Shohei Ohtani still has 17 days to select a new home, and he finally started to filter his options after passing around a league-wide questionnaire last week. Of the 27 teams that responded to the call, Jim Bowden of SiriusXM reports that only seven made the final cut: the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Mariners, Rangers, and Angels. Ohtani is expected to personally meet with each suitor over the next two weeks, and it looks like the Giants secured the first slot on Monday.
By all accounts, Ohtani is primarily interested in teams on the West Coast, which dealt the Yankees–perceived by some as frontrunners in this race–a heavy blow over the weekend. “I can’t change that we’re a big market and I can’t change that we’re in the East,” Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman told reporters on Sunday, doing his best impression of a side-eye emoji.
Without the Japanese two-way star headed their way, there are rumors that the Yankees will make a bigger push to re-sign left-hander CC Sabathia, who entered free agency after earning $25 million with the club last season and has vocalized his desire to return to the rotation.
Of the seven teams still in play, it’s worth noting that the Rangers can give Ohtani a signing bonus upwards of $3.5 million, which tops any other offer by more than $1 million. The hybrid pitcher/outfielder has already indicated that money won’t be his first consideration, however, which is further underscored by the fact that the Cubs and Dodgers only have the minimum $300,000 on hand. While a clear favorite has yet to emerge, ESPN’s Buster Olney adds that Ohtani could make his final decision as soon as next week when the annual Winter Meetings kick off in Orlando.
Ohtani may be dogged by a two-week deadline, but the same can’t be said for fellow Hot Stove darling Giancarlo Stanton. After taking meetings with both the Cardinals and Giants last week, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi said the Marlins had a “general framework” in place for potential deals and Craig Mish of SiriusXM speculated that a trade could be put into motion as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday. Now, Stanton appears to be digging in his heels. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the idea that a deal is nearing completion–or even consideration–in the next day or two is “quite a hopeful estimate.”
No concrete reason has been given for the delay, but Stanton’s full no-trade clause is undoubtedly the largest hurdle for any would-be trade partner to clear. The Giants, who are also big players for Ohtani, appear to have given themselves an advantage when it comes to Stanton’s massive contract; as Demetrius Bell mentioned on Thursday, they’ve expressed a willingness to eat most or all of the slugger’s remaining $295 million salary.
Joe Panik and Dee Gordon now appear to be completely off the table in any trade talks involving the Giants, but Mish mentions infield prospect Christian Arroyo as a possible trade chip. The 22-year-old ranked no. 2 on the org’s prospect list in 2017 and made his major-league debut to the woeful tune of a .192/.244/.304 batting line in 135 plate appearances. As for the Cardinals, Wilmer Reina reports that outfielder Jose Martinez and right-hander Michael Wacha may be included in a package for Stanton.
While that pair could bring some much-needed depth to the Marlins’ outfield and starting rotation, the team also been linked to the Cardinals’ no. 2 prospect Sandy Alcantara, whose 100 mph fastball was his ticket to the majors in 2017. Even more appealing? The Cardinals are assumed to have more cash on the table than the Giants, which, when paired with their eagerness to include at least one top prospect in a potential deal, could finally give them that sought-after edge.
And now, for offseason speculation that has nothing to do with Ohtani or Stanton: The Rangers are considering adding left-handed reliever Mike Minor to their starting rotation in 2018. Ken Rosenthal reports that the team inked the southpaw to a multi-year deal on Monday, which is pending a physical and has yet to be formally confirmed.
Minor made his long-anticipated return to the majors in 2017, following a two-year absence during which he underwent surgery to repair a damaged labrum in his left shoulder. He picked up a one-year contract with the Royals, who shifted him to a bullpen role and reaped surprising and encouraging results: a 2.86 DRA, 78 cFIP and 2.0 WARP, high marks in what appeared to be the second-most valuable performance of his career to date. His peripheral stats and fastball velocity also benefited from substantial gains, and there’s nothing to indicate that the lefty is headed for decline in 2018.
Should Minor slot into the Rangers’ rotation as expected, there’s some talk that the team would want to play around with the idea of a six-man rotation. That’s assuming they have enough clout to draw the likes of Ohtani. Despite Minor’s impressive strides forward with the Royals, he accumulated just 77 innings in 2017 and is expected to have his innings capped again in order to minimize the risk of further injury. Utilizing both Ohtani and Minor in the rotation is one way to ease both pitchers into a full workload, and Evan P. Grant indicates that it’s an option manager Jeff Banister would welcome.