Heading into the All-Star Break, the Los Angeles Angels found themselves in a familiar situation: out of playoff contention with questions surrounding one of their generational talents.
Shohei Ohtani has been playing some of the best baseball of his big league career, collectively at the plate and on the mound. Even after his June 22 outing against the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves, he still carries an ERA of 2.20 in 49 innings, and has posted a 148 wRC+ since June 2.
His future remain uncertain with the Angels, but Angels owner, Arte Moreno, has expressed his desire to retain the reigning MVP even though the writing may be on the wall considering Ohtani’s comments in the past, via Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
Moreno, in the words of a person who knows him well, likes “bright shiny objects,” as evidenced by his series of splashy free-agent signings over the years, from Albert Pujols to Josh Hamilton to Anthony Rendon. Ohtani is perhaps the brightest, shiniest object of all, and he generates around $10 million of advertising revenue annually, according to the Los Angeles Times. In addition, the person said, Moreno knows he is a target of fan unrest with the team likely to miss the playoffs for the eighth straight year, and “doesn’t want to be vilified more.”
Fellow teammate Mike Trout is currently in the middle of a 12 year commitment to the Angels worth $426.5 million and although he has maintained a focus to the franchise, Ohtani has been forthright about his desire to win.
For the Angels to sign Ohtani to an unprecedented deal considering his ability as the modern-day two-way phenomenon that the baseball world hasn’t seen since Babe Ruth would be the easy thing to do. But for a club that has not made the playoffs in eight seasons and has endured wasted seasons from both Trout, and Anthony Rendon, the tough, smart decision would be to capitalize on his value.
There is no wrong answer for the Angels, Moreno and general manager Perry Minasian, but it all depends on the avenue in which they choose with Ohtani.
Teams calling to express interest in Ohtani
In the Angels’ last 49 games, they are 12-37 and have taken a complete nosedive out of the American League playoff picture. Throughout this dismal downturn, however, Ohtani has been flat out incredible.
Prior to the seventh inning of Friday night’s game against the Braves, Ohtani had pitched a stretch of 45.2 innings in which he allowed just two runs on 21 hits and 11 walks while striking out 69 batters.
It was by far the best stretch of his career on the mound, and it led to six consecutive Angels wins when he was the starting pitcher. But rival teams took note of the fact that between June 3 and July 16, the Angels were 6-28 when Ohtani was not the starting pitcher.
This led to increased chatter league-wide that the Angels may be forced to trade Ohtani, rather than re-sign him to a massive contract extension during the 2023-24 offseason.