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  • Writer's pictureChristian Novarro

MLB Winter Meetings: What Will the Angels Do With Frustrated Star Shohei Ohtani

Updated: Jan 17

Following the conclusion of each World Series, Major League Baseball (“MLB”) hosts an annual end-of-season conference in December called the Winter Meetings. It is a four-day event where baseball stakeholders including team executives, agents, and media come together to discuss all things baseball.[2] This convergence sparks communication and creates the perfect opportunity for teams to make flashy offseason deals. Throughout the week, team executives schedule meetings with other organizations and agents to discuss potential trades, extensions, etc.[3] This year, there is no doubt that teams will be lining up to speak with the Los Angeles Angels about their hitting and pitching phenom Shohei Ohtani. While the Angels might be tempted to trade Ohtani before he hits free agency in 2024, they would be wise to retain him in the short term.

Ohtani, the MLB’s reigning MVP, recently stated that he had a “rather negative impression of this [Angels] season”.[4] Despite having two of the best players in baseball in Ohtani and four-time MVP Mike Trout, the Angels finished the 2022 season with a 73-89 record and 33 games behind first place in the American League West Division.[5] With an unhappy superstar on the brink of free agency, it would make sense for the Angels to float Ohtani’s name. Despite his unhappiness however, trading him now would be unwise. Instead, the Angels should merely listen to what other teams might offer for Ohtani and then wait until the 2023 mid-season trade deadline before making any blockbuster Ohtani trade.

Shohei Ohtani is the most coveted player in baseball. In 2021, he led the league in Wins Above Replacement (a metric that measures player value) and finished second this past season.[6] He is the only player in baseball that pitches and hits, and he does both at an elite level comparable to the likes of All-Star Third Baseman Austin Riley in hitting and three-time CY Young Award winner Max Scherzer in pitching:

Hitting Stats:

2022 Shohei Ohtani: .273 AVG/ 34 HR/ 93 RBI/ .356 OBP/ 875 OPS

2022 Austin Riley: .273 AVG/ 38 HR/ 95 RBI/ .349 OBP/ 878 OPS

Pitching Stats:

2022 Shohei Ohtani: 2.33 ERA/ 11.9 K/9/ 1.01 WHIP

2021 Max Scherzer Stats: 2.46 ERA/ 11.8 K/9/ .864 WHIP[7]

As shown above, Ohtani has an elite level of production that could merit a comparably substantial payday. Austin Riley signed a 10-year, $212 million deal in August of 2022 while Max Scherzer inked a three-year, $133 million deal in the 2021 offseason (his average annual salary of $43.333 million is the highest in baseball).[8][9] On a larger scale, Scherzer and Riley’s combined average annual salary is $64.5 million, $3.5 million more than the Oakland Athletics’ 2022 entire payroll ($61 million). Given Shohei Ohtani is practically a combination of these two players, he could soon reach a payday that would see him make more than the combined roster of another MLB team.[10]

With a player of this value, the Angels would need to receive top young talent for any Ohtani trade to be worth it. However, suitors may be limited to big-market teams that have the financial resources to sign Ohtani to a long-term deal. Further limiting potential options, of the big-market teams with top-10 payrolls in 2022, only one has a top-10 farm system that could provide the return on investment the Angels would be seeking: the Los Angeles Dodgers.[11] [12] Given the Dodgers’ recent MLB success and their brand dominance over the Los Angeles metropolitan area, a trade between the two cross-town rivals seems unlikely.

Therefore, with organizations lacking the necessities to sign Ohtani to a long-term contract, he will be treated as a one-year rental. If that is the case, it would make more sense for the Angels to wait to move Ohtani until the 2023 mid-season trade deadline. With the MLB’s recent playoff expansion, there will be an abundance of mid-season buyers in the playoff hunt looking to improve their roster. Teams on the brink of a postseason berth may be more willing to meet the Angels’ steep asking price for Ohtani with the hopes he could contribute to a World Series Championship.

Conversely, it is not crazy for the Angels to think they can compete for a playoff spot in 2023 while the team still rosters its two all-time great talents in Ohtani and Trout. The Angels were one of the best teams in baseball to start the season in 2022. Through the first 44 games they had a 27-17 record before going on a devastating 14-game losing streak.[13] They have played good baseball in the past and if they are able to replicate that next season, Ohtani may be more open to staying with the Angels long-term.

There has never been a player of Ohtani’s talent in such a murky situation heading into the MLB’s Winter Meetings. Ohtani is not just a frustrated superstar; he is two frustrated superstars morphed into one. With a year left on his contract, now is theoretically the perfect time for the Angels to trade Ohtani given what they could receive in exchange. Yet, the Angels could command an even larger return for Ohtani if they hold the star for a bit longer. The next opportunity to negotiate a trade will be at the MLB Winter Meetings and, as a result, all eyes will be on the Angels and their two-way star in December.

References: [2] Anthony Castrovince, Winter Meetings underway: All you need to know, (8th December 2019)

[3] Id.

[4] R.J. Anderson, Shohei Ohtani left with ‘negative impression’ from Angels, but recognizes his own ‘good’ season, (18th October 2022)

[5] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Sam Dykstra, Updated farm system rankings for 2022, (23rd August 2022) [13] Baseball Almanac

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