Cubs

Shohei Ohtani fallout: How Cubs got a seat at the table with baseball's hottest commodity

Shohei Ohtani fallout: How Cubs got a seat at the table with baseball's hottest commodity

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.

How?

"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."

Albert Almora Jr. was all over the Coors Field outfield

Albert Almora Jr. was all over the Coors Field outfield

Coors Field is 415 feet in dead center. That makes it one of the biggest outfields in the majors.

Albert Almora Jr. was busy covering a ton of that big outfield in a three-game series. A day after immitating Willie Mays, Almora made a trio of tough catches in Sunday's series finale.

In the first inning he tracked to his right and leaped to make a grab to rob Nolan Arenado of extra bases and an RBI. The next inning he robbed Noel Cuevas in a near carbon copy of the previous catch.

In the ninth, Charlie Blackman hit a ball deep into the gap, but Almora showed his range by getting to the ball just a few steps before the wall. He made the catch part look easy, even if crashing into the wall wasn't his most graceful moment.

That play ended up being huge considering the tight finish in the ninth inning. The Rockies had the bases loaded before Arenado was tagged out at home following a wild pitch. Arenado was originally called safe, but was called out after the umps looked on replay. Had Blackman reached to lead off the inning, the 9-7 final could have been very different.

Watch all three catches in the video above.

Kris Bryant leaves Cubs-Rockies game after getting hit in the head with a pitch

Kris Bryant leaves Cubs-Rockies game after getting hit in the head with a pitch

It was a scary scene at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon.

Kris Bryant left the series finale between the Cubs and Rockies early after getting hit in the head by a pitch in his first at-bat of the game.

Immediately, manager Joe Maddon ran out of the visiting dugout to hold onto a visibily dazed Bryant. Trainers looked at the Cubs third baseman for about a minute before helping him exit the game.

The Cubs say Bryant passed all tests and will continue to be evaluted.

Cubs hitting coaches Chili Davis and Andy Haines were ejected for protesting immediately after Bryant got hit by the pitch.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales reported that Bryant is expected to travel with the team to Cleveland, but there doesn't appear to be more of an update yet.