Shohei Ohtani could be on the move.
As shocking as that sounds, the Angels’ two-way superstar is being made available in trade talks ahead of the Aug. 2 trade deadline, the New York Post’s Jon Heyman reported Friday. However, a pair of executives told Heyman that they doubt the Angels agree to trade the budding legend.
Friday’s report comes a day after Ohtani, whose contract expires at the end of 2023, made noncommittal comments about his future following his start against the Rangers.
“Regardless of where I’m playing, I’m going to give it my all and try to win that ballgame in front of me,” Ohtani said. “I’m with the Angels right now, and I’m very thankful for what they’ve done. I love my team and my teammates. Right now I’m an Angel, and that’s all I can focus on.”
In his start on Thursday, Ohtani struck out 11 Rangers hitters and allowed just two runs over six innings pitched. However, Los Angeles lost 2-0, falling to 42-57 on the season. Thursday was just another game over the last two seasons in which the Angels received an outstanding performance from Ohtani but still lost.
Los Angeles’ inability to consistently get strong performances from the rest of its roster when Ohtani and Mike Trout play well is part of the reason why MLB on FOX analyst Dontrelle Willis believes the franchise has to seriously consider trading one of its phenoms.
“You’re going to have to retain the farm for him and the one thing that’s failed the Angels and the organization is frontline pitching that you can control,” Willis said. “They throw all of their money at their offensive players. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they don’t. I think that’s what’s stopped them from getting to the postseason: finding multiple guys that can throw strikes.
“We love Shohei Ohtani. We love Sho-time. But he pitches once a week. So you need other guys to fill in the rotation and get quality outings to give this offense a chance. It feels like we’ve talked about this year after year for the past decade: Will the Angels get into the postseason? Will the Angels do this with two of the best players in the game? Well, the bottom line is this starts and ends on the mound. You have to get zeros. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how talented one or two players are.”
Willis and fellow MLB on FOX analyst Frank Thomas both pondered how good it would be for the game if Ohtani ended up on a contender, especially one in a major market.
“I think that’s great for the game of baseball, getting him on the big stage,” Willis said. “We’ve seen him in the All-Star Game. We’ve seen how much joy he brings everybody. Could you imagine him starting against a Gerrit Cole or a [Jacob] deGrom in the [playoffs]? My goodness.”
Despite his Cy Young-worthy stats (9-6 with a 2.81 ERA in 2022) and All-Star level hitting (.254 batting average with 21 homers and 59 RBIs), Ohtani might not be the most valuable player on the trade market ahead of the deadline. Nationals outfielder Juan Soto could have that claim because he’s five years younger (23 to Ohtani’s 28) and his contract is a year longer than Ohtani’s.
However, Thomas said he would rather have “the unicorn.”
“Give me the guy who’ll give me a chance on the mound and a guy who can give me 45 home runs,” Thomas said. “I mean honestly, this is prime ticket time for him. If he goes somewhere like New York City, with him pitching one day and the next he hits home runs, they’ll be talking about this guy like he’s Godzilla, for real. I mean, that’s just what it is. He didn’t come over from Japan to lose.”
The Angles haven’t made the postseason since 2014.
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