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The Jays' Ohtani pitch, the chase, and now the wait

Los Angeles Angels Shohei Ohtani - The Canadian Press

NASHVILLE — Whether you’re on pins and needles waiting or simply still not believing it’s real, the next few days might be a painful wait for the Toronto Blue Jays and their fan base.

It’s hardly overstating things to say the future of the franchise is in Shohei Ohtani’s hands.

It may not guarantee them a World Series and the Jays may still field a 90-win club in the end without him if he goes elsewhere, but everything from worldwide perception to marketing clout to attendance to relevance as a franchise changes if the sport’s unicorn, our generation’s Babe Ruth, decides Toronto is where he wants to be when he has all 30 clubs courting him.

It would be a huge upset for many, but there was always a lot of evidence that things could head in this direction as long as Ohtani heard what he wanted to hear.

Reading the tea leaves over the past month, it was easy to envision how the Blue Jays could position themselves as serious players in this chase, starting with the City of Toronto itself, the deep pockets of ownership that absolutely can pull it off if they’re committed to it, as well as all of the knowledge we’ve gained about Ohtani, the person, since he first arrived in the big leagues ahead of the 2018 season.

It all started with Ohtani liking the city, something that was essential to the pitch and the obvious starting point for a burgeoning love affair.

From there, the pitch became about the two-way star’s autonomy and unique schedule, especially when he’s able to get back on the mound in 2025.

That’s where all of the money ownership has poured into their spring training facilities in Dunedin and ongoing extensive renovations at Rogers Centre come into play, and there’s a legitimate chance they’re the deciding factor, making it the obvious play to fly Ohtani there to show him around rather than meet in a different city or bring him to a construction zone in Toronto.

The Florida facility is the envy of the league, and the Jays are already championing their new SkyDome clubhouse upgrades as elite level compared to other teams once those renos are completed this winter.

The final piece to the pitch is the ability to win.

It might be the one nasty curveball from Ohtani that the Jays have to barrel up in order to convince him.

What are you doing to improve the team this winter other than signing me?

And how do you envision the future going with two more years of team control for Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.?

Just as we’re posing those same questions in the media, Ohtani’s camp is going to be investigating all of the finalists in the same way.

He doesn’t want to end up in another situation where the postseason is a pipe dream and the pitching staff can’t get enough outs to support inarguably the two greatest players of a generation.

If Ohtani can envision himself in Toronto, loves the facilities, feels he has the support he needs to continue his elite two-way play into his thirties, and the Jays are financially all-in, the only piece left is whether he thinks he can win baseball games and have a chance at a ring.

That’s where the Los Angeles Dodgers come in. It’s just really hard to top their resume as a franchise and their commitment to winning over the long haul.

The wait may be unbearable for all involved, but it’s better than imagining the alternative moving forward.

If Ohtani goes somewhere else and Juan Soto is no longer an option, where do the Blue Jays pivot from there?

That will either be a non-story or THE story in a few days.

But for now we wait.