Shohei Ohtani makes his decision — what comes next for Cubs?
The biggest free agent in history received the largest contract ever in American professional sports.
Shohei Ohtani announced his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers on his Instagram account on Saturday afternoon, with his agency announcing he signed a 10-year, $700 million contract.
The Cubs were among the teams interested in the two-way Japanese superstar, but ultimately he chose to stay in Southern California, moving up the I-5 freeway. Ohtani hit 44 home runs with a 1.066 OPS and posted a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts with the Angels in 2023. Over his last three seasons, Ohtani has hit 124 home runs with a .964 OPS and has pitched to 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 542 strikeouts while winning two American League MVP awards.
Ohtani underwent elbow surgery at the end of the year and isn’t expected to pitch again until 2025, but that still didn’t stop him from being a coveted target this offseason. The Cubs viewed him as the potential left-handed, middle-of-the-order bat they sought for their offense with the added possibility of being a front-of-the-rotation starter in 2025.
Now, the Cubs will likely turn their attention to some of the other options in free agency and the trade market to build on a roster that won 83 games in 2023.
A reunion with Cody Bellinger would make sense — he could fill in at both center field or first base while offering that middle-of-the-order presence from the left side. Rhys Hoskins is another option at first base, albeit right-handed and coming off a knee surgery that caused him to miss the 2023 season.
“I think we’ve talked about it a little before, like trying to create this perfect offseason, where “A” is gonna happen then “B” is gonna happen then “C” is gonna happen then “D” is gonna happen,” general manager Carter Hawkins said earlier this week at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. “It’s way too complex of a challenge to actually do that. And so instead, you have to be able to look at each individual transaction and say, ‘Hey, like, this makes sense for us in terms of our goals towards winning more baseball games now and in the future.’ And you have to be prepared to make all of those decisions.
“So where’s the bulk of our time go? While there’s not a lot of action in terms of things coming to fruition, there is a lot of action in terms of preparation to be able to make those decisions quickly, should they come across our desk quickly.”
The Cubs were fully prepared to tackle this offseason, with or without Ohtani. Now, we’ll discover what their plans without him will look like.
“You gotta be really careful not to get caught waiting on any one particular thing,” Hoyer said. “I think I’ve learned over the years that you gotta have a lot of lines in the water and you can’t assume anything’s gonna get done. Sometimes the dominoes fall as you think, but if you assume they’re gonna fall that way, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble waiting.
“Clearly we’re working on a ton of different stuff.”