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LA Times reporter sees SF Giants as legitimate Shohei Ohtani contender

The Bay Area media may be skeptical, but a reporter from Shohei Ohtani's backyard believes the SF Giants are a legitimate contender to sign the megastar.
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The SF Giants are an improbable playoff team and an improbable free agent destination. Nonetheless, the Los Angeles Times believes that they'll stay in contention without a superstar - and that they'll be contending for superstar Shohei Ohtani this off-season.

Jorge Castillo called the Giants "a big-market club with a hefty payroll — their $186.6-million payroll ranks 11th in the majors, according to Spotrac — but they don’t boast star power."

That's very true. Originally they had a lone All-Star in closer Camilo Doval. Alex Wood was added later, but he's got a 5.19 ERA in the second half, with just six strikeouts in his 17.1 innings. Their two biggest free-agent signings were Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto, who have combined for exactly zero Wins Above Replacement (Conforto has 0.3, Haniger has -0.3) and neither corner outfielder is slugging above .400.

But Castillo sees that as a plus. He describes "a roster that is greater than the sum of its parts," thanks to platooning, their creative, opener-heavy use of the pitching staff, and as pitcher Ross Stripling says, "Everyone has bought into how we play baseball."

Ohtani was reportedly interested in joining the Giants back in 2017, when he ultimately signed with the Angels. At the time, Castillo points out Ohtani "chose the Angels partly because they were an American League club with the DH at their disposal."

After the Angels victory on Wednesday, Ohtani declined to discuss whether the designated hitter had influenced his decision, saying, "I don't really like to reflect on the past."

Now the National League has a designated hitter, and the Giants theoretically have the money to spend, especially with over $50 million in salaries coming off the books, much of that from Joc Pederson and Brandon Crawford's deals. Like last year, when they were in the mix for Aaron Judge and pulled out of the mix for Carlos Correa at the last second, they're rumored to be after a superstar. And Ohtani is the biggest star in baseball.

While the LA Times believes in the Giants' Ohtani chances, the hometown San Francisco Chronicle is more dubious.

Bruce Jenkins thinks that Ohtani's desire to win might make him skeptical of joining the Giants. "When Ohtani surveys the field," Jenkins writes. "Beyond brilliant catcher Patrick Bailey, there can’t be one position player who strikes him as a future World Series teammate."

"This is a club that doesn’t hit. It’s comical to even start comparing their lineup to the game’s best," he concludes. What Jenkins does believe the Giants have to lure Ohtani is young talent: prospects that team president Farhan Zaidi held onto at the Giants' whisper-quiet trade deadline.

He argues for the team showcasing Marco Luciano, Kyle Harrison, Luis Matos, Casey Schmidt, and the just-promoted Heliot Ramos to "make a collective statement, something to draw the admiration of Ohtani and every club in the National League."

Of course, that group is probably not going to win as many games, which is presumably a big concern for Ohtani. Luciano and Harrison are also recovering from hamstring injuries - hopefully Ohtani understands the rehab process.

Los Angeles newspapers believe in Ohtani in the Bay. San Francisco papers are doubtful. We won't know for months who is right, but it's encouraging that even after the SF Giants lost a series in Anaheim, writers from Angels country still think San Francisco is a strong possibility for Shohei Ohtani.