The Rundown: Conflicting Ohtani Reports Speculative at Best, Hoerner Believes Cubs on Cusp of Greatness, Mets Emerge as Favorites for Yamamoto

I want to note the difference between rumors and speculation before I get into my morning preamble. With the Winter Meetings beginning in two days, there is an increasing amount of noise regarding Shohei Ohtani. One Twitter report indicated the two-way superstar has narrowed his choices to the Dodgers and Blue Jays, saying the Cubs made an offer but Ohtani did not accept it.

I can’t tell you if Gabriel Morency is credible or not, but Bob Nightengale of USA Today provided some speculation of his own. In the most recent episode of the Jack Vita Show, Nightengale assessed the free agent market for Ohtani. He believes that contrary to recent rumors, location will play a big part in Ohtani’s choice. The West Coast teams offer distinct advantages that appeal to the Japanese star according to Nightengale.

“I think the Giants will probably offer him the most money, but he likes to hit, so I’m not sure if he wants to hit in San Francisco,” Nightengale said. “That’s why Kris Bryant turned them down, Aaron Judge turned them down. Giancarlo Stanton vetoed a trade, so it’s tough to get a big slugger who wants to go to San Francisco. The two dark horse candidates of course are the Cubs and the Texas Rangers.

“The Cubs have been perceived as a dark horse candidate all season long by Angels people. They think they’re going to come hard. We’ll see. There’s the pitching factor. You want to know when you have a game, and you don’t want to have a rain delay or a rainout. You don’t have those rainouts in Southern California. If he goes to Texas, it’s a controlled environment.”

Nightengale also said he believes the Cubs will make Ohtani a handsome offer, which refutes Morency’s report that said an offer has been made.

“I think [the Cubs] will throw the big bucks at him,” Nightengale added. “Everybody knows what he means at the gates. He’s probably worth $20-25 million a year off the field as far as just the brand, licensing, and merchandise, so I think that’s where the Dodgers pretty much want to buy the brand and become Japan’s team, where everybody’s wearing a Dodgers cap over there. I’m sure the Cubs are looking at him the same way. I just think the weather factor in Chicago is going to be a hindrance. If they played in a dome or a retractable roof it would be different, like in Texas. But I think it’s a long shot to think that he’d leave Southern California.”

It’s important to remember that Nightengale is saying what he believes, and not what he’s heard. Jeff Passan of ESPN offered a different take ($).

“Given that, it would be foolish to count out any high revenue team, though by now the field for Ohtani’s services has winnowed, sources said. The Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox , and New York Mets, who were among the initial group of suitors, have turned their attention to other players, sources said. Among those confirmed by sources to be still in the bidding: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays , and Angels. The San Francisco Giants have long had a fondness for Ohtani, though where they stand in these sweepstakes is unknown.”

Everything is speculative, though Passan mentioned “sources” three times. His take makes the most sense, but nobody knows what’s really happening due to the stealth-like negotiations. Perhaps next week’s meetings will provide more clarity. I wouldn’t mind turning to other topics, either.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, and Ernie Banks were known as the “Million Dollar Infield.” The Cubs paid Daniel Descalso $5 million when they signed him back in 2019, including a cool million to walk away in 2021.

Central Intelligence

Friday Stove

Trading Soto makes good business sense for the Padres.

The Yankees believe they have little competition in their efforts to land Soto. On the other side of town, the Mets are emerging as the favorites to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Giants broadcasters Dave Flemming and Mike Krukow believe San Francisco will have a big offseason.

The Orioles are targeting the top free-agent relievers, including Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, and Aroldis Chapman.

The Marlins have hired Gabe Kapler to be their new assistant GM.

Apropos of Nothing

My top five walk-up songs since I started writing The Rundown. I’d also love to know your favorites.

  1. The Animals medley by David Johansen
  2. Skateaway by Dire Straits
  3. The Live Aid performance by Queen
  4. The rooftop performance by The Beatles
  5. What a Day That Was by Talking Heads

Honorable Mention: The Live Aid set by U2 is spectacular, too, though Bono’s mullet is tragic.

Extra Innings

The Cubs profiled Kohl Franklin in their latest episode of On Deck.

They Said It

  • “Ohtani at Wrigley would be a sensation. The party might never end.” – Rosenthal
  • “I feel like we have kind of that optimal trio: Talent in the Major Leagues, talent in the Minor Leagues, and money to spend. Obviously, what you do with that comes down to some really challenging decisions for the front office. But from a player’s perspective, it’s everything you can ask for, as far as an opportunity to not only be good this year but be good for a long time. And not just good, but raising the standard to really being great and one of the great teams year in, year out.” – Hoerner
  • “It definitely feels like we have the base that you’re looking for. Of course, it would be really cool to get the big names and have them help contribute to the goals I want to achieve.” – Steele
  • “Glasnow and Bieber are not in the division or in the city, so I do think there’s some real smoke there. I just don’t think it’s imminent. I think the Cubs and Rays have a similar front office. There’s a good vibe between the front offices. They were close to a deal for Willson Contreras [in 2022] so that almost happened. I like the idea of Glasnow to the Cubs for a decent package …. [But] you don’t have to give the house back. You don’t have to give three top prospects or anything crazy for one year of a guy at $25 million. So I think they match up well. The Cubs farm system is well-liked throughout the league. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if that gets done. I just don’t think it’s imminent, because there’s a lot of teams involved.” – Rogers

Friday Walk-Up Song

The upcoming week could be the biggest in the history of the Cubs’ franchise.

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