Trade Shohei Ohtani: Angels owner Arte Moreno says he will keep the two-way Superstar – as long as the team competes

Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar and living, breathing baseball prodigy Shohei Ohtani is entering his running year. Ohtani comes into the 2023 season having amassed an 18.6 WAR over the past two seasons thanks to his excellence on the plate and mound.

Last season, Ohtani continued his 2022 AL MVP campaign by hitting 34 homers as the Angels’ primary DH and registering a 2.33 ERA as a pitcher with 219 strikeouts in 166 innings. To call Ohtani’s two-year career an unprecedented and unique accomplishment in baseball would be an understatement. Add to that his status as the biggest baseball star in the world and his next contract numbers will be historic.

All of which brings us back to the Angels, Ohtani’s current employer. Ohtani has indicated on numerous occasions that what he wants above all else is to be part of a winning team, and the Angels have been quite lacking in recent history in that regard. They’ve finished under .500 for six straight seasons, haven’t made the playoffs since 2014, and haven’t won a postseason series (or even a postseason game) since 2014. This futility streak is, of course, fully consistent with the legend Prime by Mike Trout.

As for Ohtani, the angels have not been willing to trade him yet. Signing him for an extension remains a theoretical possibility, but any reading of the tea leaves suggests Ohtani wants to test the market. So will the Halos reverse course and consider trading him for some consideration before he becomes a free agent? Tom Verducci recently introduced owner Arte Moreno and his decision to back off plans to sell the franchise, and the Ohtani matter predictably came up in their conversations. Verducci relays the following exchange with Moreno:

“I’ll say it officially,” says Moreno. “We will not trade Ohtani while fighting for a place in the playoffs.”

“Will you promise the same if the team is not in the running?”

“I’m not going to answer that, and I’ll tell you why,” he says. “We expect to be a playoff contender. Everything in our plans to put this team together revolves around making the playoffs. So I’m not going to sit here and wonder what happens in an outcome that we don’t plan. It would be like a fighter walking into the ring thinking, “What if I lose?” If he does that, he will lose.”

This is a very obvious statement that is enlightening at the same time. The Angels, of course, wouldn’t trade Ohtani while they’re within range of a postseason berth, but Moreno missed the opportunity and vowed they wouldn’t trade him this season regardless of what the chart says. In other words, if the Angels are far from playoff position by the 2023 trade deadline, there’s a chance they’ll buy Ohtani.

Of course, it’s also possible that the Angels will become relevant in the first half of the season. Alongside Ohtani and Trout, Anthony Rendon is hoping to be healthy and the likes of Hunter Renfroe, Tyler Anderson, Brandon Drury and Gio Urshela should help the cause. On the other hand, the American League West is also home to the Astros and Mariners — two playoff teams last year — and the improving Rangers. Also, the AL East is full of contenders for those three wildcard spots. It will be difficult for the angels to reverse the grim fate that has now spanned almost a decade.

As such, the Angels 2023 should also be interesting for fans and teams outside of the AL West. Moreno has ensured that will be the case by not making a pledge to keep Ohtani regardless of how the team fares in 2023.

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