Angels general manager Perry Minasian informed reporters this evening that two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani will open the 2023 season in Anaheim (via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register). The Angels are not giving any consideration to trading Ohtani, according to Minasian.
“Ohtani is not getting moved,” the GM told reporters. “He’s going to be here. He’ll be with us to start the season. I know there’s been rumors and all types of things, but he will be here. He’ll be part of the club. I said this before and I’ll say it again: We love the player. I think our goal is for him to be here for a long time.”
It’s a wholly unsurprising sentiment, as the Angels never seemed all that likely to move the 2021 AL MVP. Despite what would’ve surely been massive interest at this past summer’s trade deadline, Anaheim took Ohtani off the market almost immediately. Reports later indicated owner Arte Moreno directed his front office not to deal the two-time All-Star.
A few weeks later, Moreno announced he’s been exploring the possibility of selling the franchise. That process was reportedly already underway by the time the trade deadline rolled around, and the possibility of marketing an Ohtani-fronted roster to potential buyers figured to have played a role in the owner’s thinking. There hasn’t been much recent word on the sale process, although Jon Heyman of the New York Post reiterated last week that Moreno plans to go through with the sale.
The sale exploration could take most or all of the offseason, leaving the franchise in a state of uncertainty. The Halos are coming off a 73-89 season that marked their seventh straight below-average campaign. Anaheim dismissed Joe Maddon midseason and replaced him with Phil Nevin, but the managerial swap failed to reinvigorate a team that collapsed after a strong first month and a half. Minasian and his front office staff will set to work on trying to build around a core led by Ohtani and Mike Trout. The Halos have a promising rotation front four in Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and José Suarez, but they’re lacking in bullpen depth and don’t have much in the way of lineup certainty beyond Trout, Ohtani and, to a lesser extent, right fielder Taylor Ward.
How much money Moreno’s willing to allocate to build out a roster with which he’s ostensibly parting in the coming months is a question that looms over the offseason. The Angels opened the 2022 season with a payroll in the $188MM range, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Including projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players, the Halos have roughly $145.5MM in commitments on next year’s books. That includes salaries at or in excess of $30MM for each of Anthony Rendon, Trout and Ohtani.
The latter commitment was agreed upon last month, when the Angels and Ohtani agreed to a $30MM deal for his final season of club control. That set the record for the largest salary for an arbitration-eligible player in major league history, quickly foreclosing any possibility the parties would go to a hearing over his 2023 salary. There’s no indication they’ve recently discussed a longer-term deal, and Ohtani’s presently on track to be the top free agent in next winter’s class.
Minasian and company would surely love to keep the unique talent in Orange County for the long haul, but it remains to be seen if the 28-year-old is eager to engage in extension talks with the franchise’s present uncertainty. Fans of other teams will surely hold out hope the Angels change course in their resistance to dealing Ohtani, perhaps pointing to the other franchise currently up for sale as a hoped-for example. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo went on record in June to say the team would not trade Juan Soto, but they reconsidered and ultimately moved him at the deadline after Soto declined what proved to be their final long-term extension offer. That said, it’s generally rare to hear a baseball operations leader formally close the book on any potential roster maneuver, and it’d now register as great a surprise as ever if Ohtani is wearing anything other than an Angel uniform on Opening Day.