Shohei Ohtani staying with Angels? Dodgers history might provide clues

The Angels have not had a playoff team since 2014. Now that Arte Moreno said he is considering selling the team, what happens to the current team and what does Shohei Ohtani’s future with the Angels look like?

There won’t be any answers for a while, but the scenario isn’t new to Southland baseball fans.

The Angels’ potential sale comes about 10 years after the Dodgers went through a change of ownership. Ned Colletti was the team’s general manager when Frank McCourt agreed to sell the team in November 2011.

“We had a payroll, we had a budget, and we did what we did,” Colletti said. “Our payroll has gone down. We just had to work with what we had. We weren’t banned from doing transactions, but we had a budget we could live with.”

The Dodgers’ payroll was about $120 million at the start of the 2011 season. At the start of the 2012 season, it was about $105 million, which meant 10th place in baseball.

The 2012 Angels, who finished third in the American League West and failed to make the playoffs, had a payroll of over $151 million. After the sale of Dodgers to Guggenheim became official in May 2012, the payroll increased dramatically, ending the year at approximately $129 million.

Former Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti walks a red carpet in 2017.

Former Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti is no stranger to MLB franchise ownership changes.

(Jordan Strauss / Jordan Strauss/invision/ap)

“My roster had a lot of players on one-year contracts who could play hard, weren’t overly talented, and had a certain age in the team,” Colletti said. “We were trying to find players who would sign a one-year contract, who would compete. That was the goal at the beginning of 2012.”

Veterans Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy, Jamey Wright and Matt Treanor were among eight veterans who signed one- and two-year contracts in the winter leading up to the 2012 season. And everyone understood what it was about.

Hairston knew he wanted to retire and sign a contract for no more than two years when he and his agent spoke to the Dodgers.

“I wasn’t Matt Kemp, I wasn’t Derek Jeter, but I was dying to sign a two-year deal,” Hairston said of his two-year, $6 million deal. “Obviously it wouldn’t hurt the sale of the team because it wasn’t outrageous. But I knew that was the process. … And I knew whoever bought the Dodgers would take them to new heights.”

Asked if he could offer any advice to players like the Angels heading into an off-season where new ownership of the team is being discussed, Hairston said: “No matter what, your job is to be a baseball player. It doesn’t matter who owns the franchise. There is only so much you can control. You cannot control this aspect. All you can control is the performance on the field.”

After the Dodgers’ new ownership took hold, Colletti made a series of midseason moves, including signing Yasiel Puig and Julio Urías and trading for Adrián González and Hanley Ramírez. The Dodgers (86-76) made a late-season push but were eliminated from the wildcard race in the penultimate game of the season.

In the winter leading up to the 2012 season, the Dodgers faced a similar situation as the Angels now — a star on the fringes of a free hand. McCourt signed Kemp, the 2011 National League MVP runner-up, to an eight-year, $160 million contract, the largest contract in NL history at the time.

The Angels had the opportunity to do what the Dodgers did to Kemp with Ohtani, but instead worked out a one-year, $30 million deal for the 2023 season. This deal allows Ohtani and the Angels to avoid arbitration – Ohtani was eligible for arbitration after this season.

Ohtani remains eligible for free agency after the 2023 season.

In contrast, the Washington Nationals, also up for sale, have not ceded Juan Soto’s future to a new owner. The Nationals traded Soto to the San Diego Padres. The Nationals offered Soto a $440 million 15-year extension that season, but he turned it down.

The Angels did not comment on questions about off-season baseball operations under their policy while the team reviews a sale.

Every sale brings its own challenges.

During the offseason before Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler bought the Padres in August 2012, San Diego signed just one free agent, veteran Mark Kotsay, to a one-year deal. The Miami Marlins, traded to Bruce Sherman in 2017, signed five veterans to one- and two-year contracts in the winter before the official sale, including Edinson Vólquez and AJ Ellis.

When the Kansas City Royals went through one in 2019, Dayton Moore, the team’s general manager at the time, took it as usual.

“I have a strong sense of what we can and can’t do economically,” Moore, who was promoted to president of baseball operations for the season, said in a September interview. “And I knew there was a change in ownership and acted accordingly. I knew where we were in the rebuilding process.”

The Royals won two American League pennants and a World Series during Moore’s tenure as GM. He was fired on September 21, three years after changing ownership. The Dodgers won NL West titles in 2013 and 2014, but Colletti was removed as GM two years after the ownership change.

The Angels, under Perry Minasian, who signed a four-year contract as GM in November 2020, had a 77-85 record in 2021 and are at 73-86 in 2022. Shohei Ohtani staying with Angels? Dodgers history might provide clues

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