LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes will go down as one of the wackiest — and most fascinating — free agent courtships in the history of Major League Baseball.
The fact the Cubs were even in the conversation down to the end is fascinating in its own right.
As he whittled down teams to a Final 7 before ultimately choosing the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani made his terms public: He preferred a West Coast team to make travel to his home country of Japan easier and an American League team made the most sense because it had been several years since he had played the field, serving as a designated hitter/pitcher in Japan.
The Cubs obviously cannot meet either of those requirements, yet Theo Epstein and Co. found themselves in the conversation, as the Eastern-most team left alive.
"First and foremost, I think the Cubs have a lot to offer any player," Epstein said at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort Monday during MLB's Winter Meetings. "It's a really strong brand right now, it's a great environment, our fans are amazing, Wrigley is a great place to play and we're the only team in baseball that's made the Final 4 the last three years.
"Just a really bright outlook. And beyond that, we pulled many all-nighters just to get this document done and created a pretty substantial document that we submitted that was really thorough and detail-oriented that I think got his attention so he wanted to hear more about it."
Epstein is proud of how the Cubs banded together to get such an impactful pitch to Ohtani ready in rather short notice after the 23-year-old pitcher was posted last month.
"A lot of people worked really hard on it," Epstein said. "No regrets. It reinforced some great bonds in the organization. A lot of people pulled together under a pretty difficult deadline to make something really impressive happen.
"It got us to the final table and it didn't turn out our way, but I think we overcame a lot in the process. We're all glad we went through it, despite the result."
Epstein wouldn't — and couldn't — get into too much detail about the Cubs' pitch, but Kyle Hendricks and Joe Maddon were there among uniformed Cubs members. Epstein and Co. also did not give Ohtani a virtual reality tour of life as a Cub like it was initially reported.
The Cubs spent two hours talking baseball with Ohtani and came away feeling OK about their chances despite the limitations they had no control over (geography, lack of DH).
Epstein admitted he didn't come out of that meeting rationally thinking the Cubs had a shot, but he did think they increased their odds with the final presentation.
"I was so proud of the work the organization had done and I had felt so passionate about the fit that I probably fooled myself into thinking we had a real chance," Epstein said. "It was a great process and I have no regrets. I certainly wish him well; he was a really impressive kid.
"I think health-permitting, he's gonna do really, really well and have a long career. He'll be fun to follow."