficult to overcome what nearly everyone believes is a strong West Coast preference. Then again, as Heyman noted, everyone thought the Yankees were prohibitive favorites up until they were one of the first teams eliminated from contention.
The situation is still very fluid and it’s just guesswork until all seven teams have had the chance to meet with Ohtani and his camp in person. As of post time, the Giants are the first and only organization to have done so. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reported that pretty much every member of the team’s brass, along with manager Bruce Bochy and superstar Buster Posey, were on hand for Monday’s summit.
No word yet on when the Cubs will be meeting with Ohtani, but we have to assume it’ll be very soon. After several months of back and forth on whether he’d be coming to MLB, it’s as though R2-D2 fixed the hyperdrive on the whole process. And with the Winter Meetings starting all the way across the country this Sunday, it seems as though Ohtani would like to have something figured out in the next few days.
Whatever the timeline is, it seems wise to set the face-to-face meeting as late as possible. Though he meant it in a much different way, I think Reese Bobby’s credo offers priceless wisdom here: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Which is to say that if you can’t make the first impression, it might be best to leave the last one.