Shocago bound? Shohei Ohtani could have surprising free-agent suitor

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

A new suitor has potentially joined the mix for Shohei Ohtani: the Chicago Cubs. 

The MLB world eagerly awaits the Aug. 1 trade deadline with one primary focus: Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels two-way star who enters free agency this winter. The Los Angeles Angels are surging in the standings, now only six games behind Texas in the AL West, but it’s hard not to feel like Ohtani’s days in Los Angeles are numbered.

That said, the trade deadline is unlikely to mark Ohtani’s last day with the Angels. The betting odds heavily favor Ohtani sticking around for at least the rest of this season, which will only delay the chatter of potential new Ohtani destinations until the offseason.

Ohtani will have suitors the league over when free agency arrives. Who doesn’t want a piece of the greatest baseball player of a generation? Ohtani’s west coast preferences have placed the Dodgers and the Giants front of mind when it comes to potential next homes, but other big-market contenders like the Yankees are expected to show interest.

That said, another surprising club could enter the fold: the Chicago Cubs.

Chicago Cubs could pursue Shohei Ohtani in MLB free agency

Per MLB insider Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, the Cubs will “kick the tires” on Ohtani this winter (h/t Bleacher Nation). Chicago is one of the most storied franchises in the MLB and hopes to maintain its reputation as a marquee franchise. Attracting the biggest star in decades would certainly accomplish that goal.

The Cubs make a lot of sense for Ohtani, organizationally and on the field. Chicago has been unafraid to spend on big-name free agents in the recent past: Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger being prime examples.

While Chicago has been largely underwhelming this season, a recent surge has them back above .500 and within striking distance of first place in the NL Central, only 4.5 games behind the  Brewers.

Ohtani would be a significant boon for any team, but the Cubs in particular need a power-hitting presence in the middle of the lineup. Cody Bellinger has been tremendous when healthy (.319 with 15 homers in 72 games), but he’s not close to his MVP form of yesteryear and the Cubs have otherwise been struggling to generate pop off the bat.

The future of the pitching staff in Chicago is murky, but Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele form arguably the best one-two punch in the National League. Add Ohtani to the mix and the Cubs have three All-Star pitchers in the mix, as well as a new offensive centerpiece.

Ultimately, the Cubs will have to convince Ohtani to leave the comforts of coastal life to embrace big-city living in the midwest. Chicago is a major market and the Cubs would get the inherent ad revenue boost of acquiring a global star of Ohtani’s magnitude, but it doesn’t seem like market size is of particular importance of Ohtani. He cares more about baseball and his comfort off the field. That is where Chicago will have to win its pitch.

How the Cubs approach the trade deadline could also determine their odds of getting Ohtani. If major stars like Stroman and Bellinger are siphoned off for long-term assets, that could damage Ohtani’s perception of the franchise. On the other hand, if Chicago operates as a deadline buyer and makes a late-season push for the playoffs, Ohtani could see that as a promising sign.

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