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Theo calls Ohtani bid 'unique' and 'rewarding'

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met with Shohei Ohtani, he considered the Japanese two-way player as a pitcher who could hit.

"We had plans to try to make him a nitoryu, which is a two-way player, or a samurai with two swords," Epstein said on Monday during baseball's annual Winter Meetings.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met with Shohei Ohtani, he considered the Japanese two-way player as a pitcher who could hit.

"We had plans to try to make him a nitoryu, which is a two-way player, or a samurai with two swords," Epstein said on Monday during baseball's annual Winter Meetings.

The Cubs were one of seven finalists for Ohtani, who picked the Angels. Monday marked the first time Epstein discussed Chicago's presentation, which was made last week. Manager Joe Maddon, pitcher Kyle Hendricks and team chairman Tom Ricketts were part of the Cubs' contingent.

"It was a unique process and a rewarding process," Epstein said. "I'm proud of what we did, and I wouldn't change anything that we did in the process except the result."

The Cubs had some obstacles to overcome, including geography and the lack of a designated hitter.

"I'd like to think we made it a hard choice for him, but in the end, he made the right pick for him, and we certainly wish Ohtani the best for his new team, the Angels," Epstein said.

The face-to-face meeting allowed Ohtani to ask the Cubs more specific questions, and vice versa.

"We talked baseball for two hours, a lot of back and forth," Epstein said.

• How tough would it be for Epstein to deal one of the Cubs' young players, such as Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell or Javier Baez?

"Any time you trade a player who's accomplished a lot of things in your uniform or been a big part of the mix, it's difficult," Epstein said. "You have to focus on what's in the best interest of the organization as a whole. Our loyalties are to the team and to the organization. You have to set the emotions of it aside and focus on the practical 'real world' impact on your ballclub."

That's a lesson Epstein learned a long time ago when he was with the Red Sox and had to deal one of his favorite players, Nomar Garciaparra, to the Cubs in 2004.

• The Cubs don't have an obvious choice to be their leadoff man, but Epstein said that's a luxury, not a necessity.

"You can have a really functional offense without a traditional leadoff guy," he said. "We demonstrated that last year -- we scored over 800 runs, second-most runs in the league besides Colorado, without that much impact at the leadoff spot. I'd sign up for more than 800 runs again and second-most runs in the league and what shape it takes, I don't really care. We'd love to have a prototypical leadoff guy, but not at the expense of other core elements of the team. Right now, pitching is more important."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs