The Chicago Cubs are linked to almost every prized free agent or big-name trade target.
For the past couple of offseasons, the Cubs have acted like their small-market NL Central brethren.
There were good reasons for that. The core of last decade’s championship team faded, and the farm system needed to be built back up.
Now that it is full of amazing prospects, and the team nearly made the playoffs last season, it is time to act like a big market franchise that they are.
Hiring manager Craig Counsell away from the Milwaukee Brewers was the first step. The second step is acquiring superstars to take the NL Central and dominate it for the rest of the decade.
The Chicago Cubs are already reported to be a finalist to sign Shohei Ohtani. He is not only the best free agent on the market, but the best player in baseball. He is also baseball’s biggest draw.
Imagine combining Wrigley Field and Ohtani’s feats being played out there 82 games a year. Good luck finding a ticket at face value on the secondary market.
The Cubbies are reported to be in the running for another prized free agent pitcher.
It is Ohtani’s fellow countryman, pitcher Yoshinbou Yamamoto.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that Cubs are in the mix to land the Japanese ace pitcher.
He will not come cheap. Passan’s report projects (subscription required) it would take a deal at minimum worth $200 million and that is not adding on the posting fee to get him from the Orix Buffaloes of the NPB.
That might be worth it as Yamamoto is being projected to be able to come in and be the No. 2 starter. His stuff is that good. Plus, he is 25. Meaning he is just about to enter his prime performance years.
Imagine a starting rotation being anchored by Justin Steele and Yamamoto being the real deal. You are talking about a rotation that is capable of winning games in October.
Signing Yamamoto does not come without competition.
Passan listed other big market clubs are interested.
The Cubs will have to compete with New York Yankees, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Boston Red Sox.
MLB.com’s Will Leitch ranks the Chicago Cubs as fifth on that list.
We know that Yankees have a history of spending on Japanese free agent players. Mets owner Steve Cohen has no problem spending and we know the Dodgers will always pay big money for great players. Same goes for the Red Sox.
Do not count out the Cubs.
Outfielder Seiya Suzuki is loving Chicago, and he can be valuable recruiting piece. Add in the Cubs have their straight-to-consumer Marquee App that can be used worldwide that shows Cubs games (a big reason the Cubs should sign both Yamamoto and Ohtani).
Mix in the franchise can always pitch that the NL Central is always winnable whereas the NL East and West along with the AL East are brutal season-long battles to win. You got to like Chicago’s chances.
The Yankees and Red Sox have not been the lavish spenders they once were. The Mets are run by David Stearns who built winning clubs on shoestring budgets in Milwaukee. He might see that spending big money right now is not the best way to make the Mets a consistent winner.
That might leave the Dodgers as the team the Cubs have to beat. The same team the Northsiders will probably have to outbid for Ohtani. Letting the bidding begin.