By Ron Johnson
Quite arguably, the greatest baseball player of right now is Shohei Ohtani. He is a pure athlete that can strike you out with a 100-mph fastball or crush a ball 450 ft to the ocean. This is why he is the most sought-after talent in Major League Baseball right now.
It is also why every team will sell the farm in the hopes of getting him on their roster.
Due to the Angels’ first half roller coaster (they are 45-47 and losers of their last six), the Angels Front Office is considering trade inquiries for Ohtani. To put it in the best English possible, the Angels have gone from a ‘never going to happen’ team when it comes to Ohtani to, ‘we’ll entertain serious inquiries for a moment.’ According to MLB Insider JP Morosi, the Angels’ chances of moving Ohtani is most likely and will possibly depend on the team’s performance at the start of the second half of the season.
Where will Ohtani land?
It now becomes a question of who could give up the most to get a guy that is the baseball equivalent of Taysom Hill.
With the trade deadline looming on August 1st, there are plenty of teams that could do good with grabbing a player like Ohtani. However, one of the frontrunners for his services looks to be the Yankees. ESPN’s Buster Olney threw the suggestion of the Yankees before mentioning the Rangers and Rays in the conversation. “In talking with sources yesterday, they see the Yankees as potentially being the most motivated, because Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton – they are middle-aged players right in the prime of their careers. This is the Yankees’ window to win now.” (MLB.com, 2023)
Now while there were some AL teams thrown out there by Olney, some NL teams could also make the power play for Ohtani. It was reported on July 13 that the Padres may be quietly in consideration for Ohtani as well. The Padres at that time were six games out of a postseason spot, but they remember the magic they had last season and want to run it back again.
Like the Padres, the Dodgers are also considered the favorite to land Ohtani. It is safe to say that the Dodgers love the spotlight and firepower that Ohtani brings to the table, but I’m not sure LA is a good choice for him mainly because the Dodgers’ fanbase is rather trashy and spoiled anyway.
The question will not be when will Ohtani sign with the Dodgers; but it will become a question of why would he want to. While the allure of playing for them is enticing, Ohtani wants a legitimate shot at a World Series Championship without the BS that comes with the Dodgers turning the World Series into a three-ring circus, which has become the norm for Dodgers and their fanbase. While Ohtani almost joined the Dodgers in 2017, the DH rule had not been globally implemented in MLB at that time, which may have played a role in his signing with the Angels.
Now that the trade deadline is approaching, and with Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw’s contracts up at the end of the season, the Dodgers could afford to play with house money so to speak (they’ll have $67 million coming off payroll at season’s end).
Baseball experts all over feel that the lists of potential suitors who will make a power play for Ohtani will be (in this order no less) the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Giants, Mariners, Padres, Rangers and Rays. This is all based on what each team is willing to give up to get up. Ohtani wants to be able to go to a team that has the mentality of ‘World Series or Bust’ going for them.
The Dodgers sit 52-38 with a little control of the NL West (Arizona is one game back, while San Francisco is 2 ½ games back). The Yankees are at 49-43 (8 ½ behind the first place Rays), while the Mets are 42-49 (19 ½ behind division leader Atlanta), Giants are 50-41 and the Mariners are at .500 with a 45-45 record (7 games behind division leader Houston).
The Padres are 44-47 (8 ½ behind LA and six games out of playoff contention, the Rangers and Rays are both in first place (Texas at 53-39, Tampa Bay at 58-35), so the question becomes how can Ohtani make any of these teams better? The Yankees, Mets, Giants, Mariners and Padres need the most help out of these teams, but do not be surprised if other teams make that power play for the hybrid known as Shohei.
Either way, we all know the endgame for Shohei Ohtani. He wants to hoist up that trophy and be able to call himself a World Champion. Playing for this version of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California is not going to net him that title.
The Dodgers should have learned from the mistakes of their neighbors, the Rams and Lakers in terms of going all in for right now. The Rams paid that penalty by not even getting a postseason berth a year after winning the Super Bowl, and the Lakers got swept by the eventual champion Denver Nuggets in the most recent postseason.
There really is zero guarantee that the Dodgers will return to the Fall Classic, and that is a silent selling point for Ohtani I believe. As much as the Dodgers love Ohtani, putting a ring on it will be the biggest notion to sell him on. Can the Dodgers or Yankees give the star what he desires? Or should he look at Texas, Tampa Bay or another team that could bring a World Series crown home?
Only time will tell, and the Angels have a little over two weeks to show that they intend to turn it around before the trade deadline. Otherwise, Ohtani could be suiting up for another team that looks to make a deep run into the postseason. No one is saying World Series or bust…yet.
But it is safe to say that the thought is in the back of everyone’s mind…including Ohtani’s.