It’s not even November and the Shohei Ohtani trade rumors are in full force across baseball.
The two-way star is fresh off yet another MVP-caliber season (although Aaron Judge should win the award) that broke plenty of records. He’s the first player to record 10-plus wins as a pitcher and hit at least 30 homers in the same year. Ohtani is also the first player to qualify for both the ERA title and the batting title.
His remarkable performance led to 3.8 fWAR as a hitter and 5.6 fWAR as a pitcher. The Los Angeles Angels think that agreeing to a $30 million deal with Ohtani for 2023 is “step one” toward retaining him beyond next season. However, it sure doesn’t feel like he wants to stick around for the long haul at the moment.
L.A. dangled Ohtani on the trade block at the deadline over the summer, but they were never really serious about dealing him. If general manager Perry Minasian wants to sign him long-term, it’s hard to imagine a trade package good enough to convince the Angels to let him go.
But still, that’s not going to stop the trade rumors from swirling all offseason. The Athletic recently polled about 3,000 Mets fans and asked various team-specific questions. One of them was: If the Mets were to add one player from outside the organization this winter, whom should they prioritze?
Unsurprisingly, Ohtani won in a landslide:
Mets fans (around 3K surveyed by The Athletic) want Shohei Ohtani. pic.twitter.com/bLfGvdvRLM
— Michael Mayer (@michaelmayer22) October 20, 2022
Looking ahead to 2023, the Mets have two specific needs. One is to fill out the starting rotation and the other is to add more thump to the lineup. Ohtani is unique because he’s the only player who can fulfill both of those needs.
And even with a $30 million salary, his production makes it look like a huge bargain. You know, almost as if you’re paying him $15 million to hit and another $15 million to pitch.
Let’s also not forget that current Mets general manager, Billy Eppler, helped land Ohtani with the Angels in the first place. The two of them reportedly have a good relationship. Reuniting with the Japanese star in the game’s biggest media market would be a great story, right?
But there are obvious stumbling blocks. One is that Angels team owner Arte Moreno hates Steve Cohen. “Hate” might be a strong word, but he was one of four owners who voted against him buying the Mets. Moreno himself is looking into selling the Angels, but it’s hard for anyone to believe he’d OK an Ohtani trade to New York.
The other obvious stumbling block is the prospect capital it’d take to land Ohtani. Even with one year left of team control, it’ll be a pretty penny. But how much, exactly? Pat Ragazzo of Sports Illustrated gave an example, and it includes four of New York’s top-100 prospects (including three in the top 20).
Those players are Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Alex Ramirez, and Ronny Mauricio. You’d think another one or two MLB players would have to be included, too. And, of course, the Mets would need to sign Ohtani to a huge long-term deal to justify gutting the farm system.
The Mets’ long-term plan is clear at this point. Eppler, Cohen, and Co. want to build a sustainable winner, a la the Los Angeles Dodgers. Eppler didn’t pull the trigger on far smaller deals at the trade deadline because he didn’t want to sacrifice the franchise’s future. So, there’s no way they’d give up this much talent for one player, regardless of how amazing and unique he is.
There are plenty of available players this winter that can help the Mets return to the postseason again in 2023. They’re much better off going in that direction and then seeing if Ohtani could be a fit next winter when he’s a free agent.
Having him in Flushing is a tantalizing thought. Anyone can understand why fans want Ohtani. But it’s also just as easy to look at the situation and know the risk in a potential deal like this is just too high.