It is not a stretch to say the Los Angeles Angels will make one of the most significant decisions in franchise history within the next two weeks. Maybe the most significant decision in franchise history. The trade deadline is Aug. 1 and Shohei Ohtani, the game's best and coolest player, is set to become a free agent after the season. Do they trade him or keep him? The Angels have had a rough few weeks but are hanging around the wild-card race, enough that keeping Ohtani and pushing for a postseason berth in August and September is a viable strategy. .
That said, Mike Trout will miss several more weeks following hamate surgery, and you can't let a player as good as Ohtani leave as a free agent and get nothing but one single draft pick in return. And Ohtani is almost certainly leaving. He's made it clear is priority is joining a contender in free agency.. The Angels are fading and
"It sucks to lose. He wants to win, so it gets stronger every year,".
Ohtani's unicorn skill set -- ace pitcher and middle-of-the-order thumper in one roster spot -- can not be accurately measured by any of our current trade valuation methods. Besides, Ohtani's trade value will be determined by supply and demand. If he becomes available, there will be a massive bidding war, and it only takes one team to make a crazy offer that breaks the scale.
So, which teams are best positioned to land Ohtani? Below, CBS Sports has ranked the 29 non-Angels clubs with respect to their perceived chances of striking a deal.
No point in even trying
These six clubs are not in the postseason race and most of them don't have the pieces to swing an Ohtani trade (the Pirates do, the Nationals might). I suppose the Rockies could do a wacky Rockies thing or the ChiSox could pivot away from selling and bring in Ohtani to try to win a winnable AL Central, but it seems unlikely. These teams are not at the right place in the contention cycle to take a big swing on a rental, even a transcendent one like Shohei.
More likely to sell than buy
I don't think you can ever count the Mets out on anything under Steve Cohen, though they're far enough back in the wild-card race that they're best served keeping their prospects and young players, and throwing money at Ohtani over the winter. The Tigers are probably the team in this tier with the best chance to pivot and buy given the division they reside. Even then, I would bet against president of baseball operations Scott Harris blowing up his long-term plan for what, a 1-in-10 shot at a postseason berth? If that? In an alternate universe, the Cardinals are in contention and near the top of these rankings. Alas, this is not that universe.
Contenders without the means to do it
How perfect would Ohtani be for these teams? I mean, he's perfect for every team, but they all need a high-end starter and a middle-of-the-order bat, and they're all at a place on the win curve where every additional win added significantly improves their postseason odds. Ohtani would make Cleveland the AL Central favorites, no? He would help keep the D-Backs in the NL West race and make them a formidable threat in the wild-card hunt. Ohtani and Corbin Burnes would be some 1-2 punch in October.
As much as Ohtani would help these three contending teams, they lack the means to do it, either in terms of prospects or financially. The trade deadline is conveniently at the two-thirds point of the season this year and that means taking on $10 million of Ohtani's $30 million salary, and I have a hard time thinking Angels owner Arte Moreno would eat money so Ohtani can play elsewhere. The Brewers, D-Backs, and Guards all rank in the bottom 12 of payroll. Hard to see the money working out.
Contenders that should at least try
Now we're getting into teams that could make a genuine effort to land Ohtani. Some (Mariners, Twins) have a better base of young players and prospects to deal from and some are more aggressive buyers than others (Braves, Phillies), but all five clubs here have the means and motivation to get an Ohtani trade done. Seattle has a strong case for being in the top 10 -- they are expected to pursue Ohtani aggressively over the winter -- though I think that, all things being equal, Moreno would prefer to trade Ohtani outside the AL West. And this is absolutely a Moreno call. The owner has the final say on an Ohtani trade, not Angels GM Perry Minasian.
Based purely on fit, the Marlins would place near the top of these rankings. Playing Jorge Soler in the outfield would be less than ideal, but you do it if that's what it takes to accommodate Ohtani, and of course they could use his pitching. Every team could, especially a Marlins club that is in the race and faced with possibly shutting down righty Eury Pérez for workload reasons. The money might be a dealbreaker and the top of Miami's farm system is lacking, putting them behind other contenders presumably eager to improve. Ohtani's a good enough fit with the Marlins that I'm comfortable sliding them just inside the top 10 of our rankings.
The Astros badly need another starting pitcher and there are ways to make the lineup work around Ohtani at DH. He's the kind of player you acquire if you can, and make the pieces fit around him. If Yordan Alvarez has to play more outfield to accommodate Ohtani, so be it. The Astros are short on tippy-top prospects and I'm not sure they would do something like subtract, say, Hunter Brown and/or Yainer Diaz from their MLB roster to get Ohtani. Then again, it's Shohei Ohtani! Houston is not as formidable as the last few years and they only have so many more years with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, et al, as elite core players. I will never begrudge a team for going all-in on trying to repeat. Obviously the AL West rivalry is a potential obstacle here.
