Column: Reeling Angels need to swallow hard and trade Shohei Ohtani

Dodgers second baseman Mookie Betts chats with Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani on the field.
Dodgers second baseman Mookie Betts, left, chats with the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani as Ohtani stands on second during the fourth inning of Friday’s game.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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For all the glitz and glam found within the rosters of Southern California’s successful sports teams, there is only one bit of bling that truly interests them.

They play for rings. They build for rings. They’re irrelevant without rings.

They know these championships are not about style, they’re about substance, and they win them with more than the gleam of stars, but also the grit of role players, of depth, of team.

The ball from the Dodgers’ last title game ended up in the hands of backup catcher Austin Barnes. Arguably the best player in the Lakers’ last crowning game was sixth man Rajon Rondo. The cornerstone of the Rams only title was a hidden hulk named Andrew Whitworth.


The Dodgers have barely played half of their games, but when it comes to their starting pitching, a trade needs to be made, the sooner the better.

July 6, 2023

Which brings us to the Angels, whose last championship win 21 years ago came from the arm of a rookie named John Lackey.

These current Angels currently have the biggest star in Major League Baseball, a far bigger star than anyone on that 2002 team, quite possibly the best player in baseball history, but he will probably walk away at the end of the season, and they are faced with a widely publicized choice.

Do they keep Shohei Ohtani until October and risk losing him for virtually nothing? Or do they trade him before the Aug. 1 deadline and bolster their roster with at least two starting players and a passel of prospects in building a team that can eventually win one of those rings?

It says here, trade him.

If Arte Moreno truly wants to own a Los Angeles team in more than first name only, he will prioritize winning above all else, and attempting to keep Ohtani beyond Aug. 1 is a losing proposition.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian didn’t outright say it, but it’s pretty clear the team is not thinking of trading Shohei Ohtani.

June 20, 2023

Trade him. Swallow hard and trade him. Sacrifice all that marketing revenue and trade him. Anger your fans and trade him.

Use him to build that championship and trade him. Change the face of your losing franchise and trade him. Sacrifice style for substance and trade him.


Ohtani already has one foot out the door. Don’t let him slam that door in your face.

Did you hear him say he values winning above all else, even more than the quiet and comforting confines of Anaheim?

“I like the fans. I like the atmosphere in the organization,” he said through his interpreter two years ago. “But my feelings of wanting to win are stronger.”

If you believe that, it’s pretty clear he’s not coming back. If he wasn’t already convinced, a recent injury-filled losing streak that pushed the Angels back to the edge of postseason irrelevance probably cemented it.

Ohtani is the best hitter in baseball. Ohtani is one of the best pitchers in baseball. And the Angels star is both things at once.

July 7, 2021

Listen to him and trade him. Heed your gut and trade him. Be fearless and trade him.

Yeah, it stinks.

In a perfect world, Ohtani would be an Angel forever, finishing his major league journey where it started six years ago, with one of the few teams that cherished him before the rest of the baseball world realized he was Babe Ruth.

Actually, he’s better than Babe Ruth, he’s a top-10 hitter and top-20 pitcher, and having just turned 29 he’s in the prime of his career, no more stats necessary, you’ve seen him, he’s a unicorn.

In a perfect world, Ohtani and teammate Mike Trout would have swung off into the sunset together as a dynamic duo with multiple championships.


But in the bitter reality that has been the Angels’ existence for more than a decade, Ohtani and Trout haven’t even appeared in a playoff game together, and the last six years have resembled something of a total waste.

The Angels haven’t played in the postseason in nine years. They haven’t won a playoff game in 14 years. And this year doesn’t appear to be any sort of streak buster.

Shohei Ohtani’s cartoon-like feats for the Angels have stunned the baseball world, but it’s very similar to the comic book world that influenced him.

May 23, 2021

That recent spate of injuries has cost them six starters, most notably Trout, who will sit out at least a month because of a broken hand. During this bleak stretch, the Angels have lost eight of nine games and fallen to the middle of a crowded wild-card race. And their upcoming schedule after the All-Star break and before the trade deadline offers little relief, with their first six games being against the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, and later series at Toronto and Atlanta.

It’s enough to tighten a manager’s jaw.

“It’s one of those things, you just have to push through,” Phil Nevin said before Friday’s 11-4 loss to the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. “Next guy up.”

The problem with the Angels is, there are very few next guys up. They lack the organizational depth to plug in adequate reserves the way the Dodgers always do. Their best players go down, there’s little left to fill the void.

What they need is something that only Ohtani can give them. They need powerful prospects. They need reliable cornerstones. Simply put, they need more good players, and the best way for that to happen quickly is by using Ohtani as the chip to acquire them.


If he walks away in November, they get virtually nothing — a draft pick after the second round probably — and the last six years were for naught.

Angels manager Phil Nevin insists everything the team wants is attainable despite sitting at .500 one game before the All-Star break begins.

July 7, 2023

Seriously, it stinks.

The fairy tale of a sports superstar staying in one place forever rarely has a happy ending. You can’t count on it. You can’t believe in it.

LeBron James never should have left Cleveland, but he did. Tom Brady never should have left New England, but he did. And Ohtani never should leave Anaheim, but he will.

No matter how much loyalty Ohtani feels, every indication is that he’ll chase a $500 million contract from a place that has a legitimate shot at a championship. Did you see how he relished that World Baseball Classic victory last spring? This is about more than dollars, this is about titles on a national stage, Ohtani has had a taste and he clearly wants more.

If he stays, he might never get that shot. His wingman Trout is a slowly declining player whose body has been ravaged by his relentless effort. The other star, Anthony Rendon, can’t stay on the field. By paying those three guys, Moreno would have little left to build a team around them, and Ohtani surely knows it.

He would be re-signing with a squad that needs a first baseman, a second baseman, and a bunch of pitchers … and no short and clear path to acquire them.


Reid Detmers may only have a 2-5 record but there’s no Angels pitcher who is performing better these days. On Sunday, he helped them end a four-game slide.

July 2, 2023

It’s obvious what will happen and what needs to happen, even if the Angels are sick of hearing about it.

I asked Nevin if the Ohtani stuff was a distraction.

“What stuff?” he said.

The Ohtani trade talk.

“I don’t talk about it,” he said. “You’re the first I’ve heard of it today.”


“I don’t pay attention to that stuff,” he said. “I know it goes on, the players and us, it’s not something we talk about. We come out, we know he’s our teammate today.”


“And we’re ready to utilize him and be as best we can with him,” Nevin said. “He’s a great teammate, he likes being here, we love having him here.”

All true, but they’re going to probably part ways soon, and there’s seemingly only one way this charmed relationship can end, yet another fractured fairy tale.

Trade him.