Enjoy Shohei Ohtani while you can this season, Angels fans
Would the Angels actually trade Shohei Ohtani this season?
There’s no excuse for a big team to sell a star player, but if the Angels had to trade Ohtani, the timing was last year.
If they trade Ohtani three months before he becomes a free agent, the Angels would receive a fraction of the bounty they would have received from trading him a year earlier.
So why is owner Arte Moreno implying the Angels could move Ohtani this summer?
Say goodbye to the vision of a Dodgers-like transformation. Give up the dream of a better tomorrow. Prepare for the worst.
Moreno is back.
I’ve written before that I think it’s in the best interests of Ohtani and baseball for him to sign with another team next winter. He should have a chance to play baseball in October every season, and that’s not going to happen on a team Moreno owns.
That doesn’t mean the angels should just let him go. On the contrary, they must do everything in their power to keep him. If Moreno can’t re-sign Ohtani, what is he even doing in this deal? Losing Ohtani would be the greatest failure of an owner that has become synonymous with failure.
But instead of showing that he’ll fight to keep his main attraction, Moreno has started building a path so he can get out of town. After deciding not to sell the Angels, Moreno immediately resumed a master class on what not to do as a team owner when he interviewed Sports Illustrated this month.
“I’ll put it on record,” Moreno told the publication. “We will not trade Ohtani while we fight for a playoff spot.”
When asked if he would make the same promise for a scenario where the angels don’t argue, Moreno replied, “I won’t answer that, and I’ll tell you why.”
The following explanation was not important. Importantly, Moreno answered the question by not answering it.
He would not promise to keep Ohtani.
Moreno is 76. Maybe he made a mistake. Perhaps he wanted to take some time off in case another pandemic brings the global economy back to its knees. But it’s hard to read this and not believe that the angels will do their main attraction by the deadline.
This again raises the question of why the Angels didn’t sell Ohtani last year if they didn’t plan to keep him regardless of their performance next season. The delay in trading with him could have cost her a chance to replenish her depleted farm system with high-end talent, which could include the New York Yankees’ must-see lookout Jasson Dominguez.
The oddly-timed flip-flop only reinforces the Angels’ industry-wide view that they lack any long-term vision, good or bad, and that affects Moreno.
The good news: Ohtani will be in Southern California for at least four more months.
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The Angels’ appalling failure to capitalize on his presence at a price below market value — he made just $3.5 million when he won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2021 and $5.5 million in the last year – shouldn’t diminish his status as a one-off performer.
Enjoy it while it’s still here.
Entering his sixth season, Ohtani will turn 29 in July, but his most productive years may still be ahead.
With arm problems limiting him to 12 total starts in his first three seasons with the Angels, Ohtani didn’t have his first full season as a two-wayer until 2021.
“He still has limitless room for growth,” San Diego Padres right-hander Yu Darvish said in a recent interview on former Japanese league player Yutaka Takagi’s YouTube channel.
Darvish played with Ohtani for Japan at the World Baseball Classic and kept a close eye on him. In his conversation with Takagi, Darvish mentioned Roki Sasaki, a 21-year-old right-hander who touched 102 mph with his fastball. Sasaki, who plays in the Japanese league, is considered the best pitcher in the world.
Darvish said of Ohtani, “I think he’s a pitcher that has as much room to grow as Sasaki.”
In the WBC Quarterfinals, Ohtani threw a 102 mph fastball against Italy — his fastest recorded throw since signing with the Angels.
On the mound last year, Ohtani was 15-9 with an earned run average of 2.33 in 28 starts. He hit .273 with 34 home runs and 95 runs hit.
Whether the Angels win or lose, Ohtani is a show in itself. In his interview with Sports Illustrated, Moreno used this as justification for rejecting trade offers for him last year. He said Angels fans would “tell their grandkids, ‘I saw Ohtani play.’ ”
Great point. But why doesn’t that logic extend to the upcoming season? Why doesn’t Moreno close the door on trading with Ohtani under any circumstances? So what if Ohtani doesn’t sign a contract extension with the Angels ahead of the season? Shouldn’t they keep him and explore every possibility of a re-signing?
With six teams from each league qualifying for the playoffs, it’s highly likely that the Angels will still be in contention at the close and Ohtani will last through the season. Still, Moreno’s philosophical inconsistencies are alarming, and Ohtani is too observant not to have noticed, despite language barriers.
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Meanwhile, Ohtani must know that the Angels will never win with Moreno at the helm, even if the politeness built into Japanese culture doesn’t allow him to voice those concerns.
A little over a week after the publication of his interview with Sports Illustrated, Moreno spoke again about Ohtani’s future in a scrum with reporters at the Angels’ spring training complex.
Moreno told reporters without any irony: “Ohtani must want to be here too. It’s a one-way street.”
Ohtani wants to win.
Ahead of his start in the WBC Quarterfinals, Ohtani was asked how he smiled and how much fun he seemed to be playing for Japan.
“When you win, it’s fun,” Ohtani told reporters in Tokyo. “When you lose, it’s frustrating. I think it’s that simple.”
Ohtani enjoyed the biggest triumph of his WBC career when he defeated Mike Trout to end Japan’s 3-2 win over the United States in the championship game. He has since returned to an Angels franchise that last made the postseason in 2014.
Next winter, Ohtani has the opportunity to switch to a team that can make the game more fun for him. The angels will be stuck with Moreno.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2023-03-27/angels-shohei-ohtani-arte-moreno-free-agency Enjoy Shohei Ohtani while you can this season, Angels fans