By Bruce Levine–
ORLANDO, Fla. (670 The Score) — Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have moved quickly after swinging and missing in sweepstakes for 23-year-old Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Ohtani.
The club moved quickly to sign right-hander Tyler Chatwood to a three-year contract and are on the verge of a two-year deal with reliever Brandon Morrow, with his medical examination awaiting Tuesday. Morrow is the leading candidate to fill the closer’s role.
As one of seven finalists, the Cubs made a strong push for Ohtani with a quality presentation. Owner Tom Ricketts, Epstein, Hoyer, manager Joe Maddon and right-hander Kyle Hendricks were included in the group that pitched Ohtani, per sources. Hendricks was the lone player there and joined for the presentation because the Cubs felt he has a similar low-key demeanor as Ohtani does.
Nevertheless, Ohtani chose the Angels last Friday. Part of that draw was that the American League-residing Angels can offer Ohtani the chance to serve as their designated hitter on days he doesn’t pitch.
“We talked baseball with him for two hours,” Epstein said of the meeting. “There was a lot of back and forth. It was a really unique process and a really rewarding process. So many people in the organization worked so hard to land an impact player. I am proud of what we did. I wouldn’t change anything except the result. We came together very well as an organization. We produced an excellent document for the submission. That work got us a seat at the table with the final seven teams. We had to try and overcome a couple of obstacles — the geography and lack of a designated hitter to offer. I would like to think we made it a hard choice for him.”
The Cubs are continuing to pursue pitching and are waiting on free-agent right-hander Alex Cobb to make a decision. Cobb and his camp have been doing their due diligence in looking to round up bidders and make the right choice. The Cubs are still considered the front-runners for his services, largely because of the close relationship he holds with new pitching coach Jim Hickey from their shared time in Tampa Bay. Maddon was also Cobb’s first big league manager.
The Cubs also have their eyes on current Rays players. Tampa Bay is willing to trade closer Alex Colome and right-hander Jake Odorizzi. Colome, 28, had 47 saves and a 3.24 ERA in 2017 after he was an All-Star in 2016. Odorizzi, 27, had a 4.14 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 28 starts this past season.
Rumors of the Red Sox having outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. on the table in a potential deal for Cubs outfielder have yet to be substantiated. The Cubs would like to add a lead-off man with some speed, but that’s not the priority for now.
“That may be a luxury for us,” Epstein said of potentially adding a lead-off hitter from outside the Cubs’ roster. “You can have a functional offense without a true lead-off guy. We demonstrated that last year. We scored over 800 runs. That was second-most runs in the league without much impact at the lead-off spot. We would love to have a prototypical lead-off man but not at the expense of the core elements of this team. Right now, we feel pitching is more important.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.