Bittersweet day for Cubs as Ohtani picks Angels, Stanton rejects Cards

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The White Sox are disappointed Shohei Ohtani didn’t include them in his final seven teams. | Toru Takahashi/Associated Press

So much for that Shohei Ohtani-Giancarlo Stanton showdown next April at Wrigley Field.

Just when it looked like the National League Central race could get an injection of top talent next year with the two biggest names available, Stanton refused to waive his no-trade clause to play for the Cardinals, and Ohtani chose the Angels over the Cubs.

Both decisions were announced Friday as teams prepared to travel to Orlando, Florida, for the Winter Meetings, which start Monday.

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Talk about a bittersweet day for the Cubs, who lost out on Ohtani to the West Coast and the designated hitter and maybe even that $2.3 million the Angels had to offer as a bonus (compared to the Cubs’ $300,000 limit).

The Cubs seemed a long shot at the start of the process for the two-way Japanese star, but they surprised many by being selected as one of seven finalists, and the only one east of the Mississippi. And they seemed to gain favor after making their detailed face-to-face pitch to Ohtani and his representatives Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

In the end, “he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals,” his agent, Nez Balelo, said in a statement.

Ohtani, 23, wanted the chance to become a star hitter and star pitcher in the majors, with a spot in the lineup on days he doesn’t pitch.

The so-called “Babe Ruth of -Japan,” who has a 100 mph fastball from the right side and power bat from the left, is considered a quality outfielder, but he hasn’t played there in two years. He was the DH for the Nippon Ham Fighters on many of the days he didn’t pitch. He’s expected to share DH duties with Albert Pujols for the Angels.

“He read every page of every presentation and listened to every word in each meeting, and he was so impressed, it was not an easy choice,” Balelo’s statement read. “While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei’s decision, what mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone or league, but that he felt a true bond with the Angels.”

The Cubs’ presentation was said to include a virtual-reality experience illustrating what life as a Cub might look like.

The Cubs did not comment during the process or after its conclusion.

The Cubs’ pursuit of Ohtani was part of a wider offseason focus on pitching that included signing free agent Tyler Chatwood this week to join the rotation.

Team president Theo Epstein said that remains the focus heading into the Winter Meetings, where the Cubs are expected to continue talks for free agents such as right-handed starter Alex Cobb and possible trades, with teams such as the Rays and Stanton’s Marlins looking like attractive sellers.

The Marlins put together deals involving Stanton with the Giants and Cardinals, pending a decision by Stanton on his no-trade clause. He told both teams no Friday.

The Dodgers, Yankees and Cubs are said to be teams to which he would approve a trade.

But the Cubs are putting the majority of their resources this winter into pitching and have no intention of pursuing a big-ticket outfielder.

Of course, the best news to come out of the day for the Cubs is the fact they at least won’t have to face Stanton (career .940 OPS against the Cubs) 19 times a year as a division rival.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com


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