The Los Angeles Angels are for sale. Arte Moreno, who has owned the team since 2003, will seek a buyer for a franchise that currently employs two of the brightest talents of this generation and operates in the country’s second-largest market. Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and a foothold in the Los Angeles area. It would all sound a lot more appealing if Moreno’s tenure hadn’t turned into a model of how to waste superstar talent by neglecting, spoiling, or refusing to invest in every other aspect of building an MLB winning organization.
The very notion of the team changing hands will make waves. The perfect storm that frustrated fans and led Moreno to sell – glaring reasons why the Angels should be consumed for deep systemic reasons they aren’t – could produce huge ripple effects under the new leadership or even as the current regime prepares for the sale. .
We’re here to think of all the possibilities we can, starting with the most pressing issue: Shohei Ohtani’s future.
Angels Decide if Shohei Ohtani Can Be Convinced to Stay
The two-way marvel, who won the AL MVP in 2021 and looks like a lock on this year’s top 3, will be a free agent after 2023. He has calmly but publicly expressed a desire to play for a winning team – which clearly Angels are not. Potential buyers for the Angels, according to the Los Angeles Times, include Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Could any of them have the money, cache, and championship pedigree to change Ohtani’s mind? Perhaps, but time may not permit such an effort.
Closing a deal and handing the team over to a buyer will likely take the better part of a year — especially considering the Washington Nationals are still for sale and could affect the Angels’ timeline.
The calculation of trading Ohtani is part of public relations. Does Moreno want to take the hit or leave the new owner a (long) option to try to keep Ohtani? But if the sale isn’t made by the spring, the team’s future on the field begins to weigh heavily on the math. A deal with Ohtani in the offseason would put the Angels in a better position than keeping him until midseason.
Moreno reportedly stopped any idea of trading Ohtani within the 2022 deadline and has repeatedly shown that he is not committed to the best idea for the team’s success. But common sense and recent history suggest the Angels can trade Ohtani while Moreno still has the keys.
Angels exchange Shohei Ohtani in a hurry, a la Juan Soto
Indeed, we were a butterfly flapping the wings of the August deadline turning into something approaching the commercial apocalypse. If the Angels’ intentions had been firmer a few months ago, Ohtani could have moved in at the same time as Juan Soto. If they haven’t already, the Angels will likely come to the same conclusion as the Nationals: they need to trade it in as soon as possible to help revive their terrible farm system and hopefully change the fate of the next generation of Angel teams.
It’s a miserable task trying to explain to fans, but it’s clear that the real misery has already befallen this franchise. They convinced a player billed as Modern Babe Ruth to wear their colors when he could pick any club. He turned out to be better than Babe Ruth – in the sense that he can do both superlatively simultaneously. And yet, they still haven’t been able to field a winning team with him and Trout.
Ohtani is a player unlike any other, but there are some comparable recent deals. He will be a superstar with only a year of control of the team, needing a huge contract to stay. It’s the same setup that got Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets.
In both deals, the team that sent the star also sent a pitcher whose substantial contract they wanted to scrap. Cleveland scored two useful players, Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, who are helping them compete (albeit in a descending division) two years later, and Gimenez looks like he could star at second base for a long time. The Red Sox fared… less well. Still, several major league contributors, and at least one with star-level expectations, would be the minimum price.
The Angels need to get the comeback right considering the shortage of top talent in their minor league system.
Shohei Ohtani arrives with a new team, changes the scenery in 2023 and beyond
Ohtani’s potential suitors need at least a solid agricultural system and, more importantly, a willingness to shell out $350 million or more to secure his services over the long term. The list of realistic destinations isn’t that long, given the spending preferences shown by most homeowners. I count 13 teams that look viable and seven that look more likely.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Starts the highway. Andrew Friedman’s driving force has the youthful talent to hire him and the organizational ability to help him succeed, including adjusting to the six-man rotation.
San Francisco Giants: Run by former Dodgers executive Farhan Zaidi, the Giants have few financial commitments for 2024 and beyond — more so than just the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. There may be no team in a better position to make a spectacular move this winter.
New York Mets: The Mets have… decidedly more financial commitments, but owner Steve Cohen has shown a willingness to disregard luxury tax caps that other owners treat as restrictions. Also of note: Mets GM Billy Eppler was leading the Angels when they won a considerably more crowded derby for Ohtani.
