Shohei Ohtani’s patience may be wearing thin with the Angels’ consistent lack of success. Los Angeles’s two-way superstar has repeatedly indicated his desire to win to the press, sparking a plethora of rumors regarding his intentions once he becomes a free agent. With only one season left until he is scheduled to hit the open market, every word that comes out of Ohtani’s mouth is going to be perceived as a potential clue as to his future plans.
On Tuesday, Ohtani arrived home in his Japan where he spoke with reporters, including Koji Ueda of the Associated Press. This time, he not only reiterated his commitment to winning, but explicitly stated his disappointment with the Angels’ inability to win. Speaking in Japanese, Ohtani said that “August and September in particular felt longer to me than last year” because the Angels “were not able to play as many good games as we would like — including 14 consecutive losses. So I have a rather negative impression of this season.”
These statements lamenting the final stretch of the Angels’ season come even as Ohtani closed his season on an absolute tear. From August on, the reigning AL MVP slashed .303/.363/.560, posted a wRC+ of 156, and logged a 1.62 ERA over 66 2/3 innings. It speaks volumes about Ohtani’s team-first mentality that he would describe August and September as specifically woeful, considering how fantastic his individual performance was during that timeframe.
The Angels finished 73-89 in 2022, 13 games back of Tampa Bay for the final wild card spot. In Ohtani’s five seasons, the Halos have never had a record at or above .500 and have ended each season at least ten games behind the AL West champion, despite frequently getting world-class production out of Ohtani and Mike Trout. They will also face difficulties in changing their fortunes going forward. The Angels’ farm system was ranked dead last in MLB.com’s 2022 midseason rankings and features only one top-100 prospect in catcher Logan O’Hoppe (#67). As such, they do not have many young assets with which they could flip into Major League-ready players via trade. Also, with owner Arte Moreno exploring a sale of the club, it’s unknown how willing he will be to make major investments in the free agent market this winter.
With the club underperforming this year, the Angels considered Ohtani trades at the deadline but Moreno reportedly put the kibosh on that plan. Of course, if the team has a new owner, that has the potential to change things. If the team is having another disappointing season as next year’s deadline approaches, the trade rumors will only grow louder.
Like everything involving Ohtani, his trade market would no doubt be unprecedented and allow the Angels to add a large pile of young talent to their system. In fact, Ohtani has already demonstrated a capacity to break records on the market, having agreed to a $30 million contract in his final year of arbitration, the largest ever for an arbitration eligible player.
What is uncertain is which team would have the motivation and assets to unload a massive prospect haul for one guaranteed year, or just a few months, of Ohtani. Contending teams would be most likely to hedge a big chunk of their future to do so, but there are only so many contenders with sufficient farm systems to land him. The Dodgers, Guardians, and Rays are the only three playoff teams with farm systems ranked in the top 10 of MLB.com’s 2022 midseason farm system rankings. Additionally, the Mets, Cardinals, and Yankees all have at least four top-100 prospects that, if included in a theoretical deal, could help a deal come together.
Whether Ohtani stays an Angel or is traded somewhere else, speculation regarding his future is sure to dominate headlines in 2023.