Well, Shohei Ohtani is done having his face-to-face meetings with the Finalists. Now it is time for him to mull over his decision and make a choice. Meanwhile, it’s time to see who the Big Dogs are in this hunt.

Late yesterday we got new moves in the field. The Mariners and then the Angels both went and dipped into the deep well of international bonus money credits of the non-finalist Minnesota Twins. Each took an approximate $1 million in exchange for prospects.

The Angels now have as much as $2.315MM in their wallet. The Mariners are at $2.55MM. The Rangers still lead all at $3.535MM. None of the other Finalists are even close. The Cubs, Padres, Giants and Dodgers are all capped at $300K.

Those are some interesting tea leaves to be read. First of all, why would the Mariners and Angels go deeper and lose players within their franchise if they had not a gotten a positive word from Ohtani’s camp that they are close enough to being to final one? Second, does this mean that money does mean something to Ohtani after all? At least some money, so that we are down to 3 because the other 7 are so short? Or maybe the Ohtani crew told the Angels and Mariners that they are so far behind that they need to amp up their bonus money to stay in consideration. The latter idea is too Machiavellian for my blood. I prefer the thought that Ohtani is coming to the AL West, and that it is Rangers, M’s or Angels with the M’s and Angels virtually tied for the lead.

Of course, the media knows what’s just out in front of their nose, that these trades signal a swing in the current sweepstakes. But let’s not forget the bigger picture: this decision might now have a major swing on the power profile of the AL West. The Angels/Mariners/Rangers should be a lot healthier in 2018, which means fewer easy W’s for the Astros. Things will tighten up , and the AL West almost got a Wild Card slot as it was. Which of these three teams that will be best primed to be nipping at the exhaust nozzles of the Astros might just be decided within hours.

Regardless of the outcome, I do have to say that it has been fun to be relevant again. I have Ohtani to thank for that, at least.

Have some Fingers-Crossed-Offseason-Links:

A Little Bit of Angels News

Kevin Maitan (pronounced “my-tawn”?) is now in the LAA farm system, and nobody else’s. So what does that mean? BaseballAmerica has a podcast that answers your questions. The TL:DL version is “Pay no attention to 2017, it was too short of a look.. The totality of his work shows that the kid’s a stud.”……..

The Angels are now 57-years old……….And 44 years ago we were doing Spring Training in Palm Springs, which was awesome……….

Mike Trout taking a few moments off of his last-minute wedding planning to think about his third favorite subject: the weather……….

Everywhere In Baseball

Curt Schilling was a fantastic baseball player. An upper-echelon Hall of Fame player. But he is not a baseball player anymore. he has been been for 10 years now And the things he has been doing during these 10 years might just cost him his Hall of Fame credentials……….

The Old Dog wins! When it was announced that the Oakland A’s were considering the site of Laney College, I pointed out that there was still a viable institution already in their way. This was in May, long before they ended up choosing that very site……….My exact words were: “I may be reading this wrong, but it sure appears as if one of their favorite spots turns out to be right smack atop Laney College. I looked it up. Laney College is still in full operation.“……….Thus it was absolutely no surprise when that same Laney College told everybody to go pound sand. And somehow the Oakland A’s are “shocked” about this…..The principals in Oakland are all now in Mean Time To Innocence mode……….

The Blue Jays may be going up for sale……….

Follow along here. These days Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros is walking around with a boot on his left foot. A TMZ report catches Keuchel claiming to have sprained his ankle partying during the victory parade. The Astros officially confirmed the victory parade story. Several days later ESPN gets in on the tale. If you listen to ESPN, acknowledge a TMZ report, but they blow right past it. Instead they write that an insider source claims that Keuchel was pitching injured with plantar fasciitis over the last 2 months of the season. So, yeah, the falling down while partying narrative is not as World Series heroic and Curt Schilling and the bloody sock. And ESPN is happy to help reverse spin the public-facing data…….But, really, when we hear that the Astros turned their WS trophy into a beer funnel, I think I am going with the TMZ version……….

Here is more on Victor and Gubi’s future employer, Disney and the layoff-happy ESPN. The glass-half-full scenario would be our guys getting more baseball-centric air time as Disney/ESPN drive more content via the Regional Sports Networks……….

Hot Stove

Derek Norris signed a shiny new contract that insures a paycheck for another year as an MLB ballplayer, and now he finds out that the guy who signed him to that contract is being roasted in public and having to defend his choice. Well, that’s how the stickiness that comes from the issue of domestic abuse works, Derek……….

Signing Eric Hosmer, one of the larger potential pratfalls of this FA market, would be a very Padres thing to do. Doubly so if it puts Wil Myers back into the outfield full time, something he has never done………

Stanton Focus: What if Giancarlo Stanton really wants to play for the Dodgers forever, and is willing to hold on to his no-trade power and wait a year for the LADs to clear their books?……….The Dodgers sure seem to have a big part to play in this saga, somehow……….Stanton has, however, taken a second dip into McCovey Cove, so maybe he doesn’t wait much longer?……….Somebody should clue in Derek Jeter, though. He still seems to be behind the knowledge curve as to who is in charge around here……….

Ohtani Focus: If you know anything about Gaussian distribution, you know that the center landing spots of a plinko game are the most common winners. And if you know anything about digital video recording you know that you keep recording until you get the desired result, and then delete all the failed attempts and only publish the amazing success. And that is how we get this……….There are a lot of ways that the Ohtani career might pan out. The forecasting of options, even into the slightly unreasonable, make for great offseason daydreams……….What the hell. I did not even know that there was this thing about Japanese pitchers being fragile, much less that it had reached mythical levels. But, regardless, Ohtani is not subject to the myth……….Ohtani’s face-to-face meetings with the Finalists are now over. It’s time to get nervous all over again (oh, and the weather – winds and fire – certainly did not help our cause)……….I also think having the Cubs on Ohtani’s list of finalists is a little odd……….

The Duffle Bag

Do you know who has the power to out-pull a Justin Turner for a bachelor party celebrity list? Mike Trout. But Trout is so chill, he probably just took a couple of friends out hunting deer or something………Because Rafael Palmiero didn’t do enough damage to his reputation by getting busted for steroids right after testifying his innocence before Congress, now he wants us to believe that his 53-year old body is still in pro MLB shape all on its own……….Cleveland is extending their nettingAnd so are the Twins…I will be on the lookout for customer reviews……….Do not get any ideas. I am not going to be accepting any twitter victories to be the next Ronald McDonald……….The Supreme Court has decided not to decide that Minor League players are getting financially screwed……….