Last Updated on 09/02/2022 by てんしょく飯
Recently, I have been watching Major League Baseball games on TV, but I have been somewhat uninspired. As I have mentioned before, I set my morning schedule to coincide with the game time of Shohei Ohtani of the Angels, but to me, Ohtani on TV does not look like he is enjoying playing baseball.
The business-oriented MLB
The Angels got off to a good start this season, and it looked as if they might be able to make the postseason this year and even win their first World Championship since 2002. However, they unexpectedly lost 14 straight games in the first half of the season, and manager Joe Maddon, who had been a good friend of Ohtani’s two-tool approach, was dismissed in June of this year.
Ohtani himself was selected for the All-Star Game for the second consecutive year, and in the second half of the season he became the first pitcher in 104 years since Babe Ruth to record double-digit wins in a season as a pitcher and double-digit home runs as a hitter, a record in baseball history, but the team’s performance has never improved.
The team’s condition led to a great deal of talk that Ohtani would be moved by the August 2 trade deadline, but in the end he stayed with the team. However, the Angels were already in end-of-season mode this season, trading closer Iglesias as well as Syndergaard, who had been supporting the starting pitching staff along with Ohtani, and Marsh, a regular outfielder who is a young up-and-coming starter.
Unlike Japanese professional baseball, trades in Major League Baseball are dry and businesslike. A player is granted FA (free agent) rights after six years with the team, which gives him the right to move to another team on his own.
For the team, if a key player leaves the team as an FA, the team’s strength will be reduced without getting anything in return, so the team often signs the key player to a long-term contract of five or seven years before the FA season.
On the other hand, when a team is eliminated from the championship race, it often trades several promising young players from other teams in the championship race while the team still has ownership of the leading players who are about to become FAs in order to rebuild the team. In Japan, if a team gives up on winning a championship in the middle of the season and releases its key players, the fans will not remain silent.
It is because of this major league trade situation that Ohtani became a major topic of discussion as a potential trade before the trade deadline this season.
Ohtani, who made his major league debut in 2018, will become a FA at the end of the 2023 season, so the Angels have a choice between signing Ohtani to a long-term deal before he becomes a FA or trading him before that to acquire three or four young prospects from the other team.
The Angels have a poor farm system for developing young players in their minor league system and have few prospects, so they need several promising young players to fundamentally rebuild their team from a medium- to long-term perspective.
Angels’ financial situation
The reason why the news of the Ohtani trade is again making headlines in the Japanese and U.S. media, even though the trade deadline for this season has passed, is because Angels owner Art Moreno has announced that he will consider selling the team.
Some U.S. media outlets have pointed out that Moreno, who is said to have had a say in team organization in the past, including trades and long-term contracts for big-name players, did not approve of trading Ohtani, but the sale of the team has changed the situation and the next owner is no longer sure whether he will trade Ohtani.
Another major influence on the Ohtani trade issue is the team’s other superstar, Mike Trout.
Trout, a three-time MVP and one of Major League Baseball’s most popular and talented players, has signed a 12-year, $426.5 million, $35 million extension with a no-trade clause that runs through 2030.
The Angels also signed another player, Anthony Rendon, a good-hitting third baseman who was a member of the Washington Nationals’ World Championship team, to a long-term contract that will pay him $38 million a year through 2026. The question is whether the new owners, who are rebuilding the team with these two long-term contracts, will be able to offer Ohtani a long-term contract as well.
Ohtani’s salary this season is $5.5 million (about 750 million yen), but his contract is up for renewal this offseason. Some believe that in order for the Angels to retain Ohtani, who now represents Major League Baseball, they would need to sign him to a seven-year contract worth at least $50 million per year, or a total of at least $350 million (about ¥47.95 billion).
In Major League Baseball, there is a rule that a so-called “luxury tax” is paid if a team’s total annual salary exceeds the threshold in order to balance the strength of each team, so owners must organize their teams while calculating the total annual salary of their star players.
Unlikely to be traded
If Ohtani were to be traded, the U.S. media has predicted which team would be the most likely destination, naming specific teams.
The American version of Yahoo! Sports,” considering the financial strength of the teams, listed the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Yankees, Cardinals, Rangers, and Braves as the leading candidates for a trade.
The Los Angeles Times published a column titled “How the Angels’ new owner could sell Shohei Ohtani.
The Angels now have a chance to keep Shohei Ohtani beyond next year. If (current owner) Moreno is gone, the Angels will have the opportunity to convince the 28-year-old Ohtani to spend the rest of his prime years with them. The window for doing so is small, but at least it is open,” he said, pointing to the possibility of staying.
He then predicted that “leaving the team as a FA after the 2023 season remains the most likely scenario, but it is unlikely that the Angels will trade him this winter.
The reason for this, he explained, is that given that it took the Dodgers six months to sell in 2012, the Angels will be under the current ownership this offseason, which eliminates the possibility of significant changes being made.
He also pointed out that in order to win a world championship with Ohtani, who aspires to be the best baseball player in the world, the Angels need to pay the luxury tax and build a well-developed farm system (player development), the importance of which Ohtani understands.
In Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals are also currently for sale, so the team structure will change depending on how much money the new owner has to buy the Angels and Nationals, which will greatly affect the possibility of a trade for Ohtani.
If the new owner wants Ohtani to stay with the Angels, the only way is to persuade him on how exactly he will reinforce the team’s strength to win the World Championship.
Ohtani’s candid feelings
The Angels, who have the right to hold him until the end of next season, have the right to decide whether or not to trade Ohtani, but Ohtani has the right to decide with which team he will pursue his long-held goal of becoming the world champion after receiving his FA rights.
In an interview after missing the postseason last September, Ohtani expressed his true feelings.
I want to spend a more fun and exciting September, and I hope the clubhouse will be filled with such conversations.
I like the fans and I like the atmosphere of the team itself, but I want to win more than that, and as a player, I think that’s the right thing to do.
When asked by the media just before this season’s trade deadline, “Do you want to stay with the Angels? Ohtani’s answer was simple and clear.
It’s not a question of whether I want to stay, but rather I have to do what I have to do. No matter where I am, what I do will not change. I’ve been taken care of up to now, and of course I like the Angels. For now, I’m still with the Angels. Like today, I want to win one game at a time. I have another game tomorrow, so I’m going to switch gears and do my best.
From what he said, it seems that he is not concerned about the Angels if he wants to win the World Series.
I want to see Ohtani winning the World Series and smiling and pouring champagne with his teammates. I wonder if he will be wearing the red or blue uniform.