If you’re the Los Angeles Angels’ front office, what exactly is your selling pitch to Shohei Ohtani when you begin contract negotiations? Money won’t even enter into the equation; Ohtani seems a lock to earn the largest contract in MLB history unless he just decides that’s not important. The Angels will have to convince Ohtani that they represent his best chance of winning a World Series.
That’s a tough sell. The other Hall of Famer on the roster, Mike Trout, has struggled to stay healthy and may be past the point where he is a perennial MVP candidate. The pitching staff lacks a single guy you would feel good about starting a playoff game. Anthony Rendon has three more years on a contract that has paid him $140 million for a total of 3.2 WAR over nearly four seasons. The farm system is ranked in the bottom five by most experts. The payroll already ranks in the top six in MLB, so there isn’t much room to bring in more free agents beyond the extra money they would spend on Ohtani.
Not that spending money would solve anything. Rendon would rank high on any list of the worst free agent signings ever. Their most noteworthy pitching acquisition of the past offseason, Tyler Anderson, has a 5.17 ERA. They gave Aaron Loup $17 million. I don’t even know who Aaron Loup is.
So, if you’re Ohtani, you’ve been a part of this organization since 2018, and nothing has happened in that time to bring you closer to playing in a World Series. In fact, at this point you and Mike Trout are the only thing keeping the franchise from being irrelevant. And, at age 29, you figure the contract you sign this offseason will take you through the best years of your career.
And if you’re running the Angels, you have to look in the mirror and be realistic. If you can do that, the only way you feel good about Ohtani coming back is if he signs an extension before the trade deadline. Which, as far as anyone can tell, very likely isn’t happening.
The worst thing the Los Angeles Angels can do is let the recent hot streak impact a decision that will determine the future of the franchise and Shohei Ohtani
Even after winning four straight, FanGraphs gives the Angels a 13.1 percent chance of making the playoffs. And just making the playoffs these days isn’t that big a deal. Sure, if you’re the Angels, you would be ending one of the longest current playoff droughts in MLB but, of more significance, is that the Angels haven’t won a playoff series since 2009. Even if they sneak into the playoffs this year (they are currently 4.0 games out of the Wild Card entering Sunday’s play, in a cluster of seven teams vying for three spots and separated by 9.5 games), they would be overmatched out of the gate.
Sure, in a short series, Ohtani could be a difference-maker. But do the math: a 16 percent shot at the playoffs, then 50/50 at best to win a series. Even if you pull that off, is Ohtani impressed enough to stick around?
Bad decisions are why the Angels have waited so long to be a playoff team. If they get this decision wrong, it could be another eight years before they taste contention. The right decision here is to put Ohtani on the market next week and see what offers pop up. Get a handful of contenders vying against each other to see who can offer the best package, and sit back and reap the benefits. Painful as it may be, an Ohtani trade is the most likely path to true contention for the Angels.