Actual Underdogs to Sign Ohtani?

The Winter Meetings are here. Executives from all 30 MLB teams are meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. Intensity is building up, and teams are getting ready for a battle over the available superstars.

The Giants find themselves in a situation that is very similar to last year. I know that it probably does no good to ruminate over the bad old times that everyone would like to forget, where the Giants’ attempts to sign the best players were so sloppy that it was embarrassing, like, beet-red in the face. But it’s necessary to look at history to assess where we’re at.

The top free agent last offseason was Aaron Judge. After an astronomical season in which he posted an 11.6 WAR, he was in for a lot of money. But evidently, the Giants made no real effort to top the Yankees’ offer of 9 years, $360 million. It makes you wonder if the Giants stayed in the race for the mere purpose of trying to make the Yankees break their pockets. I doubt that was the case, but it’s a humorous suggestion to fit the laughably weak way of "trying" for top players that has been characteristic of the Giants.

But now, the Giants stand in a similar situation. Shohei Ohtani will potentially break the records with a massive contract that will amount to at least $600 million (and probably surpass it given the intense interest coming in from multiple teams). Not that Ohtani is in this solely for the money by any means.

This year, guess who the Giants’ biggest competitors are? You’re right, they’re the Dodgers. Don’t think that the Dodgers are going to go easy on anybody. They’re looking to make a huge splash this offseason and they mean business. Is it any wonder that the Giants are considered underdogs?

Several writers, even ones who want to convince you that the Giants have a better shot at signing Ohtani than the average fan believes, still hold that it’s unlikely that they’ll get him. And they’re right to be skeptical. I have my own doubts. But here’s the question. Is this an issue of such a goal actually being only barely within reach? Or does it have to do with the above-mentioned recent history?

There is no reason to think that the Giants shouldn’t have as good of a shot as any to land Ohtani, if you look at it on an even playing field. Maybe that wouldn’t be the case for some players, but what I understand about Ohtani is that he’s the type to want to make a bad or mediocre team good rather than joining an already elite team. It’s just the uniqueness of his makeup, personality, and character that makes him the player that he is.

So the Giants’ disappointing past couple of years shouldn’t hurt their chances as much as might be supposed. And there are plenty of reasons why they’d potentially make a good destination for Ohtani; reasons which I won’t get into because I think they’ve been sufficiently commented on by others. Why couldn’t the Giants be his destination?

That said, an Ohtani acquisition seems too good to be true while Farhan Zaidi is at the helm if he continues to act and think the way he has in the past. The Giants do a lot of talking but very little action. The issue isn’t that they don’t have a chance of grabbing Ohtani if they do the right stuff. It’s just that we can’t count on the "right stuff" happening. Their front office hasn’t given us much reason to believe in them.

But it’s possible they finally learned their lesson. We’ll just have to wait and see. And please don’t tell me the Giants don’t have money to spend on Ohtani. They haven’t been investing nearly as much as they need to, and when they’ve signed players to lucrative contracts, it’s been guys that didn’t turn out such as Ross Stripling, Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, and Sean Manaea. Now that’s risk, if you’re interested. Signing mediocre players because you’re optimistic and think you can squeeze performance out of them is a big budget killer because too often you can’t. But I understand. Having already blown the offseason, the Giants were desperate to just do something, whatever it was.

So I’d be optimistic about the actual chances that the Giants have of signing Ohtani. I’m just not confident that they’re going to give it 100%. But again, hopefully they learn from past failures and do the right thing.

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