By Ron Johnson
Who Wins the Ohtani Sweepstakes?
The trade deadline for MLB is right around the corner, and while there is an array of talent that could be seeing new faces and new places, the spotlight will truly be on the two entities: The Angels and Shohei Ohtani.
There seems to be a lot of teams that could benefit from having a Swiss Army Knife Hybrid like Ohtani, but the question is who is most assured of giving Ohtani what he truly desires. He may not have openly said it, but we all know that he wants to hoist up that World Series Championship before he calls it a career. Now MLB has what they call the perfect suitors to Ohtani’s services, however, I’m one of those that feels the need to take that secondary look at their thoughts.
Tampa Bay Rays
MLB.Com: “But if Ohtani’s main objective is to win, playing for the team leading the toughest division in baseball should sound desirable. The need is evident as the Rays have been leaking oil for a while and require reinforcements just about everywhere.” (MLB.com, 2023)
Captain: The Rays are currently 60-38 and lead the AL East where the competition is fierce with all five teams boasting winning records. However, the Rays at press time are losers of three straight, seem to play better at home (35-15) versus on the road (25-23) and are 3-7 in their last ten games.
Let’s not forget that for some crazy reason, Tampa Bay cannot seem to get out of their own way when it is time to step up in the postseason as they have yet to win the pennant in their two appearances (losses to the Dodgers and the Phillies). Ohtani, like Maddon, can get the Rays to the Series, but it is up to the Rays to help him win it.
MLB.Com: “Enter Ohtani, who could join forces with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Taijuan Walker and Ranger Suarez to give Philadelphia a rotation that can hang with anybody’s. With Bryce Harper set to move to first base as he gets further removed from Tommy John surgery, that will leave open a DH spot with Ohtani’s name all over it.” (MLB.com, 2023)
Captain: Philadelphia seems to be the biggest threat to the Atlanta Braves, which is normal if you go back in time to the barrage of matchups these two teams have had over the decades. Philly is currently riding a four game winning streak and is 7-3 in their last 10 games all the while trailing the Braves by 9.5 games.
There were people who wondered if the Bryce Harper Experience has run its course. With Ohtani in the batting order as well as the rotation, the Phillies could have skilled players that could bring Atlanta back down to Earth from the pedestal they currently sit on.
New York Yankees
MLB.Com: “Ohtani would immediately slot in as, at worst, their third-best starter. Throw in the injury woes of Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes, and Ohtani would clearly be a welcome addition to the rotation. The Yankees’ lineup has been scuffling majorly. Ohtani would go a long way toward fixing that – and imagine him and Judge batting back to back in the postseason. Ohtani could be the savior to what is right now a disappointing year in the Bronx.” (MLB.com, 2023)
Captain: The Yankees are not in panic mode…yet. But if they intend on making a repeat appearance in October, they will need someone to fill the void left by Judge’s nagging toe injury. Currently the Yankees are in the AL East basement, but they still have a winning record. But losers of three straight and heading into the part of the season where wins and losses truly matter, just how far are the Yanks willing to go to get Ohtani in pinstripes? High payroll or not, the Yanks need to get back to that ‘Savages in the Box’ mentality very soon.
MLB.Com: “Imagine Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. on the same team. One the best player in the world today, the other the most electric. That on its own is worth making Ohtani-to-the-Braves happen. As far as the roster fit: Slot Ohtani in at DH, into the No. 2 spot in the order, and behind Spencer Strider in the rotation. It all works.”
Captain: The Braves do not need the help. They have been in the World Series conversation for years. Hell, they didn’t even need Ohtani to win it all a few years ago when they beat Houston. While MLB wants to see Acuna and Ohtani together on the same team, there is no true reason for Atlanta to even consider selling the farm just to grab him.
They sit atop the NL East, almost 10 games ahead of their closest division rival Philly, and they have a great record at home (31-18) and on the road (30-14). Despite losing three straight games right now, Atlanta has the capability to turn it around quickly. Ohtani would be lost in the shuffle, and while the Braves look like a well oiled machine, all it takes is one thing to derail anyone’s momentum.
Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB.Com: “There’s just one perfect combination of A) a high-level contender that could really, really use an ace and another elite bat for a postseason push; B) a team clearly expected to bid on Ohtani this winter, who would like the head start on pitching him on their organization; C) a place he might agree to go to and D) a team that actually has the assets to do it.”
Captain: As stated earlier, Ohtani playing for the Dodgers would be a dumb move long and short term. The Dodgers are a team that on paper should be in the World Series every year. But between their bad front office, their lack of accountability and their trashy fans, this is not a good spot for Ohtani.
Dodgers may have the assets to do it, but what happens when Ohtani delivers on his end of the deal, but the Dodgers don’t? This Dodgers team and its fanbase was, is and always will be a dumpster fire that on one can respect. And people respect Ohtani. They don’t respect the Dodgers.
MLB.Com: “If the Mariners are going to make the playoffs, an impactful trade could make all the difference. A midseason trade would give Seattle a head start for convincing Ohtani to sign there in the offseason. The Mariners could certainly use Ohtani’s DH production, ranking last in MLB in both batting average and on-base percentage from DHs. Their starters’ ERA is among the best in the Majors, but there’s always room for a talent like Ohtani.”
Captain: While there are those focused on his pitching, his batting could be a godsend for the Mariners. Currently sitting at .500, Seattle needs help on offense and defense. Julio Rodriguez has proven that he can send the long ball packing, as has Ohtani.
While everyone wants to talk about Acuna and Ohtani, give some love Julio and Ohtani. Not only is a move to the PacNorth a good thing for Ohtani, but it will get him out of madness of LA to the point where he can actually enjoy the Pacific Coast without dealing with the bad traffic.
What it boils down to is the team who will benefit Ohtani the most and will benefit the most from Ohtani. Having a hybrid is a phenomenal ace in the hole considering circumstances. But as stated before, Ohtani is going to want to go to a team that will supply him a legitimate shot at the World Series. If I am looking at this from a neutral perspective, Ohtani should go to either the Braves, Mariners, Yankees or any team not in the conversation.
A move from one LA fire to another just doesn’t make sense, and considering that the Dodgers have a tendency to use talent up and then discard them without a second thought (look at Kershaw), the disrespect Ohtani would get by joining the Dodgers would be felt all over and would not be worth the price of admission. Plus the Dodgers choke way too much for my liking, and even when they win, they still find ways to whine about it.