The Los Angeles Angels announced Tuesday that owner Arte Moreno has launched a formal process to evaluate “strategic alternatives” regarding the franchise, including a potential sale. Moreno, who has owned the Angels since buying the franchise from Disney in 2003 for $184 million, said the following as part of his statement:
“While this difficult decision was entirely our choice and deserved a lot of thoughtful consideration, my family and I have finally come to the conclusion that now is the time. Throughout this process, we will continue to run the franchise for the benefit of our fans, employees, players and business partners.”
If Moreno’s process leads to a sale, that development will have major implications for the entire league, not least because it could pave the way for a Shohei Ohtani trade. As CBS Sports reported last month, rival front offices believe the biggest hurdle to an Ohtani trade would be Moreno agreeing; if he is out of the picture, the chances of an off-season deal would increase.
It’s reasonable to wonder why a new owner would be okay with bartering one of the best baseball players, but the situation is similar to the one the Washington Nationals faced with Juan Soto this past deadline. Ohtani, 28, is a year away from free agency, and at that point he is sure to demand a huge contract. The new owner will already have several major commitments, including those to Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, and will likely need to benefit financially to complete the purchase. As a result, they may shy away from another major contract, especially if they have a realistic view of where the Angels stand, competitively.
The last point is crucial as Ohtani — a two-way sensation and the reigning AL MVP — has a say in where he will play after next season. He has publicly stated that winning matches is his top priority, making it possible – if not downright likely – that the Angels are way down on his list of favorite suitors.
Let’s say the next Angels owner accepts that reality and puts Ohtani on the block this off-season. Which teams are best positioned to get him in a trade? Here are five that come to mind, listed below in perceived order of probability.
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The Dodgers are enamored with Ohtani, dating back to when they were trying to pull him out of high school. He chose to play professionally in Japan instead, but the Dodgers are unlikely to have any bad intentions in his decision. Top manager Andrew Friedman is no stranger to making blockbuster trades, and his best player development device has re-armed him with a wealth of top youngsters to offer to the Angels. The Dodgers could dangle a combination of catcher Diego Cartaya; rights holders Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Gavin Stone; and infielders Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch. The only potential problem in a Dodgers chase is if the Angels choose not to move Ohtani to their greatest geographic rival.
The Mets have many things that work in their favor. Owner Steven Cohen has shown time and again that he is willing to spend a lot of money on top talent; CEO Billy Eppler is the same director who signed Ohtani in the first place; and the Mets have several notable youths that they can float the way of the angels. That group consists of rookie third baseman Brett Baty and catcher Francisco Álvarez, who is one of the best prospects in the game. The Mets could even include one of their first-round picks from last summer, be it catcher Kevin Parada or shortstop Jett Williams. Unlike the Juan Soto talks, there’s no intra-divisional weirdness getting in the way.
Speaking of those Soto talks, it only makes sense to include one of the other finalists. The Cardinals still have two of the top spots in the minors, in third baseman/outfielder Jordan Walker and shortstop Masyn Winn, and they have a slew of youngsters to serve as secondary pieces, including pitchers Cooper Hjerpe, Gordon Graceffo, Matthew Liberatore , and Tink Hence. The Cardinals have shown a willingness to poop in the past, and if Ohtani is serious about prioritizing winning, he could do worse than settle in St. Louis for the long haul.
The Yankees are hard to read in these situations. They would make sense as a landing spot for Ohtani (on the other hand, most teams too), but the question is, are they willing to part with the prospects needed to get a deal done? Although the Yankees thinned out the depth of their farm system by trading on deadline for Frankie Montas (and others), they were able to keep shortstop prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. Outfielder Jasson Dominguez also remains in the system, and New York is rumored to be able to send him into the right trade. Another factor worth considering is how the talks with Aaron Judge could affect the Yankees’ long-term financial plans, as well as their willingness to land another big deal next winter.
There are several other teams that could be popping up in Ohtani-related rumors this winter. We’re going to cover our market with a wildcard team: the Rangers. If owner Ray Davis and general manager Chris Young want to put the Jon Daniels era behind them, they can make another splash move by adding Ohtani. The Rangers certainly have the opportunity to get a deal done as they have several notable youngsters in their farm system like third baseman Josh Jung; right-handers Jack Leiter, Owen White, Kumar Rocker and Brock Porter; and outfielder Evan Carter. It is possible that the Rangers who are in the same division would decrease their chances of completing a trade; it’s also possible that Young wants to build from the inside out and Davis would rather not hand out another major contract as he has gotten mixed results from Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. But if the Rangers are serious about taking the proverbial leap, Ohtani should be one of their top targets this winter.