Against All Logic, Are the Angels Going to Hang Onto Shohei Ohtani and Let Him Walk in Free Agency?

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Against All Logic, Are the Angels Going to Hang Onto Shohei Ohtani and Let Him Walk in Free Agency?

Chicago Cubs

It was already an anticipated offseason storyline: with no progress made on extension talks between the Los Angeles Angels and two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, the Angels would presumably explore the trade market – aggressively – to try to get some organizational-shifting prospects in return for the final year of Ohtani’s team control.

Then, with an announcement that Arte Moreno is exploring a sale of the Angels – the kind of announcement that always, always, always winds up eventually leading to a sale – it seemed all the more likely that the Angels would follow the Nationals’ path with Juan Soto, and trade a star now so that new ownership is in a better spot (from a PR perspective, if nothing else) when they come in.

But these assumptions – logical as they may be – were maybe not reasonable when attached to Moreno’s ownership. This is from Ken Rosenthal’s latest notes:

The Lerner family, which owns the Nationals, did not prevent the team’s front office from trading Juan Soto with the franchise for sale. Moreno, though, restricted the Angels’ front office from doing the same with Ohtani at the Aug. 2 deadline – and he knew by that time he was putting the team up for sale, major-league sources said.

The Angels did not make the news official until Tuesday, but Moreno, according to one of the sources, was charting this course for at least two months. It has been nearly three months since his deal with the City of Anaheim to purchase Angel Stadium and the surrounding land for $320 million fell through.

So, if Moreno wouldn’t approve a trade of Ohtani at the deadline, a reversal would seem unlikely this offseason, when the return for a player entering his walk year would be less. The mishandling of the matter is typical Moreno, who has shown a repeated lack of feel on major moves. He seemingly does not want to trade one of his biggest prizes, and that is that.

I don’t want to say it’s absolutely ridiculous to NOT trade a once-in-a-generation superstar, but this does feel like a unique circumstance where it seems a little silly not to do it.

For one thing, with a sale looming, are the Angels really going to ball out to try to win in 2023? That would be among the only reasons to keep Ohtani – from a baseball ops perspective – and it’s not like they’ve had a lot of success in the standings, even with him in the fold. I don’t see them spending/trading aggressively to supplement from here.

The other prominent baseball ops reason to keep Ohtani would be that you feel strongly about your position to extend him or sign him next offseason. But, again, extension talks have gone nowhere and with ownership in flux, how is anyone going to sign off on a $400+ million extension? It does not seem realistic.

So you might have a situation where, no matter what, Ohtani is leaving after 2023, and it’s not at all clear that the team can win in 2023. Why would you not trade him this offseason in that case? It does not make sense.

Which, I know, Moreno hasn’t always made sense. But this still seems a bit too far for me to buy. I think Ohtani will ultimately be aggressively shopped this offseason, and this is mostly just posturing. We saw some of this same kind of dancing with Soto earlier in the summer.

And if you want Shohei Ohtani long-term, your only shot might be to acquire him in trade and then sign him to a huge extension. I get all the risks in doing that for a guy who turns 29 next year and has already had one arm surgery, but he’s a unicorn. A true unicorn. An international superstar. An ace pitcher. A huge bat. All in one package.

Arg, I just let myself start dreaming …

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.