For whatever reason, luring star free agents to San Francisco has been a challenge, and I'm certain the Giants will give it a go with Ohtani this offseason. Swing a trade at the deadline and the Giants would a) improve their postseason and World Series odds, and b) give themselves a head start on the recruiting process. Triple-A lefty Kyle Harrison could be the trade deadline trump card. If the Giants are willing to put him on the table, it might be an offer no other team could match. I'm not sold on president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi going that far, but if they're desperate to land a star after losing out on Aaron Judge, the Giants just might do it.
Six years ago Ohtani declined to speak to the Yankees as a free agent -- he respectfully declined to even listen to their recruiting pitch -- though a trade would take the decision out of his hands. The Yankees desperately need Ohtani's bat and arm, and, like the Giants, a trade would give the Yankees a head start on the free agent recruiting process. Who knows, maybe spending 2-3 months as a Yankee and living in New York will be enough to convince Ohtani it is the place he wants to spend the rest of his career after rejecting the Yankees years ago. I would expect the Yankees to aggressively pursue Ohtani one way or the other, even though the standings say they're a last place team more than a postseason contender.
Are the Padres ranked too high? Yeah, probably, but I refuse to count GM A.J. Preller out on any big name. The Padres still have two premium prospects to peddle in infielder Jackson Merrill and catcher Ethan Salas, and they might be willing to subtract from their MLB roster (Jake Cronenworth?) to get a deal done. I just refuse to count the Padres out. Too many times I've said "OK, that's it, the Padres are at their limit, they can't possibly add another big name," and then they do it anyway.
Ohtani and Yu Darvish are good pals, it should be noted, though that doesn't matter much in a trade scenario. Ohtani doesn't have any no-trade protection and wouldn't need to be convinced to go to San Diego. He has to go in the event the Angels trade him there. Still, it can't hurt the the Padres' chances of signing (or re-signing) him in the offseason.
The top five
Reds fans deserve to watch the most fun player in baseball join the most fun team in the league after all the bad baseball they've had to sit through the last decade. Cincinnati absolutely has the pieces to swing an Ohtani trade and I don't mean trading Elly De La Cruz or Matt McLain. I mean guys still in the minors. The Reds clearly needs a starter and fitting all the pieces around Ohtani at DH would take some creativity, but it's doable. Is ownership and GM Nick Krall willing to swerve away from their thus far successful rebuild plan and toward a big-ticket rental like Ohtani? Beats me, but the dots connect.
The Dodgers would be at the top of these rankings if I had any reason to believe Moreno would approve a trade that sends Ohtani to Chavez Ravine. I think they'd sooner look to send him back to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan than trade him to the Dodgers, though you needn't try hard to envision a scenario in which the Dodgers have the best offer on the table, and the Angels come to the realization it is in the franchise's best interest to trade Ohtani to their Southern California neighbors. The Dodgers could obviously use Ohtani, both on the mound and in the batter's box, and they have the pieces to put together a winning offer. It really comes down to whether Moreno is willing to send him north on the 5.
The Rays have a history of pursuing big name players and falling short (most notably Freddie Freeman, but also Matt Chapman and Matt Olson) and I would be surprised if the trade season passes without at least one "the Rays called about Ohtani" report. The thing is, it makes sense, right? Tampa's rotation has been depleted by injuries and they could use another power bat, and they have the farm system to make a winning offer. The Rays have been one of the most successful franchises in the game the last 15 years or so, yet they're still missing the cherry on top. If there was ever a year and ever a player to go all-in to try to win the first World Series title in franchise history, it's this year and it's this player.
I would bet against O's Mike Elias pivoting away from his long-term plan (I will cite his relative inactivity this past offseason as evidence of his stick-to-it nature) but boy, is there a better possible trade partner for the Angels? Between MLB and Triple-A, the Orioles have more high-end infielders than roster spots. They realistically can not keep all these guys. The Angels could use MLB-ready infielders (they could use MLB-ready everything) and the Orioles badly need a legit ace pitcher, and another bat wouldn't hurt either. Baltimore has the farm system to do it and the players on the roster have earned the right to be reinforced in a major way at the deadline. I'm not sure what more Elias & Co. want to see before making a deadline splash, and Ohtani would be legitimately the biggest deadline splash in the game's history.
The last month has not gone smoothly for the Rangers, who nevertheless sit in first place in the AL West. Jacob deGrom will miss the rest of the season following his second career Tommy John surgery, and while replacing deGrom is basically impossibly (he's so good), Ohtani's one of the guys who can do it. Ezequiel Duran has been very good as the most-of-the-time DH, but he's no Ohtani, and frankly Duran is exactly the kind of player the Angels should seek in an Ohtani trade (young, impactful, under control for a long time). I doubt the Rangers, who have a farm system capable of putting together a winning offer even without including Duran, would take him off the table.
Texas has been so aggressive trying to build a winner the last few offseasons. You don't spend all that money on deGrom, Corey Seager, and Marcus Semien only to hug prospects during Ohtani trade talks. The AL West rival thing is a complicating factor, but, for my money, Texas makes the most sense for an Ohtani trade. It makes sense for Ohtani (a chance to win before free agency), the Angels (the Rangers can offer a significant package), and the Rangers (they get the best player in the world as they push for a division title). It's sensible and it can be done, as long as Moreno as willing to OK it.