The Cubs come up short in Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes


The Cubs come up short in Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes

Theo Epstein will have to wait to get another shot at his White Whale.

Shohei Ohtani made his decision Friday and opted for the Los Angeles Angels over the Cubs.

Epstein and the Cubs went in hard on the 23-year-old pitcher/hitter, rumored to have pulled out all the stops with an exceptionally-creative bid.  They reportedly even had a virtual reality experience for Ohtani:

In the end, Ohtani opted to go with a team further out west, which was said to be one of his main points of contention when choosing an MLB team:

The Angels now have Ohtani for the next six years on a ridiculously team friendly deal and will have to figure out the best way for the young Japanese sensation to get some at-bats on the days he doesn't pitch. Plus, he's paired with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and is a huge boost as the team around baseball's GOAT has been unable to get Trout into the postseason the last few years.

This is one of the best-case scenarios for the Cubs if Ohtani didn't pick Chicago. Of the final seven teams, Ohtani choosing the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres or San Francisco Giants would've directly impacted their road to another National League pennant. Imagine the Dodgers — a team that absolutely overwhelmed the Cubs in the NLCS — adding Ohtani's 102 mph fastball and left-handed power bat on top of their already-stacked core.

The Cubs will turn their attention to filling out the rest of their starting rotation in free agency or on the trade market. After inking Tyler Chatwood to a three-year deal Thursday, the Cubs only have one spot open in their rotation and could op to sign a guy like Alex Cobb, pluck a couple of buy-low candidates off the market or trade one of their young hitters for a dynamic arm.

The Cubs will see Ohtani, Trout and the Angels in spring training, with exhibition games scheduled for March 2 and 9.

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants