At this point, it’s essentially guaranteed that Shohei Ohtani, the most freakishly gifted baseball player in the history of baseball, won’t be a Los Angeles Angel next year. Nor should he! It’s a waste for Ohtani’s talents on mediocre teams, siloed away from the broader public by the Pacific Time Zone and the Angels’ general badness. The only remaining question is if he’ll leave Anaheim via trade or in free agency. In any trade, though, the Angels won’t get fair value; no team will empty their entire cache of prospects without the guarantee that Ohtani would sign an extension and teams with the means to sign Ohtani in the winter will be reluctant to empty their farm system just to have an extra two months with him. Nevertheless, there are pathways to a league-shattering trade. Here are three wild Shohei Ohtani trade proposals for the Dodgers, Mets and Rays.
Dodgers get: Shohei Ohtani
Angels get: 2B Michael Busch, OF Nick Nastrini, RHP Ryan Stone, OF Trayce Thompson, Rayne Doncon
Although the Dodgers are probably the favorite to sign Ohtani in free agency, they also have the requisite minor league talent to trade for Ohtani without feeling too much pain. The Dodgers are hyped as a superteam because of their seemingly endless money, but the real root of their success has always been their player development apparatus. Accordingly, the Dodgers have the depth to acquire Ohtani without parting with Diego Cartaya or Bobby Miller, two of the 25 best prospects in MLB. Still, Busch and Stone are both blue-chippers in their own right, while Nastrini and Doncon are among the Dodgers’ top 15 prospects and would surely receive more hype on a different team where they aren’t overshadowed so much.
For the Dodgers, trading for Ohtani rather than waiting for his free agency would be alluring because it would immediately and significantly bolster their chance to win the World Series; they’d be adding Ohtani to a loaded roster without sacrificing any real contributors. A lineup anchored by Ohtani, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman would be unnavigable for most pitchers; a rotation headlined by Ohtani, Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw would be unhittable for most batters.
2. Mets get: Shohei Ohtani
Angels get: OF Alex Ramirez, SS Jett Williams, SS Ronny Mauricio, SP David Peterson, UTIL Luis Guillorme
Under new owner Steve Cohen, the Mets haven’t been shy to make a splash—and trading for Ohtani would be the biggest splash of all. In the three seasons since he bought the team from the miserly Wilpons, Cohen has run up the biggest payroll in league history and has shown no indication of slowing down. In fact, last year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement instituted a new luxury tax apron that’s popularly known as the “Cohen Tax,” a transparent attempt from the other owners to try to limit his spending. So far, Cohen has been undeterred.
Beyond just ramping up their payroll, the Mets have made substantial investment into their minor league infrastructure under Cohen; it’s clear that he’s less interested in being the George Steinbrenner-era Yankees than he is in replicating the Dodgers pipeline of young talent, which he can then supplement with big money stars. As such, the Mets have sneakily built up enough talent in their farm system that they can swing a deal for Ohtani without parting with mega-prospects like Francisco Alvarez or Brett Baty. Even if the Angels would presumably push hard for Baty or Alvarez, the combination of Alex Ramirez, Jett Williams and Ronny Mauricio would probably suffice, giving the Angels a core of cost-controlled, high-upside young studs up the middle of the their defense.
3. Rays get: Shohei Ohtani
Angels get: IF Junior Caminero, OF Mason Auer, SP Shane Baz, IF Cooper Kinney, SP Cole Wilcox, Competitive Balance Pick
Let’s get crazy. The Rays have built a juggernaut because of their sustainably excellent player development. Give the Rays any fringey MLBer with good spin rates or exit velocities and they’ll turn them into stars. And now, after a few fallow seasons, their entire roster is stocked with stars. Through their first 35 games, the Rays have stormed out to a 28-7 record, good for an .800 winning percentage. Their offense has scored the most runs; their pitching staff has allowed the fewest.
Still, there are some minor holes in the whole enterprise. With Jeffrey Springs undergoing Tommy John surgery and Tyler Glasnow’s health permanently in flux, the Rays could use another high-end starter to complement Shane McClanahan; luckily, Ohtani might just be the best pitcher in the American League. Similarly, the lineup is predominantly comprised of right-handed hitters, leaving them vulnerable to certain matchups in the playoffs; Ohtani might just be the best left-handed batter in the American League as well.
For the Rays, any Ohtani trade would purely be a rental because they don’t have the stomach to keep him once he hits free agency, but that’s okay—this team is so good that it’s worth going all-in this year. As they’re currently constructed, the Rays are the best team in baseball. By adding Ohtani they might become the best team baseball has ever seen.
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