Shohei Ohtani reportedly won’t be traded; Angels decide to buy at deadline

If you were hoping your team would pull off a Shohei Ohtani blockbuster with the Los Angeles Angels, it might be time to look elsewhere.

The Angels have decided to take Ohtani off the trade market after days of internal discussions and fielding offers, according to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.

Not only will the Angels keep Ohtani, but they’ll also reportedly be buyers at the Aug. 1 trade deadline — in a market that was already looking quite crowded. Like many teams, the Angels will likely target adding a starting pitcher and a reliever, though the assets they can give up might be limited, given that they have one of the worst farm systems in MLB.

Ohtani appeared likely to finish the season in another uniform earlier this month, when the Angels fell to 46-48 and six games back of the final American League wild-card spot, with three teams ahead of them. The situation has changed somewhat since then, with the Angels winning six of their past seven and leapfrogging the Seattle Mariners in the standings.

The Angels’ record now sits at 52-49. Entering Wednesday, they’re four games back of the Toronto Blue Jays for the final wild card, with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees between them. It will still take some effort for the team to make the playoffs, but the good news is Mike Trout is reportedly expected to return from a broken hamate bone in mid-August.

Why would the Angels keep Ohtani?

Even within spitting distance of a wild-card berth, most MLB teams probably would’ve traded Ohtani if they were in the Angels’ position. It’s generally how baseball works: Bad teams trade their good players. We saw it last year with Juan Soto. We saw it the year before with Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Kris Bryant and others.

Ohtani is more valuable and popular than any of those players, though, and that’s not nothing. Angels owner Arte Moreno is known to value the ticket revenue that comes from having an ostensibly competitive team each year. That has obviously been to his detriment over the past decade or so, but it’s how the team has operated.

The return for Ohtani might not have been as high as some expected either, as he remains a rental and is likely to sign the richest free-agent contract in MLB history this offseason. Why would the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have long fancied Ohtani, give up multiple top-100 prospects for him now when they’re one of the favorites to land him this winter? Why would the Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks, two contenders with the prospect capital to meet the Angels’ price, go for it now when they have bright futures?

It’s unclear just how high the Angels’ asking price was, but teams apparently didn’t come close enough to keep the door open.

Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani is seen on the bench during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Shohei Ohtani is an Angel, for now and for the rest of the season. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

At the same time, you can’t blame a team for wanting to keep Ohtani, even if losing him for only two months would net a treasure trove of prospects. He’s having one of the best seasons in MLB history, which is true of basically any season in which he stays healthy. He’s hitting .299/.398/.668 and leads all of MLB with 36 homers and seven triples. On the pitching side, he has a 3.71 ERA and 148 strikeouts over 19 starts and 111 2/3 innings.

There’s simply no one like him in baseball history.

The Angels appear to be keeping Ohtani. They probably won’t re-sign him this offseason, and getting prospects for him now probably would’ve improved their chances of winning a World Series over the next 10 years, at the cost of accepting they wouldn’t win one this year. But they’re keeping the two-way star because having a historic talent (and the paying fans who come with it) is worth it, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll make the playoffs.

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