The calendar is just about to turn over to December and there has yet to be a vital major league move, save a few inconsequential trades and fringy signings. All of baseball has been eerily quiet as well. This serene atmosphere, in what would normally be prime hot stove season, likely has everything to do with the uncertainty surrounding Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani. The lack of movement from these two major dominos has the whole league sitting and waiting.
Ohtani’s unique situation leaves all 30 teams in limbo until he decides on a destination. The maximum signing bonus the twenty-three-year-old can sign is $3.54 million–from the Texas Rangers–due to international signing bonus rules. Ohtani seems clearly to be less interested in the amount of money a team can offer, and more interested in the organization and city in which he will be playing in. When money is essentially taken out of the equation, every front office is left dreaming. They each have their selling points, some more than others.
Not only is he being pursued by each and every team, but an Ohtani acquisition has the potential to change the makeup of a team’s entire roster. He is a two-way player. It is still up in the air how exactly a team will use Ohtani in the major leagues. He will, presumably, have a significant role as a pitcher and hitter next year. Every team has holes. Whether it is on the pitching or position player side of the ball, Ohtani can help fill a void on both. In other words, no matter how strong you are as a team, there is a spot for someone like Ohtani on your roster somewhere.
Major league front offices are preoccupied with luring Ohtani, their attention is divided away from what normally would be devoted to free agency and the trade market. This week Ohtani’s agent sent a questionnaire to all 30 teams, seemingly listing out the criteria for which Ohtani will pick a team. The questionnaire asked for several pieces of information including an evaluation of Ohtani’s ability as a pitcher and hitter; an explanation of the organization’s medical, development, and performance philosophies; the state of their minor league, major league, and spring training facilities; how they will deal with Ohtani’s cultural assimilation; and why their franchise and city is a desirable place to play. Teams attempting to sell themselves to Ohtani are going to be spending most of their time positioning themselves in this sweepstakes while everything else is put on hold.
On top of the Ohtani madness, rumors are swirling about a possible Giancarlo Stanton blockbuster. Four teams are on the front lines in the hunt for Stanton: The San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston made up three of the top six payrolls from 2017, with St. Louis coming in at sixteenth. In other words, four of the highest payroll teams in the league, teams surely looking to add to their roster with money to spend, are tied up in trade negotiations with the Miami Marlins.
Free agents wanting to sign early are forced to wait. Whoever trades for Stanton will, presumably, be tied up financially due to his monster contract. Whichever teams lose out on Stanton will have money to spend. Because of this peculiar situation, free agents, such as J.D. Martinez, are forced to wait out the market. The teams who lose out on Stanton will then turn their attention to the likes of Martinez, with other pieces falling in turn.
Once these two huge dominos fall, the floodgates will open. This offseason is off to one of the most uninteresting starts in recent history, at the same time, it has everything to do with how unique of a situation front offices find themselves in due to the Ohtani posting. Once the wheels get rolling, we will look back on a full offseason in which a reigning MVP got traded and a potential two-way superstar player came overseas and right into a 30 team sweepstakes as one of the most memorable offseasons ever. Our patience will be rewarded.