Angels general manager Perry Minasian spoke to the media yesterday and was asked how the club would approach the trade deadline in relation to Shohei Ohtani. “I think anybody that’s watched us play and where we’re at in the standings … I think it’s pretty self-explanatory with where we’re at,” Minasian said, as relayed by Sam Blum of The Athletic. When asked if the club’s performance over the next few weeks would impact that stance, he doubled down. “Pretty self-explanatory with where we’re at.”
The standings that he is referring to have the Angels currently at 41-34 as of this writing. That’s good enough to have them in position to secure one of the Wild Card spots in the American League. That would seem to mean that his “self-explanatory” comment is implying that, as a team firmly in contention, they will hold onto Ohtani rather than consider trade scenarios.
That’s a fairly understandable position to take, all things considered. Ohtani is a rental player, in that he’s slated to become a free agent at the end of this season. Players in that situation are often traded or featured in trade rumors, but they usually go from teams outside of contention to those who are in the hunt for the postseason.
Fans of rival clubs have naturally salivated over the possibility of an Ohtani trade for quite some time for a number of reasons. He is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player alive and continues to rack up stunning accolades on both sides of the ball. He already has one Most Valuable Player award and is making a strong case for another this year. His 24 home runs lead the league and his batting line of .295/.379/.623 amounts to a wRC+ of 170. In addition to that, he’s made 14 starts as a pitcher and has a 3.29 ERA.
That kind of elite play on both sides of the ball would be an upgrade to every club in the league and it’s difficult to even quantify how much to value it since it is so unique. The Angels would undoubtedly be able to recoup a massive haul if they made him available in trade talks but they would also severely undercut their own chances of success this year. Some observers might suggest that making the long-term move would be wise, but it’s understandable that the appetite for that path would be minimal. The club hasn’t posted a winning record since 2015, hasn’t made the playoffs since 2014 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009. Punting away their best chance in quite some time would be quite a tough pill to swallow.
That’s not to say that there’s zero chance of an Ohtani trade coming together. The club was willing to listen to offers last year when they were 42-57 and well out of contention. At that time, Ohtani still had a year and a half before his impending free agency. Ultimately, no deal came together and the club tried to compete again here in 2023 with Minasian firmly declaring they wouldn’t entertain Ohtani trades. They grabbed complementary players like Brandon Drury, Hunter Renfroe and Carlos Estévez and are now having their best season in recent memory. The club has also maintained that it would like to keep Ohtani beyond this season but hasn’t been able to get him to commit to anything thus far and will only have a harder time as he gets closer to the open market.
That would seem to create the possibility that there’s some scenario where the club plays poorly enough in the next six weeks that a deal becomes more likely, though Minasian understandably had little interest in entertaining such a hypothetical while the team is in a fairly decent place. It seems the most likely scenario is that the Angels will hold onto Ohtani through season’s end and hope that they can finally break some of their streaks of ineffectiveness. Doing so would still allow them to give Ohtani a qualifying offer at season’s end and receive a compensatory draft pick, likely just before the third round of the 2024 draft. Rivals teams would undoubtedly be willing to give the Halos a package far more appealing than that single draft pick, though it seems like that’s not something they are seriously considering as long as they continue to play well.
Quickly turning to non-Ohtani matters, Blum says that it appears Gio Urshela might have to miss the remainder of the season. The infielder was placed on the injured list this week due to a pelvic fracture and the club has yet to provide any kind of official estimated timeline for his absence. If it is indeed true that he won’t be able to return this year, that would be a blow to their infield depth. He has appeared at all four infield positions so far this year while hitting .299/.329/.374. With fellow infielders Zach Neto and Anthony Rendon also currently on the IL and other players struggling, the loss of a versatile defender like Urshela would be significant.