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With Shohei Ohtani gone, Angels have challenge of overhauling roster

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, left, and Dodgers’ Mookie Betts shake hands during a July 7 game at Dodger Stadium.
Shohei Ohtani, left, and Mookie Betts will be teammates on the Dodgers next season, leaving the Angels with a huge whole in their roster.
(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
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The massive poster of Shohei Ohtani was long gone by the time Raymond Diaz, a 33-year-old Angels fan, walked up to Angel Stadium shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday. It had been about five hours since the two-way star announced he would join the Dodgers on a 10-year, $700 million deal.

“[I’m here] just to see Ohtani’s poster one last time,” Diaz told The Times under the gaze of the glossy window panes left behind by the poster’s absence. “It’s official, now that he’s gone.”

Diaz wasn’t the only fan who stopped by.

“I just wanted to go look at the team shop and also just feel the vibe of the stadium,” said lifelong Angels fan Calvin Horash, 24. “I wanted to see what the vibe was, which is really, like, somber, in a weird way. Just a bunch of people walking around taking pictures.”

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The post-Ohtani reality will continue to set in for Angels fans who are sad to see the departure of one of baseball’s most talented players — who had the three best seasons of his career to date while the Angels were unable to produce a winning season during that stretch. And the fans all want to know where the Angels go from here.

An Angels fan takes a photo of the spot where Shohei Ohtani's poster hung outside of Angel Stadium.
An Angels fan takes a photo of the spot where Shohei Ohtani’s poster hung outside of Angel Stadium before the two-way star agreed to a deal with the Dodgers.
(Sarah Valenzuela / Los Angeles Times)

General manager Perry Minasian had already suggested that with or without Ohtani, he intended to continue making a play for a winner in Anaheim. Minasian is in the final year of his contract with the Angels.

Now knowing they will not have to account for another record-setting salary on their payroll, the Angels have a bit more flexibility before reaching the first competitive balance tax threshold ($237 million in 2024) to figure out the rest of their offseason. The Angels have just once gone over the preset tax rate, in 2004 and paid a tax bill of less than $1 million.

The Angels did make Ohtani a qualifying offer, a set rate across MLB of about $20.3 million, shortly after the conclusion of the World Series, which he declined. With Ohtani joining the Dodgers, the Angels will receive a compensatory draft pick in next year’s amateur draft. They also have the No. 8 pick in next year’s draft, the result of the MLB draft lottery.

Asked Saturday if the Angels were in the ballpark of a $700-million offer and how tough it was to lose Ohtani, team president John Carpino said: “No comment.”

Shohei Ohtani, who earned two-time MVP honors with the Angels, is staying in Southern California and will join the star-studded Dodgers lineup.

Dec. 9, 2023

In coming to terms with the team’s post-Ohtani future, Minasian will have to figure out options to provide new manager Ron Washington with rotation help. The Angels rotation — Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers, Tyler Anderson, Griffin Canning and a swing sixth spot filled by several pitchers through the season — collectively struggled in 2023.

Since Ohtani is unable to pitch again until 2025 after Tommy John surgery, the Angels would have needed to find at least one new starting pitcher regardless of his decision. Without Ohtani, they could go back to a more typical five-man rotation. Internal options to help fill the rotation include Chase Silseth, who in the middle of last season emerged as one of the team’s strongest pitchers.

Still, the Angels would benefit from a veteran presence in their rotation. As far as finding another ace, Minasian said during the winter meetings: “I think that’s something that everybody would love to have. How realistic it is? We’ll find out.”

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Their bullpen, as well, is no completed project. They already have their closer, Carlos Estévez, with another high-leverage relief pitching option returning in José Quijada, who had Tommy John surgery earlier this year.

Shohei Ohtani heads to the pitcher's mound during a game between the Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates at Angel Stadium.
Shohei Ohtani heads to the pitcher’s mound during a game between the Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates at Angel Stadium on July 21.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

They confirmed the signing of left-handed relief pitcher Adam Kolarek and were in agreement on a deal with right-handed reliever Adam Cimber, a person with knowledge of the agreement but unauthorized to speak about it, said. They were also reportedly in agreement on a deal to bring back former Angels reliever Luis García. But, as Minasian has often said over the years: “You can never have enough pitching.”

Minasian will also have to figure out options for the rest of the lineup and position player depth. Ohtani wasn’t just the Angels’ ace, he was also their primary designated hitter over the last four seasons. At least at DH the team’s internal options start with Mike Trout, who could benefit from playing fewer games in the outfield.

The Angels also need experienced major league players to help round out their outfield and depth at first and third base, since Trout and Anthony Rendon have missed significant time the last few seasons because of injuries.

Another utility player would go a long way, much like the importance of Gio Urshela’s role before his season-ending injury in June. At the very least, the Angels can hope for an overall improved defense, touted by Washington himself as a kind of defensive mechanic.

Washington is signed to a two-year deal, and the Angels have filled out some of their coaching staff: pitching coach Barry Enright; hitting coach Johnny Washington; offensive coordinator Tim Laker; catching coach Jerry Narron; first base coach Bo Porter; third base coach Eric Young Sr.; infield coach Ryan Goins; returning as bench coach, Ray Montgomery; and bullpen coach Steve Karsay.

The Angels have traded David Fletcher and Max Stassi to the Atlanta Braves for first baseman Evan White and reliever Tyler Thomas.

Dec. 9, 2023

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But the Angels also need to improve throughout their organization. Their farm system has been continuously ranked toward the bottom of all teams. In the Rule 5 Draft this month, not one player in their organization was picked up by another team.

The Angels will always be remembered as the team that lost Ohtani for, essentially, a draft pick. But perhaps the blow over time could be softened by developing talent in their system to create a more sustainable product.

One that will give their fans more hope.

“I’m always gonna be an Angels fan. It just makes it harder,” Diaz said. “Without Ohtani, we have a lot of work to do.”

Added Horash: “It just sucks because you know tough days are ahead even though it’s been like that for a decade.”

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