clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ranking the 7 finalists for Shohei Ohtani

Nobody knows what’s in Shohei Ohtani’s heart. But we can rank cities and teams for him.

The Yankees will not get Shohei Ohtani. After making it to the Elimination Fortress, they couldn’t secure the Immunity Scepter, tumbling all the way down to the bottom in the final seconds of last week’s episode. They have been eliminated, and just seven teams are left. All of these teams have an 86-percent chance of having their hearts broken.

That one team, though. That one team.

The team Ohtani selects will win a sweepstakes where the prize is getting to draft Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, except they’re both in the same draft, and also they’re fused together in some sort of hideous Island of Dr. Moreau experiment. Ohtani is both the best prospect in baseball and the best free agent, and he’s available for Joe Blanton money over the next six years.

Who is leading the race? Nobody knows that, dummy. We’re all lost and panicky, trying to figure out what is going through Ohtani’s head. My secret wish is that he’s very much into messing with people, and that he releases a shadow list of the actual seven finalists later. But until then, all we have are these seven teams.

It’s our duty to rank these teams. But not in a generic “here are the likeliest teams to get him,” because we don’t know that. So we’ll do a bunch of different rankings, based on the different factors that might want to go into his decision. For example ...

If he wants to win now and pick the best team

  1. Dodgers
  2. Cubs
  3. literally
  4. doesn’t
  5. matter
  6. after
  7. those two

See? While you can make arguments that the Angels are on the rise because they have Trout, or that the Giants are better than their 98 losses when you factor in a full season from their starting staff and better outfield defense, it’s really just the Dodgers and Cubs in a tier by himself.

Which makes me think he’s not necessarily interested in picking the best team and getting a head start on a championship. Dude picked the Padres as a finalist. The Padres. Pretty sure he’s not employing the Kevin Durant strategy, here.

However ...

If he has a messianic complex and needs to be a hero for a team that’s eternally down on its luck

  1. Padres
  2. Mariners
  3. Rangers
  4. Dodgers
  5. Angels
  6. Cubs
  7. Giants

Yeah, I’m still not used to the Giants coming in last place in a ranking like this, either. But the Giants elicit exactly zero pity these days. The Cubs used to be the sad sacks, but now they have a championship more recently than any of the other finalists. It’s been a good 15 years since the Rally Monkey, so the Angels are creeping back to drought territory.

But the four teams above the Angels have combined for exactly zero championships in the last 29 years. The top three have combined for exactly zero championships. The potential to be a hero was a factor in Jon Lester’s decision to sign with the Cubs. Maybe Ohtani wants to follow that path.

If he really wants a small market

  1. N/A

I regret to inform you that all of these markets are pretty big. I keep reading descriptions of San Diego as a small market, but it’s the eighth-most populated city in the United States. The metropolitan area is below all the other teams, but do you think he’s going to pick the Padres because Carlsbad has fewer people than Bellevue? These are all big cities.

One way to put it is that all of these cities are big enough to have their own Major League Baseball teams.

So stop reading the tea leaves when it comes to being small market or not. San Diego is huge. Seattle is huge. These are big cities. If you’re going just by population of the city ...

  1. Anaheim (no. 56)
  2. Arlington (48)
  3. Seattle (18)
  4. San Francisco (13)
  5. San Diego (8)
  6. Chicago (3)
  7. Los Angeles (2)

Why would he do that, though? Seems silly to consider Anaheim a small city when it’s surrounded by a densely populated web of freeways and other large cities. So, fine, go by the size of the metropolitan area.

  1. San Diego (~3.3 million)
  2. Seattle (3.7 million)
  3. San Francisco (4.7 million)
  4. Dallas metro (7.1 million)
  5. Chicago (9.6 million)
  6. Los Angeles/Anaheim (13.3 million)

The difference between the first three is negligible, I would think.

“Gosh, can you imagine living in a metropolitan area with 4.7 million people? Thank goodness that I’m here, in this sleepy area with 3.3 million people. You can really notice the difference.”

- Nobody, ever

But the larger point is that there isn’t a Milwaukee in the bunch. Imagine thinking that San Diego was a small city. Just because the Padres are the only major sports team left doesn’t mean that the city is tiny.

Maybe that’s a clue, though. Maybe “small market” is a euphemism for “laid back sports environment,” in which case ...

If he wants a low-pressure media environment

  1. Padres
  2. Rangers
  3. Mariners
  4. Angels
  5. Giants
  6. Dodgers
  7. Cubs

I go back and forth between the first two, and it’s a great excuse to remind people that this was a giveaway at a Rangers game:

If Ohtani wants a low-pressure sports environment, he should play in the place that has their priorities all screwed up. He’ll have less local attention than the Cowboys’ long snapper.

If he’s super interested in spending two fewer hours on a plane the half-dozen times every year that he’s flying across the Pacific Ocean?

