The Ohtani Conundrum

The Angels have a large decision to make not only for this season but for the future of the franchise. Shohei Ohtani will absolutely hit free agency this offseason barring a major miracle. The Angels, as of 5/26/2023 are sitting at 28-23. Although they are in the playoff picture, this is also a good point to look at some potential options when it comes to the team in general and Shohei Ohtani in particular.

As I see it, there are two options the Angels have. They can either be extremely active in acquiring talent throughout the trade deadline and beyond or they can be extremely active in selling off talent. Perry Minasian has a very solid base created for the Angels. The major league roster has very good positional depth around the diamond, the starting rotation has all the makings to be very good with a touch more consistency 1-6, and the bullpen has 3 or so foundational pieces with a lot of possibilities to be very deep though 5 or 6 pitchers. The farm system has good players on all levels and seems to have them developing at a solid clip. As the article progresses there will be some options laid out and a prediction of where it would leave the Angels for the future.

Option #1: Full Aggression for a Deep Playoff Run This Year (Operation Keep Shohei)

The Angels in the field and on offense are pretty good with players coming back soon to solidify depth around the infield. The outfield is 5 solid currently with other outfielders major league ready in the minors and the catching is good enough unless you want a one year rental for depth with zero promises for next season (i.e. Yasmani Grandal). Pitching will be the biggest need of upgrading. Aaron Loup needs to go sadly. He is on IL currently, but he has STRUGGLED! Also, Loup is the third most effective left handed reliever in the Bullpen. Tucker Davidson and Matt Moore have out preformed him by leaps and bounds. Relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Liam Hendriks and Craig Kimbrel would make sense to take some high leverage innings and also keep the bullpen fresh for high leverage situations. I could even see the Angels going after a starter like Lucas Giolito or Eduardo Rodgriguez and then maybe move Chase Silseth or Canning to the bullpen. It would all depend on trade cost and long term views of players currently in the Angels umbrella system.

Option #2: The Angels Trade the Big Names

In this situation the Angels decide that they are not winning this year, and also decide that they are going to create a slight rebuild while keeping most of the solid pieces they currently have on the roster. The pieces I feel would be looked at in this scenario are Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Tyler Anderson, Carlos Estevez, Matt Thiass, Jo Adell, David Fletcher. Of those players, I feel the ones who will get the least return is unfortunately Trout and Rendon. Both of them are still high quality, every day starter major leaguers at worst, but with their injury history and need for rest days to maximize health their returns will be less than a slightly younger and more healthy producer of similar numbers. Matt Thiass is an interesting piece in this equation. I think if you find the right contender in need of a left handed hitting catcher who is well above average this season you could get a good compensation of young players and draft choices which is what the Angels would covet in this situation. As far as trading Shohei Ohtani here is an example of the type of package I would want for Shohei. From the Dodgers I would be looking for something like this: Brusdar Graterol, Nick Nastrini, River Ryan, and Andy Pages. This would give the Angels a plus bull pen arm, two young arms that should progress to the majors pretty quickly, and a very good outfielder to fill any likely deals for outfielders on the Angels roster currently to continue with the solid depth that Perry Minasian has created. Many will say that is not enough for Shohei but remember that he is essentially a rental for any trade destination and not a promise that he will resign.

Option #3 The Nuclear Option

This one is the option that is my least favorite at this point and here’s why. Call me an eternal optimist or whatever you feel but I still think that by the end of the year this Angels team will get it figured out and be right there for not only a playoff berth but a deep run in the playoffs. This team has fight with the bats and also their pitchers have shown that they can get the job done as well but not consistent enough yet. In this option, Perry Minasian and Arte Moreno decide to trade any and all not named Zach Neto, Logan O’Hoppe, and maybe Ben Joyce and Sam Bachman. Anyone else is available to the highest bidder who is willing to give high end prospects and draft picks in the first 5 rounds. The fallout: This will push the window to competitive excellence back for years. This will make the Angels a feeding ground for poor attendance and will set a culture of just pure development and have the major league team be a testing ground to perpetually see who is ready for trade which is sad for the fans especially!

Option #4 A Small Well-Selected Trade or Two

This could end up being the correct course of action depending on how the next 40 or so games go. If I was forced to predict the path with how the season has gone so far, this seems like the poorest of the options, hence its #4 ranking. This idea would be to pick up one or two pieces that fit both the needs of the club and also do not handcuff the roster for the future. With a small trade or two for pitching, maybe this also leads to a call up for one of the bullpen arms who the organization feels is ready for the majors and will have success.

I am hopeful and excited to see the season play out. I have faith in Perry Minasian and the decisions he has made thus far.

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