The Los Angeles Angels have existed for over 60 years and have remarkably little to show for it.
No, seriously, what has this team accomplished besides winning the 2002 World Series on the back of an epic Giants meltdown? A handful of playoff appearances under Mike Scioscia? Suddenly, Mike Trout and all of his talent look more and more like a superstar playing on a bad team. The same goes for 2021 MVP and pending free agent Shohei Ohtani.
The team’s problem is simple. Very slowly, ownership relied too much on free agents and ultimately at the cost of player development. Bartolo Colon, Vladimir Guerrero, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton signed big deals. Trout, Jered Weaver, Mike Napoli, and a handful of others kept the farm system looking sharp until the well finally ran dry.
Now, the Angels are such a mess that they can’t decide if they’re being sold or not. Their April and July matchups with the Yankees won’t mean anything unless the Yankees aren’t playing well. The Mets host Los Angeles in August and while that series will be interesting, it won’t be for baseball reasons.
Rather, it will be about which team’s jersey Shohei Ohtani is wearing. But more on that later.
Greatest Addition: Brandon Drury, who finally righted himself after migraines cost him his shot with the Yankees in 2018 and signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Angels in the offseason. Drury spent last year with the Reds and Padres, batting .263 with 28 home runs, 87 RBI, and an .813 OPS. He also took home a Silver Slugger and should be Los Angeles’ everyday second baseman.
Health will always be a question mark with Drury, but the fact remains that 2022 was the breakout year everyone was expecting dating back to his days with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That he agreed to sign with the free-falling Angels at all is practically a miracle. Either way, he should continue performing well as an overall good fit in LA.
Greatest Loss: Raisel Iglesias, even if it technically occurred in a trade with the Braves last summer right after he signed a four-year, $58 million extension. That he immediately posted an 0.34 ERA as Atlanta’s setup man after 16 saves with a 4.04 ERA with the Angels shows he wasn’t the problem. Los Angeles as an organization, on the other hand, is.
Meanwhile, Iglesias will be the Braves’ closer after Kenley Jensen signed with Boston. The Angels, meanwhile, signed Carlos Estevez despite his limited closing experience and 4.33 career ERA in the ninth inning. Between losing Iglesias and eventually Ohtani, the Angels could soon just be The Mike Trout Show.
Greatest Strength: Shohei Ohtani, the man of the hour. The two-way star will earn $30 million in 2023 and be a 29-year-old free agent next winter. Aaron Judge turns 31 in April and parlayed his MVP season into a nine-year, $360 million contract. Ohtani could demand significantly more if he performs well himself.
That sadly won’t be with the Angels. Trout’s contract has over $283 million left on it. Anthony Rendon signed a seven-year, $245 million deal before the 2020 season and has since played in 157 total games. He’s owed $152 million through 2026. Neither player is going anywhere. Thus, the Angels losing Ohtani truly is a matter of when and not if.
The silver lining is that if the Angels trade Ohtani, they could receive multiple kings’ ransoms back. SNY’s Andy Martino reports that Mets owner Steve Cohen is very interested, but noted New York might have to wait till free agency. The decision to keep or trade Ohtani lies with Angels ownership and not general manager Perry Minasian. In that case, it seems more likely the Angels lose Ohtani for nothing.
Greatest Weakness: Arte Moreno. The embattled owner destroyed everything veteran executive Bill Stoneman built to put together the 2002 championship team. The Angels would be better off still being owned by Disney, and that’s saying something.
The farm system is in a shambles, all because Moreno tried and failed to spend his way to another championship. Maybe he pulls a rabbit out of his hat and finds a way to keep Ohtani, but it’s unlikely. The fans will just have to keep suffering through Moreno’s incompetence and continual insistence that he can get the Angels back in baseball heaven.
Trading Ohtani for a treasure trove of MLB talent and minor league prospects would be a good start.
What is the Angels’ plan with Shohei Ohtani? It’s hard to say. Everyone knows that the Angels should trade Ohtani now and maximize his value. The problem is they likely won’t unless the season proves beyond lost by mid-June.
And even then, who’s to say the Mets will be the ones to trade for him? Steve Cohen’s willingness to spend doesn’t take away from the importance of having a strong minor league system. Is he ready to possibly gut the Mets’ farm for a player who might command $50 million a year?
One way or another, the Angels are playing the Mets in August with or without Shohei Ohtani. If he’s donning the orange and blue by that point, it will truly be a special time for New York baseball.
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