The Rundown: Cubs Check All Ohtani Boxes, Hoyer Needs Starter & Two Big Bats, Yanks Reportedly Progressing on Soto Trade

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” – Ricky Bobby

I’m growing tired of the rumors linking Shohei Ohtani to the Dodgers. Yes, I’d love it if the Cubs signed him, and they do check all of Ohtani’s boxes, but if Los Angeles is Jed Hoyer’s only competition, I can’t bear the thought of being runner-up again in a two-horse race. Perhaps the baseball gods will give us a mystery team, like the Orioles, Braves, or Blue Jays, but hopefully not the Red Sox. The only thing worse than losing to the Dodgers would be watching Craig Breslow hand the two-way superstar a jersey and cap in Boston.

One of our competitors has an overly obsessive Ohtani watch on the daily, but I think all Cubs fans feel the same way. I guess you can exclude a big portion of our Facebook followers, who seem vehemently opposed to having the game’s greatest player don the royal blue pinstripes. I’m not sure why, and it doesn’t make sense, but you know what they say about opinions.

I don’t understand why the Dodgers continue to be the favorites, especially if Ohtani’s priority is winning championship rings. Ryan Yarbrough, Emmet Sheehan, and Ryan Pepiot — a trio that projects to 15 combined wins — would be three-fifths of the team’s starting rotation if the season started today. It’s no wonder the Dodgers continue to clutch their Clayton Kershaw prayer cards and are among the favorites to sign Marcus Stroman. As Rodney Dangerfield might say, “Take Stroman, please.”

Choosing the Cubs is a no-brainer, unless, of course, other teams are in play. We don’t know because there have been no leaks or verifiable rumors. Ohtani’s camp is in stealth mode, and that’s Hoyer’s wheelhouse. You can decide whether that gives Chicago’s president of baseball operations any type of advantage, all we know for sure is there is nothing but deafening silence from any team perceived to be interested in Ohtani.

I don’t believe the Dodgers are the favorites, though they do have the deepest pockets in baseball outside of either of the New York franchises. They’ve had a long run, but seem like a strong regression candidate to me. The Cubs are on an upswing, have an opening at DH, and have a rotation slot available in 2025 when Ohtani will be able to return to the mound. Hoyer is probably more motivated to sign the Japanese superstar than any of the other baseball executives, and the Cubs carry much less financial risk than their competition.

I do think the Cubs are prohibitive favorites to sign Ohtani, and I’d say the Rangers and Giants are right there, too. The Dodgers are fourth on my list, followed by the Mets and Yankees. Keep an eye on Philadelphia if you’re looking for a mystery team. Dave Dombrowski has a unique ability to sign any premier player he chooses to pursue. The Nick Castellanos contract could hamstring Dombrowski, but not enough to rule the Phillies out.

It’s interesting to note that there haven’t been any concrete rumors surrounding Yoshinobu Yamamoto either. The Dodgers have the financial resources to sign both Ohtani and Yamamoto and could leapfrog the field by aggressively pursuing the pair in tandem.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Jefry Yan is 27 years old and still pitching in Double-A while averaging about 13 strikeouts per nine innings. He rarely gives up home runs, but his walk rate is exceedingly high. Any man who enjoys baseball as much as he does deserves to celebrate like this.

Central Intelligence

Wednesday Stove

The Blue Jays have no desire to trade shortstop Bo Bichette any time soon.

The Jays should listen to offers even if they’re not interested in moving Bichette.

The Dodgers are one of the more aggressive suitors for White Sox starter Dylan Cease.

Talks between the Yankees and Padres regarding Soto are progressing according to one report.

The Padres expect a king’s ransom for Juan Soto, so much so that the Yankees should seek other options.

The 2024 Draft Lottery is a little more than a week away, and here are the latest odds.

The Twins are “aggressively shopping” catcher Christian Vázquez.

The Tigers signed starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, and Jason Heyward is returning to the Dodgers for another season.

Joey Votto and Jack Flaherty may have a tough time navigating free agency.

The Brewers are making progress on a potential record extension for prospect Jackson Chourio.

Extra Innings

Which Cubs prospect do you think should be off-limits in trade talks this winter? My choice is Jackson Ferris.

Wednesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. A lot of Bears fans would like to see Matt Eberflus fired in favor of Jim Harbaugh, but that’s not going to happen.
  2. On Monday, a report by Futurism revealed that some Sports Illustrated contributors’ profiles used AI-generated headshots, while several articles featured writing that sounded more robot than human. One of the articles, “written” by “Drew Ortiz,” and since removed by SI, said, “Volleyball can be a little tricky to get into, especially without a ball to practice with.”
  3. The CD compilation series Now That’s What I Call Music turns 40 today. We all feel a lot older this morning.
  4. In case you missed it, Dolly Parton dressed up as a Cowboys cheerleader for her Thanksgiving performance in Dallas. She promptly sold 118,500 copies of her latest album, Rockstar, making it No. 1 on Billboard. In typical Dolly fashion, she took no credit, attributing the renaissance to her fans.
  5. Parton doesn’t text, by the way, and that’s the fax, Jack.
  6. Speaking of faxes, Don’t Even Reply is arguably the funniest website you’ll ever stumble upon.

They Said It

  • “I realize there will probably be some backlash, but at this point, I’m 70 years old. Do you think I really care?” – Dawson

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

A hymnal written and performed by George Harrison, who passed on this date in 2001.

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