Could Shohei Ohtani Be Traded This Offseason?
Shohei Ohtani is currently one of the best players in baseball. He won last season’s MVP award, and will likely finish second behind Aaron Judge for the award this year.
However, Ohtani is entering his final year before free agency. As a result, the Los Angeles Angels could potentially choose to trade Ohtani this offseason.
How Likely is a Trade?
Despite incredible seasons from both Ohtani and Mike Trout, the Angels finished the 2022 season in third place in the AL West with a 73-89 record. The team went 14-8 in April, but a 14-game losing streak at the end of May and the start of June resulted in Los Angeles losing the lead of the division.
By the All-Star break, the Angles were 39-53. As the trade deadline approached, Los Angeles reportedly considered trading Ohtani, but the trade ultimately never happened.
Trades for players like Ohtani are rare because it is almost impossible for the team trading away the player to get an equal return. However, this summer a similar trade was completed when Juan Soto was traded from the Nationals to the Padres, and there are parallels between the two situations.
The most obvious similarity between the two situations is that both players are among the best in baseball. Soto has won a batting title, is a two-time All-Star, and has won two Silver Slugger Awards, while Ohtani won the MVP award, Rookie of the Year Award, is also a two-time All-Star, and has also won one Silver Slugger Award.
In addition, both players’ teams are not or were not in a position to make the playoffs. The Nationals finished this season with a 55-107 record and had a 31-63 record at the All-Star break.
However, the most important similarity may be related to the team’s ownership. Both teams could potentially be sold this offseason or in the near future. During that process, front offices and current owners frequently want clarity on the status of a team’s best players. Ahead of Soto’s trade to the Padres, the Nationals’ President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo was reportedly told to either complete a contract extension with Soto or trade him, the latter of which eventually took place.
A similar scenario could play out in Los Angeles this winter as Ohtani enters the final year of his contract. If no contract extension between the Angels and Ohtani can be agreed to, it may lead the team to trade him.
The Impacts of a Trade
While there are similarities between the Nationals’ situation prior to trading Soto and the Angels’ present situation, that doesn’t guarantee a trade will occur; there are also major differences. The most important of those is how unique Ohtani is within the sport. No other player is both one of the best starting pitchers in the league and one of the best hitters in the league at the same time.
It is almost always nearly impossible for the team who trades away the player in this situation to receive “fair value” in the trade. This is almost certainly even more applicable with Ohtani, who impacts both a lineup and pitching staff dramatically.
Even with only a year remaining on his current contract, the Angels will likely ask for multiple Top 100 prospects in return for Ohtani, and possibly a few young players who are already in the MLB. There are only a few teams within the sport that would be capable of completing that trade.
However, if Ohtani is made available in a trade this offseason, it is likely that nearly every other team in the MLB will attempt to trade for him. If a few of these teams have enough interest, it is possible that Los Angeles could receive an offer they could agree to.
If Ohtani is definitely going to depart the Angels next offseason when he becomes a free agent, then that would provide another reason for Los Angeles to agree to a trade. It is unlikely that the Angels can make the playoffs next season, even if both Ohtani and Trout are on their Opening Day roster, and it would be better to trade Ohtani during the offseason when he has a full year before free agency remaining, rather than waiting for the trade deadline.
A potential Ohtani trade will be one of the main storylines of this MLB offseason. There is a very good chance that he will be traded this offseason and begin next year with a different team.