Monday meant media day for the 2023 MLB All-Stars, and naturally all eyes and ears were on Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani — specifically where the pending free agent might be playing baseball next year.
As Ohtani entered his walk year, the thought was that the Angels would need to finally get the two-way phenom to the postseason if they hoped to have any chance of resigning him this winter. The season started off well enough, but things have fallen apart over the last month or so: six losses in their last seven games, a 15-19 record since June 1 and injuries to Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Gio Urshela, Brandon Drury and Zach Neto.
As the Angels slip further and further in the AL Wild Card chase, speculation has run rampant that Ohtani is as good as gone, and even that L.A. should consider dealing him at the trade deadline to avoid losing him for nothing in free agency. Those rumors will only get louder based on his remarks on Monday afternoon:
"It sucks to lose. He wants to win, so it gets stronger every year."— SNY (@SNYtv) July 10, 2023
Shohei Ohtani, through his translator, on how important being on a winning team is to him: pic.twitter.com/tc47rqKjnu
Ohtani has at various points over the past two or three years emphasized how important winning is to him, and it feels significant that he chose to do so again with the whole baseball world watching. If the chance to contend is Ohtani’s main criterion in free agency — and it sure seems that way at this point — the Angels are in real trouble: Not only have they never gotten to the playoffs in six years with Ohtani, they haven’t even put together a winning season.
Maybe there’s still time for Los Angeles to turn things around, but they’ll start the second half five games back of the last AL Wild Card spot — and with four teams sitting between them and the Toronto Blue Jays. (And, again, both Trout and the majority of their starting infield will be on the IL for the foreseeable future.) The team had its chance with a player the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and they failed to take advantage of it. When Ohtani signs the largest contract in MLB history this winter, it seems increasingly likely that it won’t be with the Angels.