  1. Mariners
  2. Giants
  3. Dodgers
  4. Angels
  5. Padres
  6. Cubs
  7. Rangers

But it’s pretty odd to think this is a huge factor. It’s not like he’s going home for lunch on his days off. He’s not picking his team based on an extra four hours on a round trip.

If he wants a city with a strong Japanese presence

  1. Mariners
  2. Giants
  3. Dodgers
  4. Angels
  5. Padres
  6. Cubs
  7. Rangers

That’s by percentage of Japanese-born residents. If you’re looking for raw numbers, Los Angeles wins because it’s gigantic.

I can see this being a factor when it comes to Seattle vs. Texas, sure. But Ohtani is probably less interested in the .1 percent difference between Seattle and San Francisco.

If he wants a team that has a history of success with Japanese stars

  1. Mariners
  2. Dodgers
  3. Rangers

The rest are n/a, really. Seattle had Ichiro, Kenji Jojima, and Kaz Sasaki. The Dodgers had /have Hideo Nomo, Kaz Ishii, Hiroki Kuroda, and Kenta Maeda. The Rangers had Yu Darvish, who happens to be Ohtani’s childhood idol, and that worked out well.

If he wants a team with the most modern facilities/best ballpark

  1. Giants
  2. All the other ballparks are trash by comparison, especially Dodger Stadium, which is built into the side of a huge mountain that makes you walk up 30 flights of stairs to get to the upper deck from the parking lot, not that he would be going to the upper deck a lot, but seriously, it’s obnoxious, install a zip line or something

Though it’s possible that I’m biased.

If he wants a team with the best record of keeping players healthy (source)

  1. Giants
  2. (big gap)
  3. Cubs
  4. Dodgers
  5. Angels
  6. Mariners
  7. Rangers
  8. Padres

That’s based on days per DL trip over the last five years, and it’s not even close.

If he’s looking for the team that brought over the first Japanese-born player in baseball history, Masanori Murakami, who is still honored every year

  1. Giants

If he’s looking to be close to the Japanese American National Library, a treasured resource

  1. Giants

If he’s looking for the best weather and air quality in one package

  1. Giants

Oh, he doesn’t like it too warm, and he loves a little rain, but not that much. I’m pretty sure, at least.

If he’s looking for a real estate market that will allow him to live in something the size of the Nippon Ham Fighter dorm he’s currently living in now, for the low, low price of half his annual salary

  1. Giants

If he’s curious, like the rest of us, what Buster Posey is really like in person

  1. Giants

If he wants to face the best pitcher in the world regularly, setting up a challenging rivalry that would span a decade

  1. Giants

I guess the Padres are here, too, but whatever.

If he likes hitting baseballs into large bodies of water

  1. Giants

Yeah, it sure seems like everything is going the Giants’ way in these completely unbiased rankings. Also, if I were Shohei Ohtani, I would chose the Giants, mostly because I’d be really close to my family.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a serious ranking, here’s what I think we know. Ohtani isn’t concerned about joining a super team, though he certainly won’t eliminate teams if they’re good. Being on the West Coast is important to him, but it’s not a total dealbreaker. The size of the city doesn’t matter a ton if he’s considering Los Angeles, but it might have some bearing on his decision. Mostly he’s looking for a forward-thinking team with a solid plan to fold him into the organization.

Which is all to say ... it’s a tie? And we don’t know anything? Like heck am I ranking these seven teams based on what we know, which is very little.

I’m still putting the Mariners in the lead. The Dodgers have a great chance, considering the strength of their team. Darvish had a fine experience with the Rangers, by most accounts, so that could push them over the top. The Cubs play in the oldest, most historic ballpark and they also have a loaded team. The Angels have the best player in the game. The Padres have had a chance to impress him for years because of various connections and arrangements with his former team. And, yes, the Giants actually have a few things going for them, even though they lost 98 games last year.

It’s a tie to us. To Ohtani, though? He probably has a couple favorites. He might even have made a tentative decision and is just waiting to see if anyone can blow him away at the last second.

Oh, I forgot one last ranking.

If he has any interest in trolling the world

  1. Padres
  2. (huge gap)
  3. Angels
  4. Rangers
  5. Giants
  6. Mariners
  7. Dodgers
  8. Cubs

I would respect the greatest free agent in recent memory surveying the landscape and saying, “Yes. I choose the Padres. For reasons,” just to mess with the rest of baseball. Hey, San Diego is nice, and the Padres were home to one of the best two-way players ever drafted, Dave Winfield.

They didn’t let him pitch and hit, though.

The Giants would have. I read it in a book somewhere.

“The Giants absolutely were prepared to let Dave Winfield pitch and hit, but the Padres drafted him first and had zero imagination, unlike the Giants, who were hoping to change the face of baseball.”

- Definitely a Real Book, pg. 13

Sorry, I’m sorry, I’m trying to remove all of the bias. Give me a few minutes.

And while I’m doing that, keep refreshing MLB Trade Rumors or watching your Twitter timeline scroll until you pass out. It’s probably good for your health.