Hoyer: Cubs remain in the mix for Ohtani

December 6th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer does not typically respond to what the rumor mill is churning out in the offseason, but he made an exception on Tuesday evening at the Winter Meetings.

Surrounded by media in a ballroom within the Gaylord Opryland Resort, Hoyer made it clear that ’s camp has not informed the Cubs that they are out of the mix. Hoyer declined to delve into details, but refuted a USA Today report that claimed Chicago was no longer in the race for the two-way superstar.

“I don’t know where that came from. There’s nothing to report whatsoever,” Hoyer said. “And I think on all the Ohtani stuff, just like I would with any free agent, I’m not going to talk about discussions or meetings or where it is. We’ll just keep that quiet like anything else.”

There has been a high level of secrecy surrounding the Ohtani sweepstakes, but that has not stopped rumors from snowballing into reports that have floated through the many paths and corridors of the massive Winter Meetings site. Cubs manager Craig Counsell called all the hype “deserved,” given Ohtani’s status as a generational talent on the cusp of netting a potential record-setting contract.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted not to sidestep anything in his media session on Tuesday afternoon. He noted that a Los Angeles contingent met with Ohtani at Dodger Stadium a few days ago, adding that Ohtani was his team’s “top priority.”

“I think it went well,” Roberts said. “But at the end of the day, he's his own man and he's going to do what's best for himself, where he feels most comfortable.”

The Cubs are still holding out hope that Ohtani will feel that way about Chicago.

Hoyer was asked if the North Siders had received a “status check” from Ohtani’s camp.

“None. Zero,” he replied. “The truth is that with this free-agent pursuit and others, very few people are aware of what's being discussed or what's going on, on purpose. I think all sides have kept it that way. And I think it will stay that way.”

Beyond the Dodgers, the Blue Jays are believed to have met with Ohtani’s representation at their spring home in Florida. Toronto general manager Ross Atkins added fuel to that fire by holding court via Zoom on Monday. The Giants are also reportedly in the mix, while a swirling report that the Braves were also involved was swiftly squashed.

Given Roberts’ candidness about the Dodgers’ meeting with Ohtani, Counsell was asked if he had met with the two-time American League MVP.

“I have not,” Counsell said.

Have members of the Cubs' front office met with Ohtani?

“I have not,” Counsell repeated.

Counsell acknowledged that he has been involved in some free-agent conversations, but “not a lot” as he works on other fronts to prepare for his first season with the Cubs. He is still working to build his coaching staff and learning more about the players underneath Chicago’s Major League roster.

Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins have also been utilizing Counsell in discussions about potential trades or free-agent additions. Throwing around a name like Ohtani is different from what Counsell is used to, having come from the smaller-market Brewers.

“Look, the names you're discussing are different,” Counsell said. “There's no question about it. And the conversations you can be involved in are different. But, the different ways that different markets have to look at it is helpful, I think, to provide new ideas -- just hopefully idea generation about ways to get better still.”

The Ohtani situation has not only slowed the market as a whole, but it has put the Cubs in a spot where they have to work on contingency plans and other needs now in the leadup to his decision. Hoyer said the team has gained momentum on a few other fronts at these Winter Meetings.

“We've got to be really careful not to get caught waiting on any one particular thing,” Hoyer said. “I've learned over the years that you've got to have a lot of lines in the water and you can't assume anything is going to get done.

“Sometimes, the dominoes fall as you think. But if you assume they're going to fall that way, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble waiting. Clearly, we're working on a ton of different stuff.”

From the Cubs’ side of the table, that still includes Ohtani.

“He's very unique,” Counsell said. “It's really cool what's happening. And I think as a baseball fan, we all want to know where the great players are going to play.”