The Los Angeles Angels made the decision to not trade Shohei Ohtani at the MLB’s trade deadline earlier this month. It was a decision that was widely criticized, but one the Angels never really even gave a second thought, as Arte Moreno refused to part with a player of Ohtani’s caliber in the middle of a season.
Had the Angels pursued a trade, they could have gotten a return similar to what the Washington Nationals received from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Juan Soto. However, Ohtani has just one year of team control remaining after 2022, while Soto has two.
The Angels have one year to try and convince Ohtani to stay, because when Ohtani does hit free agency in the winter of 2023-24, he reportedly is going to command the highest AAV (average annual value) in the history of the sport, according to Jon Heyman of The New York Post:
Word is Ohtani — having a second straight MVP-type season — will surely seek to become the first $50 million (or more) player as a 2024 free agent, and considering his amazing achievements, he deserves to be the game’s best-paid player, as the sport’s true triple threat (hitting, pitching, marketing).
It’s unclear if the Angels would even be willing to pay such a high price tag to keep Ohtani. And if they did, it would become nearly impossible to build a contending roster around him, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon with their combined annual salaries likely stretching past $110 million.
However, rumors state that Moreno would never consider trading Ohtani unless the two-way superstar openly expressed his desire to be dealt or made a proclamation that he would not re-sign under any circumstances.
Folks around the Angels believe there was one real hope to do the right thing — which is trade Ohtani now — and that was only if he definitively said he wanted out. But that hope dissipated when he was noncommittal in public comments the day after The Post reported the Angels were going to investigate trading him.
To Moreno, a noncommittal statement means there is still a chance for Ohtani to be convinced. And it appears the plan is to try and build a contender in 2023. If they realize early on in the offseason that they won’t be able to do that, perhaps the Angels could then look into an Ohtani trade.
In a way, Moreno’s commitment to trying to win is admirable. But in the eyes of most baseball personnel around the league, the responsible thing to do would have been to command a Soto-like haul to replenish the farm system and build around Trout and Rendon in the coming years.
Michael Lorenzen hopes to stay with Angels
Another Angels two-way player, Michael Lorenzen, hits free agency this winter after signing a one-year deal in Anaheim in 2021. Given that he missed most of this season with injury, his value on the open market shouldn’t be too high.
And if he had it his way, he would return to the Angels for another chance to compete alongside Ohtani, Trout, and Rendon.