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The latest on Shohei Ohtani: Toronto Blue Jays one of three teams ‘chasing the biggest star in the sport’

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Zach Laing
2 months ago
A slow winter weather-wise in Canada has been all but for Toronto Blue Jays brass. 
At least behind the scenes.
The moves they have made haven’t been robust, given that beyond a few contract selections, acquiring lefty reliever Brendon Little from the Cubs for cash, re-signing IF Rafael Lantigua and making staffing changes are about all that’s happened.
But Ross Atkins and co. find themselves in a similar limbo as many other teams around baseball right now. They’re waiting to find out where Shohei Ohtani wants to take the next step in his career. All signs, beyond what your friends and family, or some on Twitter may yell about, point towards the Toronto Blue Jays being one of the top contenders for his services. 
On Monday, that continued to be solidified with a new Jeff Passan article at ESPN, where he said Toronto continues to be in the mix.
“There are plenty of teams whose offseasons hinge on the right addition,” Passan wrote in the third paragraph of the article. “The Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays are chasing the biggest star in the sport, free agent two-way player Shohei Ohtani.”
The number of teams in contention has dwindled, too. Earlier this month, citing executives and agents spoken to in private conversations, for example, ESPN listed ten teams who could aggressively pursue Ohtani: the Mets, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Cubs, the Angels, the Dodgers, the Giants, the Rangers, the Blue Jays and the Mariners
Passan’s article above also provided some Ohtani news on some of these teams. Ohtani, he wrote, has an “affinity for Boston,” while the Yankees and Mets appear to be more concerned about their pitching and pursuing Yoshinobu Yamamoto than anything else. He’s a possibility for the Giants, Passan said, but that Yamamoto or Cody Bellinger “becomes that much more acute” should Ohtani sign elsewhere. He added that the superstar would be “the perfect transaction” for the Cubs, noting that “relief pitching and at least one more good starter and a run-producing bat” are keys for them. The Mariners, we already know, are out of the Ohtani picture.
That leaves four teams from the aforementioned 10: the Angels, the Dodgers, the Rangers, and the Blue Jays.

Returning to Anaheim seems unlikely, but staying in sunny southern California could make the most sense for him. The Dodgers are a team on the precipice of greatness despite a horrific exit in the postseason to the young Arizona Diamondbacks. Ohtani would allow himself to stay in a market he’s more than well-established, which could be a huge boon. Couple it with an available designated hitter slot, and it makes sense. Ohtani would soar the Rangers past the luxury tax, but if a championship as soon as possible is what he wants, then that could be his big bet. 
That, at least, brings us to Toronto, one of the most intriguing teams in this entire race, and the team your uncle will tell you has no shot at landing Ohtani. Don’t listen to your uncle. 
Toronto would afford Ohtani arguably the most unique opportunity of any team in baseball, given the club is the only non-U.S.-based ball team. An international icon already, Ohtani wouldn’t just have a single city or state backing him; he would have an entire country of rabid sports fans supporting him. Selling him on the notion the Jays are in “win-now” mode wouldn’t be difficult. 
The Jays had arguably the best pitching staff in baseball last year, which wasn’t what failed them at the end of the season. It’s the fact the offence came up to dry, with the team driving in a single run across two games against the Minnesota Twins. Their arms gave up just five runs: three to Royce Lewis’ two home runs in game one and one RBI to Carlos Correa in game two. No RBI was given to Willi Castro in game two off his B4 ground ball double play.
Ohtani could see that and realize he might be a missing piece to the puzzle that could send the Jays to the destined land sooner rather than later. 
But as Ben Nicholson-Smith pondered Monday, other creative means could help lure Ohtani to the Six. One would allow him to have input on coaching decisions; another could be the Jays making a “lucrative side deal” for his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, or a chef or personal trainer. The last and most creative was giving him an option that would allow him to leave if the club ever posted a back-to-back sub.500 seasons.

With each passing day, the baseball world gets closer and closer to knowing what Ohtani’s move will be. When that comes, a flurry of other movement in the industry will likely follow in short order.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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