Pressure continues to mount for the Angels as the trade deadline draws closer. While trading Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout feels unlikely despite the swirling rumor mill, the clock is ticking for them to stop wasting their two transcendent stars and field a playoff-caliber team.
Trout has made the playoffs just once in his 12 years with the Angels. Ohtani is still waiting for his postseason debut in his fifth year with the Angels taking a step back following his MVP season in 2021
The two-way superstar made history Thursday, as it seems like he does every start, by becoming the second player in MLB history to record 10-plus strikeouts in six straight starts. The other is Nolan Ryan.
Even with his excellent performance, however, the Angels lost 2-0, in a game emblematic of the issues in Los Angeles. Ohtani is the most valuable player in MLB right now, but even with him playing two high-leverage positions the Angels can’t win around him.
Just as worrisome? The losses are taking its toll on the Angels' MVP.
What did Shohei Ohtani say about the Angels?
When Ohtani was asked about his future with the Angels after the loss, he was focused on the here-and-now and evasive about the future.
“Regardless of where I’m playing, I want to give it my all, try to win the ballgame that’s right in front of me,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, per The Athletic. “I’m with the Angels right now. And I’m very thankful for what they’ve done. I really love the team. I love my teammates. Right now I’m an Angel, and that’s all I can really focus on at this point.”
That’s a non-answer in its own right, and a reality for MLB players around the deadline is that non-answers are the best they can give. But there are other factors to consider with Ohtani.
Him being a free agent after next year gives everything Ohtani says a bit more weight. If the Angels can’t build a winning team next season, they may have to accept the reality he’ll walk to a team that can better build around him.
Why did Shohei Ohtani sign with the Angels?
It’s easy to forget the mad scramble teams made to acquire Ohtani back in 2017. The Yankees and Red Sox were eliminated from contention early, leading to questions about exactly what Ohtani wanted.
When he chose the Angels over the Mariners, Cubs, Padres, Giants, Rangers, and Dodgers, the question arose as to what the x-factor was.
The answer, incidentally, is no longer with the Angels: Current Mets GM Billy Eppler, who made acquiring Ohtani a priority.
Agent (not from CAA) on Ohtani signing: “Eppler made this happen. 100% all him. He has been on Ohtani since he was in HS and I will bet he absolutely crushed the presentation. This is a credit to him.” Eppler visited Japan while with NYY and after becoming LAA GM in Oct. 2015.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 8, 2017
Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, granted further explanation per Yahoo:
While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei’s decision, what mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels. He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals. More than ever, I believe this is not only a special talent but a man of special character, and like everyone else I’m excited to see him in Major League Baseball.
Eppler clearly made an effort to cultivate that bond, so what happens if Perry Minasian has failed to do so?
What are Shohei Ohtani’s contract details?
Because Ohtani was signed at 23 years old, he technically signed as an international amateur. That meant he was subject to rookie wage scale rules.
Ohtani has another season of arbitration next year, and he’s making $5.5 million this season.
When does Shohei Ohtani become a free agent?
The Angels are running out of time to build a contender around Ohtani before he hits the open market.
After 2023, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent and can sign with whomever he wants.
It’s hard to speculate on what Ohtani’s next contract could look like, but it will be immense. As such a rare type of player, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote in June the Angels are aware they’ll have to break Max Scherzer’s record $43.3 million per season.
Will Shohei Ohtani be traded?
Arte Moreno builds his teams from the top down (although he struggles with the down part), so don’t expect Ohtani to get traded any time soon. There are competing reports, however, about how seriously the Angels are listening to Ohtani offers.
The Mets have reportedly inquired about Ohtani’s availability, which makes sense give Eppler’s past with the two-way superstar.
However, the package would likely dwarf the compensation the Nationals will inevitably get for Soto, so teams may be reticent to pony up for a player who is a free agent after this season.
With that being said, a competitive team may force the Angels' hand. With them nearly out of the playoff race this year, they must be aware they need to make waves in his final contract year next season. The pressure is on for Minasian, and the clock is ticking.