Could the Orioles pull off a trade for Shohei Ohtani?
Shohei Ohtani appears to be unhappy with the Angels, and that could help the Orioles. The superstar SP/DH returned home to Japan this week, and he spoke with reporters at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Following another directionless year where LA finished 73-89 and well out of the playoff race, Ohtani said in Japanese that he has “a rather negative impression of this season.”
Anyone who knows Ohtani’s respectful, mild-mannered personality would say this counts as an outburst on his part. Even though he has said in the past he is happy playing for the Angels, he has also insisted that he wants to win, and GM Perry Minasian is not getting the team any closer to contention than Billy Eppler did.
Shohei is now only one season away from free agency and seems unlikely to resign with the Angels, so trading him for a boatload of prospects makes a lot of sense for a bad team with a worse farm system (24th on FanGraphs). Minasian, for his part, has been understandably resistant to trading the most unique player in a century, but interested teams will do all they can to pull off a trade.
The Orioles, of course, have arguably the best farm system in baseball, and getting a frontline starter and power hitter are the two highest priorities for the offseason. The Angels will demand a big package, but since they have already avoided arbitration with Ohtani by agreeing to a $30M deal, his trade value actually goes down a bit. Buying teams have more clarity, and it is possible, maybe even likely, Ohtani would have made less going through arbitration.
I proposed a couple trades for Ohtani before the deadline when the Angels briefly entertained offers, and the reader feedback was a consensus “no”. The package will still be very large, but with only a year of control instead a year and two months, the Orioles won’t have to give up their top four prospects. Instead, Mike Elias can potentially take advantage of the Angels weaknesses. The Halos severely lack pitching depth and have basically no playable middle infielders to speak of. Andrew Velazquez, who couldn’t stick around the tanking Birds, played 125 games for the Angels this year with an OPS+ of 53.
The Orioles only have a few high-end pitching prospects, but they have tons of middle infield prospects. Grayson Rodriguez is untouchable, but DL Hall is expendable and would likely crack the Angels rotation. On the hitting side, Joey Ortiz, Joey Westburg, and Max Wagner would make a very appealing package. The Angels would be getting three guys in the Top 100 mix, while the Orioles would clear up some upper-level playing time battles without breaking the bank.
I am curious to hear what you think, and what Angels fans would think about this proposal. For what it’s worth, Baseball Trade Values gives Ohtani a median trade value of $52 million. The Orioles package is a combined $60.1M, making the deal a bit of an overpay. I honestly feel good about that because I think any deal for Shohei will require an overpay, regardless of team. The pipe dream starts now.