In January of 1920, then-Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold dual-threat All-Star Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000 and changed the course of baseball history forever.
Now, more than 100 years later, the Los Angeles Angels have to consider making a similar franchise-altering move with their dual-threat superstar, Shohei Ohtani, to avoid losing him for nothing in free agency during the offseason.
The clear odds-on favorite to win MVP in the American League, 29-year-old Ohtani is on pace for 56 home runs at the plate and a 3.32 ERA on the mound for an Angels team that is scuffling at 45-46. The Angles will also be without key cogs Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon for the foreseeable future. Seven games back in the division and five games back in the Wild Card race, the Angels are a longshot to make the postseason. That’s a major problem, as Ohtani sounds as if he is tired of being mired in mediocrity and fed up with missing the playoffs year after year.
Which MLB Team Is Going to Pay $500 Million for Shohei Ohtani?There are only a few ballclubs that can actually afford the two-way superstar
“Those feelings get stronger year by year,” Ohtani said, through his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, during his All-Star Game media time. “It sucks to lose. [I want] to win.”
That desire is almost certainly not going to be fulfilled this season and Ohtani sounds intent on hitting free agency during the offseason and signing a contract that will pay him somewhere around $500 million. The Angels are in the running to re-sign Ohtani, but they are also in danger of losing the most valuable asset in the history of modern baseball for nothing — which is why the team should seriously consider trading the modern Babe Ruth before the August 1 deadline.
The Angels will get far more than $100,000 for Ohtani and, while they will never get equal value for baseball’s biggest star, they may be able to command a package of prospects and players that will help Los Angeles reset their franchise with its cornerstone, Trout, entering his mid-30s.
Could the Angels swap two guaranteed months of Ohtani’s services and the ability to possibly re-sign him during the offseason for electric Cincinnati Reds rookie Elly De La Cruz? Probably not, as the Reds have De La Cruz under team control at a reasonable number for years to come and Cincy would have virtually no shot at retaining Ohtani in free agency due to the price he will command. But could the Angels send Ohtani to a big-market team like the Yankees or Red Sox with playoff aspirations, plenty of prospects and enough payroll to possibly retain the two-way slugger? Maybe. With the deadline looming, it’s something the Angels must explore.
“I’ve never been a free agent before, so I’m not sure how that’s gonna be,” Ohtani said. “I’m focused on this season right now. I just want to do my best this year and try to get as many wins as possible. I treat every season as a special season. This season is no different. Regardless of if I’m a free agent next year or not, just try to treat it the same as every other year.”
With Ohtani possibly leaving after this season, the Angels don’t have that luxury. It’s time to talk about a trade.