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What would the Rays need to give up in a Shohei Ohtani trade?

As rumors continue to swirl around Shohei Ohtani’s future with the Angels ahead of the trade deadline, we look at how the Rays might be able to land the presumptive MVP.

Junior Caminero of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during batting practice before the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at T-Mobile Park on Saturday, July 8, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The trade deadline is now just over a week away, and one question is on the minds of every contending team: Will the Los Angeles Angels really deal two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani? It seemed unfathomable just a month or so ago, and it’s still hard to see it happening as long as the team hangs on to even a sliver of hope in the AL playoff picture (this week’s sweep of the New York Yankees certainly helped on that front).

But with L.A. still three back in the loss column of the final Wild Card spot — and with a 13.2% chance to make the postseason, per Fangraphs — it’s not inconceivable that one bad week could have the team changing course. At the very least, they appear to be preparing for the possibility:

So we’ll prepare for it too. We’ve already ranked the most likely landing spots in the event that Ohtani gets dealt, and now we’re going to take a look at what the teams toward the top of that list would have to give up in order to land the presumptive AL MVP. Any Ohtani trade would inevitably be a delicate dance — as amazing as he is, he’s also headed for free agency this winter, which is sure to dampen his value at least a bit — but let’s see what we can come up with.

Next up: The Tampa Bay Rays, who got off to a historically hot start to the 2023 season but find themselves in crisis as the trade deadline nears. Tampa is an MLB-worst 4-14 in the month of July, now looking up at the red-hot Baltimore Orioles (a team that also figures to be in on the hypothetical Ohtani sweepstakes) in the AL East. The rotation has been decimated by injuries behind Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow, while the lineup has come crashing back to Earth.

All is very far from lost, though; the Rays still have a stranglehold on the first AL Wild Card spot, more than enough talent to make a deep postseason run and a typically loaded farm system to pull from in order to bolster their roster at the deadline. Ohtani, of course, would be the biggest bolsterer of all, and while it would be very un-Rays-like to go all-in on a player destined to hit free agency in three months, Tampa has been willing to stretch in the past: They sent Joe Ryan to the Minnesota Twins for a couple months of Nelson Cruz a couple of years ago and reportedly made a real run at Freddie Freeman in free agency before he signed with the Dodgers. Ohtani is unprecedented, and he makes teams do unprecedented to things.

So, what might a deal look like? Let’s break it down. (All prospect rankings courtesy of MLB Pipeline.)

Potential Shohei Ohtani trades: Tampa Bay Rays

Trade #1

Rays get: Shohei Ohtani
Angels get: INF Curtis Mead (No. 3 org prospect, No. 32 overall), 1B Kyle Manzardo (No. 4 org prospect, No. 38 overall), INF Jonathan Aranda, LHP Mason Montgomery (No. 5 org prospect), RHP Cole Wilcox (No. 8 org prospect)

Mead and Manzardo have been very well-regarded around the league for years now, but both of them have cloudy features given the infield logjam in Tampa Bay — making them ideal centerpieces of any Ohtani deal. Of course, the thing that the Angels have been starved for most during Ohtani’s six years with the team (and beyond, really) has been young, homegrown pitching, so Tampa’s top two pitching prospects get thrown in as well. Aranda is another Rays special, a funky-looking infielder without a clear defensive home but who has just kept on hitting at every stop of his pro career. There’s top-tier position player talent to build around here, as well as two arms who are reasonably close to the Majors and could slot into the back of L.A.’s rotation as soon as 2024.

Trade #2

Rays get: Shohei Ohtani
Angels get: INF Junior Caminero (No. 1 org prospect, No. 14 overall), LHP Mason Montgomery

There’s a chance that the Rays may prefer a package that emphasizes quality over quantity — just look at how carefully they’ve balanced the present and future over the last few years, with a steady stream of young, controllable players coming through the system and contributing. If they’d rather not cull the top of their farm system, they could bite down hard and decide to part with Caminero, an infielder who’s rocketed up prospect lists this year despite just turning 20 earlier this month. He’s now regarded as one of the top position player prospects in the entire sport, and he’d be among the best building blocks the Angels could hope to acquire in return for three months of Ohtani.