Shohei Ohtani ‘Will Definitely Leave’ if Angels Aren’t in Contention This Season

It’s been a little while since we dipped our toes into the Shohei Ohtani rumor pool, and those waters are way too inviting to avoid for too long. The Cubs have long been among the teams connected to him, whether it was during his initial courtship or each time trade/free agency speculation ramps up. However, they were not among the teams listed by ESPN’s Jeff Passan during a recent conversation about the future of the most talented baseball player ever.

This isn’t really groundbreaking stuff in any way, mind you, just another assertion that the Angels are going to have to trade Ohtani by the deadline if they aren’t battling for a postseason bid by then.

“There’s one number that we need to be looking at when it comes to Shohei Ohtani’s future,” Passan said on ESPN’s Get Up Thursday morning. “And that is the Los Angeles Angels’ record. Because as long as the Angels are in contention, as long as the Angels have hope for a playoff spot, Shohei Ohtani’s probably not going to be traded at the deadline this year. But if the Angels fall out of contention and if, you know, it’s just more of the same as it’s been over the last five years that he’s been there, he could be traded and he will definitely leave.

“And seeing him at Yankee Stadium, seeing Aaron Judge rob him of a home run, seeing him hit another earlier in the series, seeing him do everything that he’s been doing for the last three years when he’s been the best player on the planet, shows you why the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets are gonna be the two teams that are butting heads — with the Giants, the Yankees, and the Mariners and perhaps others on the periphery — to pay the guy $500 million-plus. That’s where the bidding is going to start and it’s only going to get higher than that because this guy is simply better than everyone.”

Really nothing new to see here, though the dynamics of a midseason trade with free agency right around the corner are very different from straight free agency. He’s already guaranteed to get the biggest contract ever, but a team is going to have to part with a princely sum of prospect capital just to rent him for 2-3 months. And unless said team is a surprise contender lacking the wherewithal to re-sign him, we’re talking about an incredible combination of talent and money being forked over.

On one hand, you have to think some of these ownership groups and front offices are hoping the Angels hang around in order to decrease the total acquisition cost. On the other, a trade would mean securing exclusive negotiating rights and potentially winning Ohtani over with a deep postseason run, something he’s never experienced in the majors. As for the trade cost, well, that’s justified by having a Cy Young-caliber starter and Silver Slugger-caliber DH in one player.

This is going to get very, very interesting by the time we reach July. Get on it, Jed.

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