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Should The Angels Trade Shohei Ohtani?

With the Angels floundering as the MLB Trade Deadline approaches, Cam takes a look at the prospect of a Shohei Ohtani trade; where he might go and what it would cost in return.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JUNE 12: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels watches his home run in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on June 12, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

This season started so promising for the Los Angeles Angels. They seemed to bulk up their rotation behind Shohei Ohtani, as well as their bullpen. Mike Trout was entering the season healthy, as well as Anthony Rendon. They signed Brandon Drury in the offseason and had top catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe on the team ahead of schedule.

But O’Hoppe sustained an injury early in the season, and Rendon has been in and out of the lineup all year. And now Trout has his annual injury … this time, a broken bone in his wrist. The team is spiraling entering the All-Star Game. They find themselves one game below .500 and 4.5 games and four teams behind the last wild card spot.

Ohtani is going to be a free agent at the end of the year in what is looking like another non-playoff season for the Angels. Could they actually trade him before the trade deadline in less than a month? More importantly, should they? Both are such difficult questions, but let’s analyze them.

They certainly could trade him, but to whom? Whoever they trade him to will have to be in the playoff race. There are plenty of teams who qualify if that’s the only criteria. But within that grouping of teams, which teams are looking at Ohtani as a pure rental, and which view him as a possible long-term piece that they can re-sign?

For teams like the Rays or Guardians, Ohtani would be a pure rental. I don’t think teams like that would be willing to pay the trade price for just a few months of Ohtani. So that leaves teams who are in the playoff race AND have a realistic chance of signing him to a long-term extension as possible suitors in an Ohtani trade.

I think only two teams fit that mold: the Yankees and the Dodgers. They each have the money to be in on any free agent, and both are in the playoff race. However, the Yankees are currently in a wild card spot and seven games behind the Rays for the division. Would they give up the draft capital to acquire Ohtani in a season where they will not realistically be winning their division or fighting for a bye? GM Brian Cashman hasn’t been overly bold around the trade deadline, and this would be the dictionary definition of bold, so I think no.

So that just leaves the Dodgers. Aside from asking if the Angels could trade Ohtani, I also asked if they should. I’d say the answer to each question is yes … but could and should they trade him to their cross-town rival? When two teams are each vying for the front page of their local newspaper, trading away the Babe Ruth of this generation is a tough thing to do. It took the Boston Red Sox 86 years to overcome trading Ruth to the Yankees. Would the Angels be cursed for trading Ohtani to the Dodgers? At this stage of the game, does it really matter? The Angels aren’t winning now, anyway. With Ohtani’s contract expiring, they should take what they can get, even if it comes from their LA neighbors.

The next question is, what would Ohtani cost the Dodgers in a trade? In looking at their team, it appears the Dodgers are already gearing up for a major run at Ohtani in the free-agent market. They have cleared the decks and only have $75M on their payroll entering next season, with a ton of expiring contracts coming off the books. Jason Heyward, Julio Urías, Noah Syndergaard, David Peralta and Clayton Kershaw are all set to be free agents … although Kershaw will most likely sign another one-year $20M deal. The Dodgers’ current DH, J.D. Martinez, is also coming off the books, a further signal that the Dodgers are attempting to put themselves in a position to acquire Ohtani, no matter what. Acquiring him now would give them a three-month head start to negotiate with him, which is a HUGE advantage.

Any deal for Ohtani would most likely need to feature some major league talent as well as a slew of prospects. A trade including pitchers Tony Gonsolin and Brusdar Graterol, who are each under the Dodgers’ control through 2027, seems logical. On the prospect side, the Dodgers would have to give up players like outfielder Andy Pages (their No. 6 prospect), infielder Jorbit Vivas (No. 13) and pitcher Nick Frasso (No. 9) … if not more.

Part of the deal could also include a swap of Max Muncy, who has another year left on his deal, with Anthony Rendon and his remaining $114M. This would free up a ton of salary for the Angels; even if they split the cost, it would save them $57M. The Dodgers have a history of doing this. When they acquired Mookie Betts from the Red Sox, they also took on David Price’s lousy contract in the deal.

I think the Angels could and should trade Ohtani. And as much as it may kill Angels fans to see him go, especially to their NL counterparts in the Dodgers, it’s the most logical, and in many ways, the only, landing spot for him. If you roster Ohtani in your AL-Only fantasy league, as I do, you’re praying this doesn’t happen. But at this point, I’d be shocked if it doesn’t.