Shohei Ohtani is going to be the biggest story in baseball in 2018. He’s going to be the subject of hourly updates, 10,0000-word features, and hype like we’ve seen before. He also might be the best pitcher and hitter available this offseason.
And he’s going to cost somewhere between Kelby Tomlinson and Cory Gearrin.
Jeff Passan has been on this story for a while, and he explains how the latest MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement will cost Ohtani millions, while also saving millions for the billionaires who own the lucky team, which is just mighty convenient.
The most the Giants can offer will be $300,000 because of the Lucius Fox signing, which means there’s a chance that they’ll miss out on Ohtani and have Matt Moore as a consolation prize. Which isn’t ideal. However, the Dodgers, Cubs, and eight other teams are in a similar position, and, really, what’s a difference of $10 million (roughly what the Diamondbacks and a couple others can spend) to someone who is giving up $200 million by coming over two years early? It seems clear that if Ohtani’s interest is money, he’s doing it wrong.
He wants the best fit.
He wants to chose the team that will be the best for him and his future.
It’s not about $200 million or $300 million. It’s about him sitting down with a list of 30 teams and examining which one appeals to him the most on a personal level. Which means the Giants have a chance.
That was the optimistic part of the article.
The rest of the article is realistic, which means it’s pessimistic by default. The Giants will compete with 29 other teams, and while they have a chance, there isn’t anything they do better than all of the other organizations that want Ohtani.
Is Ohtani looking for the biggest market as a way to make him an international superstar, someone with a brand that’s visible in 40 different countries? The Giants can help with that, but not like the Yankees, and it’s not even close. The Yankees are watched by more people than anyone else, and there’s a reason why Derek Jeter owns a team and Alan Trammell quietly works in the Tigers’ front office.
Is Ohtani looking for the team that can immediately give him that record-setting contract once he’s past his arbitration years? The Dodgers have so much money that they can afford to buy anything they want. They can even pay for bloggers to write sentences they would have never considered before. I love Tommy Lasorda and you should too. See? I feel dirty, but this roof isn’t going to repair itself.
Is Ohtani looking for a team with a rich history of Japanese players and popularity, not to mention the shortest direct flight to his family in friends? That’d be the Mariners, who established their bonafides early with Ichiro and kept it up with Kaz Suzuki and Kenji Johjima. It’s been a while since they’ve jumped into that fray, but their history still makes a difference.
Is Ohtani looking for a team with the best chance of winning now and in the indefinite future? I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but the Cubs, Astros, Indians, and several other teams have better shots at winning soon than the Giants.
Is Ohtani looking for a team that will let him hit and pitch? Every single American League team would have a serious advantage with the DH. It’s hard to imagine an NL team putting him in right field or at first base on the days he isn’t pitching. Baseball can grind regular pitchers down. This would be much worse.
Is Ohtani looking for the city with the highest population of Japanese-Americans? WELL, HOT DOG, LOOK AT THIS. Unless Honolulu gets an expansion team, the Giants are absolutely set! Note: That is almost certainly not what he’s looking for.
No, it’s going to be a combination of all of this. It’s going to be the location, the market, the potential for future contracts, the vibe, the city, the future, the decision to hit and pitch. Adding all that up, and I’m pretty sure the Giants aren’t going to be at the very top of his list. It will take some convincing.
Yeah, that almost worked with Jon Lester. Worth a shot.
No, the Giants will have to appeal to Ohtani in some very specific way. He’ll have to be enamored of the city already, with an unspoken desire to live there. He’ll have to be secretly wary of the biggest of the big markets, not wanting to deal with the pressure and the spotlight. He’ll have to be up for a challenge, with just enough of the right kind of arrogance to think that he’ll turn the Giants around himself, dammit.
And maybe he wants to pitch in a beautiful ballpark that eats hitters alive and picks its teeth with their bones. Just forget the part where he’s a hitter, too.
I’m not saying it’s impossible. It’s just going to be tough. The Giants can’t bully their way into the conversation with a $400 million offer, but that’s okay, they weren’t going to do it anyway. They’re going to have to sell Ohtani on the idea that the San Francisco Giants are the best place for him now and in the future, and that it’s not really close. That’ll take some fast talking.
Maybe he loves my writing and this website, though. You can’t prove that he doesn’t.
There are 1,000 different factors that will go into Ohtani’s new team, and I’m sure I haven’t even thought of the most important ones. All we know is that it won’t the size of the first contract; it will be the appeal of the franchise.
Which is to say: Dang it, why didn’t this guy come over in 2015?