Shohei Ohtani wants to win, knows he can’t with Angels

Shohei Ohtani is a planner.

The day before the All-Star Game, Ohtani admitted he has long dreamed of being inducted into the Hall of Fame and revealed his move to the major leagues was timed to optimize his chances.

The American League leadoff batsman also spoke about wanting to represent Japan at next year’s World Baseball Classic, saying he’s raised the issue informally with Angels officials who sound like they’ll allow him to play in the tournament.

Here’s what’s concerning for the Angels: when asked about his future with the franchise on Monday, he responded with a series of no-answers.

Ohtani did not say he wanted to be traded before the August 2 deadline. But he also didn’t say he wanted to stay.

“It doesn’t really change what I’m doing, of course,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “As long as I’m with the Angels, I want to do my job as well as possible. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but like I said, I want to focus game after game on what I have to do, pitching and hitting.”

Does he feel he doesn’t want to be traded?

“That will depend more than my feelings on what the organization wants to do,” he said. “When it comes to something I can’t control, I don’t really have a sense of what I want.”

As for his future with the team, Ohtani said: “I don’t know.”

He certainly made no reason to be kept.

By now, Ohtani should have a good idea of ​​whether he wants to play for the Angels beyond next season, after which he will be eligible for free agency.

Ohtani doesn’t often speak in concrete terms, but when he does, his utterances sound like personal manifestos, which is why the widespread expectation in the industry is that he’ll be playing somewhere else in 2024.

Five years ago, at a farewell press conference in Tokyo, Ohtani said he was heading to the big leagues to become world No. 1. When asked about the World Series, he replied, “As someone aiming to become the No. 1 player in the world, I think it’s a place to get past.”

After the Angels fell out of competition last year, Ohtani said, “I like the fans. I like the atmosphere in the organization. But my will to win is stronger.”

Well, he won’t be winning with the Angels any time soon, despite his claims on Monday about their potential to do so.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch in the second inning against the Houston Astros.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani plays a second inning against the Houston Astros on July 13 at Angel Stadium.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Ohtani is too smart not to see that.

That doesn’t mean general manager Perry Minasian should trade him. Trade it and then what? The source of the team’s problems will still be there. The Angels will continue to be owned by Arte Moreno.

Moreno can reference his $190 million payroll as much as he wants. The reality is that a $190 million payroll isn’t a $190 million payroll when $36 million is slated for Anthony Rendon and the minor league system is too exhausted to provide cost-effective reinforcements. Rendon, who is absent for this season, is the latest of the expensive busts signed at Moreno’s behest, and joins the likes of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

The farm system, neglected by Moreno, does not have a consistent top 100 vantage point.

If they trade Ohtani, they might as well trade Mike Trout, but the owner will inevitably intervene in the rebuild process. The cycle of destruction will repeat itself. If the Angels lose, they might as well lose with Ohtani making them worth watching at least every six days. He’s a generational talent and he’s always improving.

Already, Ohtani is a significantly better pitcher than last year, which he attributed to being another year away from reconstructive elbow surgery. As a pitcher, he’s a 9-4 with an earned run average of 2.38. Ohtani asked not to be pitched in the All-Star Game as he is scheduled to start for the Angels when the regular season resumes on Friday.

“I think the most important thing is that I’m physically able to play every game with maximum effort without hesitation,” he said.

As a batter, Ohtani has 19 homers. This is more or less the kind of two-way performance he had in mind when he came from Japan.

“It didn’t quite go as planned,” he said. “There were injuries. There were seasons when I couldn’t perform the way I wanted to. But when I look at the bigger picture, I think there have been some good seasons. The organization supported me and created an environment where I could play the way I wanted. I appreciate very much.”

Cooperstown was always a target.

“That was one of my goals, so I wanted to get here early,” Ohtani said. “I wanted to be here from a young age to play and raise my level.”

Ohtani arrived in the United States at 23, which limited him to a $2 million bonus for being classified as an international amateur. In another two years, he could have been a free agent and theoretically signed a nine-figure deal.

His plans now include the WBC, provided he is picked by Japan coach Hideki Kuriyama, who managed him for five years with the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

“Of course, if I have the ability, if they choose me, I want to play,” Ohtani said.

He knows what he wants.

Regardless of whether he has informed the angels of his desires, they should not trade him. You cannot trade him. Your only choice is to wait and hope his Japanese sense of duty keeps him here. Shohei Ohtani wants to win, knows he can’t with Angels

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