History Repeats Itself: Things don't look good for SF Giants landing Ohtani or Yamamoto

Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani in the dugout during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium.
Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani in the dugout during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium.

As the MLB offseason wears on, all eyes are glued on the potential landing spots for two-time American League MVP Shohei Ohtani and Japanese superstar pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

The moment the offseason started, favorites emerged.

The Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Mets, everyone with decent money, were involved with one of these two megastars. On Tuesday though, another team emerged, a team that always seems to have their hand in the superstar cookie jar, but hasn't eaten a single calorie. I am, of course, talking about the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants aren't going to sign either. Because the Giants get linked to almost every superstar free agent. How many do they sign though? Zero. In my lifetime, the Giants have never signed one of the offseason's biggest names unless they were already on the team.

The biggest free agents of every year:

  • 2022-23: OF Aaron Judge

Did the Giants land this player: No

As Bob Nightengale explained this month, the Giants had made offers to both Judge and Bryce Harper previously.

  • 2021-22: SS's Corey Seager and Carlos Correa

Did the Giants land either of these players: No

  • 2020-21: SP Trevor Bauer

Several analysts predicting Bauer to the Giants and the Giants were interested in Bauer early on during the offseason.

Did the Giants land this player: No

  • 2019-20: SP Gerrit Cole

Giants' fans loved to speculate that Cole was surely going to come to the Giants because he is married to Brandon Crawford's sister. Obviously, that did not come to fruition.

Did the Giants land this player: No

  • 2018-19: OF Bryce Harper

These odds were not indicative of just how close the Giants came. Reports indicated that it was between the Giants and Phillies, before Harper wound up in the City of Brotherly Love.

Did the Giants land this player: No

  • 2017-18: SP Yu Darvish/OF J.D. Martinez

This year is an outlier as reports never indicated the Giants were were heavily involved with either Darvish or Martinez during this offseason. There was supposed interest between the Giants and Tigers for Martinez prior to the 2017 season, but not afterwards.

Did the Giants land either of these players: No

  • 2016-17: OF Yoenis Cespedes

The Giants were heavily involved in talks with both Yoenis Cespedes and closer Aroldis Chapman during the 2016-17 offseason, two of the biggest free agents that year. They landed neither.

Did the Giants land this player: No

  • 2015-16: SP David Price

The Giants were heavily invested in signing David Price in 2015. They didn't land him. They did, however, end up with Johnny Cueto, who wound up doing very well by the Bay in his first season there. That said, he was not considered even a top-five free agent that offseason.

Did the Giants land this player: No

  • 2014-15: SP's Max Scherzer and Jon Lester

Scherzer was undoubtedly the top free agent during the 2014-15 offseason. And while most reports indicated that the Giants were not looking to pursue Scherzer, Lester was the second-best option, and they did go after him.

Did the Giants land either of these players: No

That is every year since the Giants' most recent World Series. They've been interested in almost every top free agent every fall. And every winter fans get excited to see a new superstar in orange and black. It never comes to fruition in spring though.

Does this go beyond 2014?

There were reports indicating the Giants were interested in signing Alex Rodriguez back in 2007. That was a year after the Giants signed Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract, which was ironically the last time the Giants landed one of MLB's top free agents. That Zito contract did not end well. Zito never recorded a single season with a sub-4 ERA with the Giants.

Is the Giants' general manager to blame?

While it would be easy to blame the Giants' general manager for falling short on all these free agents, the team has had four different GMs since the 2015 season.

  • Brian Sabean, 1996-2015

  • Bobby Evans, 2015-2018

  • Scott Harris, 2019-2022

  • Pete Putila, 2022-2023

It hasn't been just one guy unwilling to make a giant splash. It's just been a sickness that gets passed down from GM to GM.

How likely is it that the Giants sign Ohtani and/or Yamamoto?

MLB Network's Jon Morosi previously tied Giants' interest to Yamamoto. And Bob Nightengale had this to say about Ohtani after the recent GM meetings, "And it would be foolish to count out the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets or even San Francisco Giants."

If the Giants are going to sign either of these mega stars, Yamamoto seems the most likely considering Ohtani is well-regarded as the top option between the two.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi flew to Japan earlier this year to see Yamamoto pitch in person. But Yamamoto has also expressed interest in only signing with an MLB team that has:

  1. Another Japanese player

  2. A chance to contend immediately

The Giants have no Japanese players. They also don't have a huge history of Japanese players. Only five Japanese ballplayers have ever suited up for the Giants. (I know, the link says six, but Shun Yamaguchi has never played in a regular season game for San Francisco.) The most recent Japanese player to play for the Giants is Nori Aoki, and he last played for them in 2015.

As for competitiveness...yeah, the Giants aren't really there yet. They've only finished above .500 in one of the last seven seasons and have not won a playoff series in that time. They are also in the same division as the reigning NL Champion Arizona Diamondbacks, the always competitive Los Angeles Dodgers, and the always promising yet underperforming San Diego Padres.

On the Ohtani side, the MVP has claimed that the Giants are one of his preferred destinations, but it's tough for the Giants to compete with the sales pitches that Ohtani's other favorites can put forward. The Texas Rangers are the reigning World Series champions. The Los Angeles Dodgers are always World Series contenders. The Boston Red Sox are one of the most storied franchises in MLB history. The New York Mets love to spend big money to get the guys they want. Meanwhile, the Angels are, of course, where Ohtani currently plays.

If the Giants are sure they will not be outbid for either one of these players, then by all means, the ball is in their court. Nothing speaks louder than money, and the Giants seem inclined to shout. That said, as a Giants fan myself, I'm not holding my breath. Just make sure they don't sign with the Dodgers.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: SF Giants have clear history in signing players like Ohtani, Yamamoto