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Report: Shohei Ohtani could be traded if Angels fall out of contention

With Shohei Ohtani’s free agency looming, there’s a lot riding on how the Angels fare over the next couple of months.

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels runs to first during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 19, 2023 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

With Shohei Ohtani set to become a free agent after this season — and reportedly interested in looking around to see what other teams may have to offer — we already figured that the Los Angeles Angels had a lot riding on the next few months. And now ESPN’s Jeff Passan has basically confirmed as much:

Passan appeared on this morning’s edition of Get Up for an update on where things stand as Ohtani and the Angels travel to New York for a star-studded series against the Yankees, and he laid the stakes pretty bare: If L.A. can’t finally field a contender for the first time in Ohtani’s six years with the franchise, the superstar is certainly gone this winter — and could well be traded at the deadline.

It’s hard to argue with the logic. Despite fielding both Ohtani and Mike Trout, the Angels have somehow yet to post a winning record since signing the Japanese phenom back in 2018. Ohtani will turn 29 this July, meaning that this next contract will likely be his one big chance to cash in on his unprecedented value — and his one big chance to land on a real World Series contender.

The Yankees, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and more are expected to compete for Ohtani’s services this winter, with bidding expected to reach as high as $500 million. If the Angels can’t offer any reason for optimism that they’re headed in the right direction, there’s no reason for Ohtani to consider staying. And if there’s no reason for Ohtani to consider staying, then it would make sense for the franchise to move on at the trade deadline and at least recoup something for their generational talent.

It’s hard to know what an Ohtani trade would look like, if only because we’ve never really seen a player like him before. The 2021 AL MVP has posted an .885 OPS as a Major Leaguer, while sporting a 2.84 ERA and 468 strikeouts over 370.2 innings on the mound. You’d have to think that the bidding would start at something like a young Major League star plus a top-10 prospect — then again, with Ohtani ticketed for free agency in a matter of months, it’s not like the Angels would have a ton of leverage with which to make demands.

L.A. is certainly hoping it doesn’t come to that, and there’s at least some reason to believe that this is the year they finally get Ohtani to October. The team currently sits at 9-9 after a loss on Wednesday night in the Bronx, but they have a +14 run differential, and the way Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and Griffin Canning are pitching gives hope that the Halos have finally managed to build some pitching depth around their ace. If not, though, it looks like all bets are off.