Sunday, August 14, 2022

Angels trading Shohei Ohtani is extremely unlikely, but not out of the question, per report

Would the Los Angeles Angels really trade All-Star pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani while he’s at the peak of his career? It’s been a question bandied about for a few weeks now. 

Thursday, the New York Post reported that there’s at least a remote possibility it could happen. An Ohtani trade remains “extremely unlikely,” but the Angels are “perhaps for the first time not hanging up the phone” when teams come calling on Ohtani, so says the report. 

Speculation here is that the Angels would wait until after a Juan Soto trade and then any team wanting Ohtani would need to beat whatever the Nationals got for Soto. Soto is younger and likely more of a sure thing moving forward, but Ohtani is essentially two players. 

In 409 plate appearances, Ohtani has hit .257/.352/.492 (136 OPS+) with 16 doubles, two triples, 21 homers, 59 RBI, 55 runs and 11 steals. In 16 starts on the mound, he’s 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA (144 ERA+), 1.00 WHIP and 134 strikeouts against 23 walks in 93 1/3 innings. The Angels are 9-7 when he’s the starting pitcher and 33-49 when he’s not. 

Ohtani, 27, is only making $5.5 million this season. He’ll hit free agency after the 2023 season. 

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There are a convergence of factors that make a trade here incredibly complicated but also worth discussing. 

We’ve got to consider how good Ohtani is both at hitting and pitching. He’s already unique there. Then there’s how little money he makes compared to how productive he is. There’s the extra year of team control, so he’s not a “rental,” but it’s only one more year before he’s a free agent. The Angels are terrible and not looking much like a team ready to contend in 2023, either, so that’s another factor. Ohtani has expressed his desire, multiple times, to play for a winner. Of course, it’s not like he has the leverage to have a say here, as he doesn’t have a no-trade clause. 

Those seem like some defensible reasons for a non-contender to trade a player. 

He’s also insanely popular and still a big draw at the ballpark, even with the Angels out of contention. Angels owner Arte Moreno surely doesn’t want to part with this type of generational talent. Would the Angels even be able to get enough value back in a trade? And they should be trying to contend next season, given where Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon are in terms of age and how much money they make. Dealing Ohtani would seem like waving the white flag on next year, too. 

The best bet is Ohtani stays put through the trade deadline, but it’s at least worth thinking through what a trade would look like at this point. 

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