New York Yankees: The Yankees certainly have the prospects and the money to make that happen, but GM Brian Cashman has been hesitant to pull the trigger on these types of deals in recent years.
Cardinals of Saint Louis: Candidates for Juan Soto, the Cardinals also have a high bar for separating themselves from young talent. However, their maneuvers for Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado show that they will attack when they have a team above the barrel. I don’t know if they’d be willing to win a bidding war with the Dodgers, but I wouldn’t rule them out.
Texas rangers: The property is apparently upset at the pace of Texas reconstruction. After firing Jon Daniels and elevating Chris Young, can the Rangers try to speed things up by trading some young talent recently amassed by Ohtani?
Atlanta Braves: Look, I don’t know when or how, but at some point Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos is going to take advantage of the Braves’ unparalleled cost certainty. Over the past few years, he has surgically blocked five of his top six position players until the sun runs out – at rates ranging from very reasonable to Firing his agent. After taking an entire World Series winning field out of his hat and then Apparating Matt Olson in place of Freddie Freeman, Anthopoulos must be recognized as the most dangerous stealth operator in MLB. If Ohtani is indeed his target, it is possible that we will discover when the Braves Twitter account announces their arrival in Atlanta.
The others who could run a race, at least in theory: Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs
Mike Trout’s unwavering loyalty is tested
The best player of the generation has been steadfast in his commitment to the team that selected him 25th overall in 2009. This team totally squandered a decade of Inner Circle Hall of Fame production and is working hard to do the same with more second decade interrupted by injury.
The 12-year, $426.5 million deal Trout signed in 2019 includes a full no-trade clause, which makes his future a little simpler than Ohtani’s. If he persists in his loyalty to the Angels, he will stay with the Angels. It’s just hard to discern what or to whom exactly he would be loyal once the sale is complete. Neither the front office that recruited him nor the front office that agreed to his extension remain in place. The ownership group will disappear. He could easily be in his manager’s room. His longtime teammate Albert Pujols found greener pastures immediately after leaving the Angels – even in his 40s. And while he might enjoy the Southern California lifestyle, Trout is famous for New Jersey and likes to keep up with the weather.
At some point, Trout has to get to a point where he wants to see how his game looks when inserted into any other lineup. Right?
New property redefines Angels with a megatrade
Which leads to the furthest potential ripple. If Trout stays open to a trade and the Angels’ mid-term odds still look bleak when the new owners take control in 2023, the stars will be lining up for a big deal in the vein of the 2012 Dodgers-Red Sox salary change.
The Angels would be functioning as a kind of inverse of the Dodgers. In this case, the new group of Los Angeles owners was making big contracts to quickly launch a competitor. The Angels would be playing the part of the Red Sox – losing the team on the hook for big money. Boston got rid of about $250 million in salary commitments in that deal, headlined by Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, while sending $11 million in cash.
Whether through a deal or separate, an Angels reset would primarily be concerned with moving Trout and Anthony Rendon. If we were estimating that this lawsuit would happen in the offseason after 2023, their deals would have a total of $375.5 million remaining, with Trout in 2030 and Rendon in 2026.
That’s a lot of money, obviously, but it’s not out of the question that another big spender operating below their payroll capacity would be willing to fill that void in one fell swoop for the chance to employ Trout. As mentioned earlier, the Giants have mostly empty books beyond 2023, and rebuilding the Chicago Cubs probably won’t stop them from raising their salary quickly either.
The Angels move… to a new stadium
Whenever ownership changes, the question of relocation arises. In that case, it would come as a shock if the Angels strayed far enough to change the city in front of the uniform. Paying for a “Los Angeles” sports team and moving it to a necessarily smaller market will not make sense to any potential buyer, no matter how second fiddle the Angels are to the Dodgers.
What would make sense is to move to a different park. Angel Stadium is now the fourth oldest in baseball, and nothing like the classic venues ahead (Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium). At the very least, a new stadium on the same site, complemented by something other than parking lots, will be on the new owner’s agenda.
The team’s lease at Angel Stadium is set to expire in 2029 after a deal to sell the stadium to Moreno was voided after the former mayor of Anaheim triggered an FBI corruption investigation in doing so. The city of Long Beach has made clear its hopes of attracting the Angels and – at least at this early stage – it appears to be the most likely option if the team leaves Anaheim.