There will be plenty of talk surrounding Shohei Ohtani this offseason. He is undoubtedly the best player in baseball, doing things we’ve never seen before, and is entering the final season of his contract. Despite having arguably the two best players in the league, the Angels organization is a dumpster fire. They are nowhere close to competing for championships, and it didn’t take long for Ohtani to express his concern following the season.
“I have to say that August and September in particular felt longer to me than last year,” Ohtani said, speaking in Japanese. “We were not able to play as many good games as we would like — including 14 consecutive losses. So I have a rather negative impression of this season.”
We are at the point where I don’t see how the Angels don’t attempt to trade Ohtani this offseason. I don’t think his comments suggest he would refuse to play next season for Los Angeles, but I would be shocked if he decided to re-sign there. Given the Angels are highly unlikely to compete in 2023, moving one of the most coveted assets in baseball to the highest bidder makes the most sense.
So might the Braves have interest in the Ohtani sweepstakes?
Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk said his “next goal” is for the organization to have a top-five payroll in baseball. This past season, they had the eighth-highest payroll. There’s no question it will go up, but how much further will determine if Ohtani is a realistic target.
The Japanese superstar is set to earn $30 million next season, but his next contract could sniff half a billion. I have a hard time believing the Braves’ pockets are that deep; however, if there were ever a player that would be worth it, it’s Ohtani. Not only could he potentially outperform such a lucrative contract with his ability to play both ways, but the crowds he would bring into The Battery would be ludicrous. The Braves may sell out every game with him on the roster, making this a wise move for financial purposes as well.
But even if Atlanta does have the money to re-sign Ohtani, do they have the talent the Angels would be looking for to facilitate a trade? In their farm system, the answer is no. Atlanta’s system is one of the more barren among the 30 teams. With that being said, they do have a lot of major-league talent that could pique the Angels interest.
One intriguing idea would be Max Fried. He’s a California kid that is also entering the final year of his contract, but he won’t demand nearly as much money as Ohtani. The Angels are desperate for pitching, and they may feel like they have a better chance of signing Fried long-term.
A couple of other names that would appeal to Los Angeles are Vaughn Grissom and William Contreras. The Braves could be very open to moving Grissom this offseason, especially if they re-sign Dansby Swanson. Contreras will hurt more to part way with, given the Braves’ lack of catcher depth in the organization, but with Manny Piña and Travis d’Arnaud also under contract, I wouldn’t totally count it out.
Atlanta also has a logjam of pitching at the upper levels of the minors that they will likely be looking to trade this offseason, and as I said before, the Angels need pitching.
There is reason to believe the Braves will be interested if the Angels begin to shop Ohtani, but money will be the primary issue. If they really believe they would have a chance at re-signing him, unloading a lot of talent to acquire him could be worth it. But as just a one-year rental, the Braves are probably better off hanging on to what they have.
Photographer: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire