Update: Following Ohtani’s announcement, Bob Nightengale penned an excellent column in which he called out the way he and other MLB media members handled the situation. Though he doesn’t name-drop, it’s very clear that Jon Morosi, Jon Heyman, Jesse Rogers, and J.P. Hoonstra were being called out. Rogers was particularly notable because his report of the conversation, which he subsequently walked back, is what led to this column.
Nightengale clarified the situation, which Bruce Levine had previously done on Inside the Clubhouse, saying it was a matter of incorrectly sharing that Christopher Morel was involved in trade talks with the Rays. We’re just as guilty here of running with stuff on occasion, which is part of the reason sourced reports can be so tricky. Looks like Nightengale was pretty accurate with his reporting and that I owe him an apology in this case.
The Cubs explained that Jed Hoyer’s absence from the start of the Winter Meetings was due to a personal matter, but pretty much everyone believed it was actually a personnel matter. Prior to his arrival on Tuesday, a questionable report from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale claimed the Cubs were out after balking at Shohei Ohtani‘s “price tag of 10 years and $500 million.” That makes no sense because everyone knew that was the get-in-the-door price from the start, but that’s not the most intriguing part of the story.
According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Hoyer bumped into Nightengale on his way to meet the media in Nashville and exchanged a few “stern words.” Knowing how important secrecy is to Ohtani’s camp and how careful Hoyer is to avoid telegraphing his moves, it’s understandable that he would be a bit heated about such a report dropping.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Hoyer told reporters. “There’s nothing to the report whatsoever. On all the Ohtani stuff, just like I would with any free agent, I’m not going to talk about discussions, meetings or where it is. Just keep that quiet like anything else.”
That might have been the end of it, but things then took another turn when Nightengale went back and edited his column. After initially citing “one high-ranking official” as the source behind the news of the Cubs’ trepidation, he changed it to “one high-ranking Cubs official” [emphasis mine] in what comes off as a spiteful jab. If it’s true, and most folks have arrived at the same conclusion as to who would have been responsible for the leak, Hoyer is going to have even more stern words for someone.
We know it wasn’t Craig Counsell, who told media members that he has not met with Ohtani. That stood in sharp contrast to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who was apparently chastised by team leadership for his candid remarks about having convened with the superstar recently. Nightengale was responsible for that information as well, so caveat emptor.
It does pass the smell test, as Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes seemed irked as he refused to comment on Roberts’ admission.
Getting back to the Cubs and Ohtani, the idea that they may have fallen out of the race isn’t surprising in and of itself. Balking at what has been perceived for months as the opening bid, however, is indicative of either an erroneous report or exceedingly gross negligence on the part of the front office. If that means we’re choosing between exec and journalist, I’m choosing the former six days a week and twice on Sunday.
For what it’s worth, Bruce Levine said on Marquee that “the Cubs are still in on [Ohtani]” and Jon Heyman tweeted that they haven’t been told they’re out. Maybe Nightengale misheard or misinterpreted something, which might explain the report even if it doesn’t excuse the sniping.
Though it’s certainly not on the scale as the Ohtani situation, Nightengale was also involved in another shaky Cubs-related report on Tuesday. His tweet that Christopher Morel‘s name had surfaced in talks with the Rays about Tyler Glasnow stirred up quite a bit of speculation about the potential for an expanded deal. Since Morel has far too much value to swap for a single year of a high-risk pitcher at $25 million, the only way it would make sense is if the Rays were looking to move additional players.
Nightengale later clarified that the Cubs would not part with Morel straight-up for Glasnow, though Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney wrote Tuesday that the young slugger “hasn’t been mentioned in any current iterations of a potential deal.” I continue to be on the Glasnow train and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs get something done there because things are going to pick up soon and they need to make moves.
Ohtani feels like more of a longshot than ever and it’s starting to look like they’re out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto as well. Jim Bowden of The Athletic is reporting that the 25-year-old righty’s market may have surpassed $250 million and could even approach $300 million. That could have the Cubs pivoting to lefties Jordan Montgomery or Shota Imanaga, both of whom would provide more moderate long-term stability while helping to mitigate some of Glasnow’s risk.
The Cubs have plenty of “lines in the water,” as Hoyer said in Nashville, just don’t expect them to allocate all of that potential Ohtani money to other free agents. No group of four or even five available players represents the same kind of revenue generation as Ohtani, so the budget will shift if he’s not part of it. That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t improve the roster with good players, it’s simply an acknowledgment that ownership is/was willing to break the bank for one very specific player.
Here’s to hoping dominoes start to fall soon. As entertaining as this whole thing has been, it’ll be nice to start getting some actual signings and trades to break down.