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Week Ahead: Ohtani, Stanton stir Hot Stove

Japanese star, Marlins' reigning MVP consider next team
MLB.com @DougMillerMLB

The week ahead in baseball might not only be about our game of bats, balls, gloves and caps. It could very well be about dominoes.

When it comes to offseason wheeling and dealing, those metaphorical game pieces eventually have to tumble and fall and let everything else fall into place. To that end, there's serious indication that two of the biggest Major League tiles we've seen in years are about to be played.

The week ahead in baseball might not only be about our game of bats, balls, gloves and caps. It could very well be about dominoes.

When it comes to offseason wheeling and dealing, those metaphorical game pieces eventually have to tumble and fall and let everything else fall into place. To that end, there's serious indication that two of the biggest Major League tiles we've seen in years are about to be played.

Hot Stove Tracker

Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, the 23-year-old who is coming to the big leagues and has spent his recent days weighing the offers of all 30 teams, got closer to putting on that uniform on Sunday, when he began narrowing down his list of prospective clubs. It was a quick and rather surprising turn of events regarding Ohtani, who was posted by his former team, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, on Friday.

Surprisingly, Ohtani, who has until Dec. 22 to decide which team to join, has already ruled out the Yankees, who were considered one of the front-runners for his services going into the sweepstakes. Ohtani's agency, CAA, also informed about half of the rest of MLB's clubs -- Pirates, A's, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, D-backs, Mets, Nationals, Rays, Red Sox, Twins and White Sox -- that they would not be getting meetings with the vaunted right-handed pitcher and left-handed slugger this week.

The known finalists, according to MLB.com sources and various published reports, are the Mariners, Giants, Padres, Rangers, Cubs, Angels and Dodgers, while the Rockies were still believed to be contenders. The status of the Astros, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Phillies, Reds, Royals and Tigers was still unclear late Sunday night.

"When players are in the marketplace like that, you do everything you possibly can," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "We put forward everything that we were about, but if it's not a fit, it's not a fit. You move on."

Video: Cashman on Ohtani's decision not to sign with Yankees

Ohtani and the clubs in the running now move on to Stage 2 -- in-person meetings in Los Angeles during the week ahead. Among the topics expected to be discussed and reviewed are Ohtani's key concerns: how teams view his potential as a two-way player, the club's stance when it comes to player development and training, and facilities and the cities in which they play. Cashman revealed Sunday that he got the impression that Ohtani might prefer the West Coast and smaller markets.

To that end, the Mariners, according to a report by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports citing unnamed sources, told some of their current players to keep their schedules clear so they could possibly meet Ohtani to pitch him on Seattle.

"We're not joking around," Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said on his Wheelhouse Podcast two weeks ago. "We're bringing the big guns. We're bringing the 'A' team. When we sit down, we'll be sitting down with very notable faces, and that is a part of what we want to sell."

Video: Dipoto joins The Wheelhouse Podcast to discuss Ohtani

Sunday's developments also clearly showed that this is not primarily a financially based decision for the Japanese star. The Yankees, Twins and Pirates are all out of the running, and they were three of the only four teams, Texas being the other, that could pay Ohtani a bonus of more than $2 million. Texas has $3.535 million in its bonus pool to offer Ohtani and leads the Majors in that category. Of the listed finalists, the Mariners have $1,557,500 available, but the Giants, Padres, Dodgers and Cubs can only offer $300,000.

Speaking of money, that will be a big part of the ongoing conversations about the next destination for National League MVP Award winner Giancarlo Stanton, who on Sunday inched a bit closer to being traded from the Miami Marlins and very well could end up somewhere else before the week ahead is out.

Video: Stanton potentially on verge of being traded

According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, agents for the the slugger, who led MLB with 59 home runs in 2017, met with the Giants and Cardinals late in the week to try to work out the best deal for Stanton to waive his no-trade clause and move on in a blockbuster swap with Miami, which is looking for a rich package of prospects in return.

Stanton has 10 years and $295 million left on his contract, which includes an opt-out following the 2020 season, so there's a lot of math to be done. But multiple sources told Morosi that both clubs have agreed on the "general framework" of deals with Miami. Now it's up to Stanton to decide if he wants to play in San Francisco or St. Louis or hold out for a possible trade to another team, like his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers.

So there's a lot to keep track of this coming week as things on the stove get hotter. Meanwhile, there are a lot of other free agents available to sign, with huge names such as J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Carlos Santana, Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Lorenzo Cain, Zack Cozart, Lance Lynn, Chris Tillman, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and many more still waiting for those dominoes to fall.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.