The Worldly Reason the Angels May Offer Ohtani the Highest-Ever $600 Million Deal

On July 27, the Los Angeles Angels announced they will not trade Shohei Ohtani, 29, during the season.

By Noboru Kijima


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On July 27, the Los Angeles Angels announced they will not trade Shohei Ohtani, 29, during the season. This means, without waiting for the August 1 (August 2 Japan time) deadline, the Angels had made clear their policy of aiming for their first playoff in nine years, with Ohtani at the core of batting and pitching. For the time being, the issue of Ohtani’s standing that has been the center of attention on both sides of the Pacific has been settled.

Now, the focus will be on whether the Angels can extend Ohtani’s contract before he becomes a free agent and starts negotiations with other teams. He has expressed his attachment to the team, saying, “Obviously, I’ve been with the Angels my whole career here, and I love the fans. I love the team, no complaints,” so they have more than a slim chance for a deal.

Meanwhile, the Angels have their own circumstances for desperately wanting to sign a multi-year deal with Ohtani.

“Each Game Brings 10,000 More Fans Eager to See Ohtani Play”

Trade rumors of Ohtani have stemmed from the Angels’ slump since late June. Many teams, including the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, and Los Angeles Dodgers, who are division winners or likely playoff contenders, have been named as his potential landing spots.

In fact, at the front-office level, a plan to trade Ohtani in exchange for promising young talents from other teams was already in store. However, according to a representative at a major U.S. management agency, the Angels owner Arte Moreno never considered letting Ohtani go.

For the front office, strengthening the team is the top priority. Meanwhile, Moreno sees Ohtani from a business perspective. So for him, there was no way to just let go of Ohtani, who has brought tangible and intangible assets to the team, and will continue to do so in the future.

There is no need to mention Ohtani’s two-way contribution on the field. Even off the field, the team enjoys immeasurable benefits by having Ohtani, including sponsorship deals with several Japanese companies, an estimated 10,000 more fans turning up for each game to see Ohtani, and a boost in the team’s brand image.

To persuade Ohtani to stay on board, the Angels made a big move in the trade market. The team acquired pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López from the Chicago White Sox. By trading two of their top minor league prospects, the Angels bolstered their bullpen, which had been their weak point.

“I love Shohei Ohtani,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said, “He comes in, prepares, works, goes out and performs on a nightly basis. Obviously, does both [hitting and pitching]. He’s a great teammate. He takes this really seriously. He eats it. He sleeps it. He’s somebody that we would love to have going forward,” expressing a willingness for an extended deal.

The samurai helmet celebration has become a staple © AFLO

Considering the environment for the demanding two-way play style, the Angels, based on the West Coast with a mild climate, is not a bad choice. Many believe that Ohtani will agree to remain, even with a moderate deal, if he feels the team is committed to go for a championship. The Angels certainly have an advantage at this point in the contest over Ohtani.

The Angels’ purchasing power has always lagged behind those of big-market teams such as the Dodgers and Mets. Moreno, who made his fortune as the son of poor Mexican immigrants, is also known as a tough businessman. Last summer, he put up the team for sale.

From the 2003 purchase price of $184 million (about 22.1 billion yen then), the asset value of the franchise is said to have surged to $3 billion (about 420 billion yen) by one measure. And Ohtani is the “added value” that determines the sale price.

“Without Ohtani, the Team’s Asset Value Will Plummet”

Negotiations for selling the team that began last summer were abruptly pulled off in January this year. Ohtani’s presence played a big part in this. According to the representative, the sale was canceled in part because Ohtani’s long-term contract was not guaranteed.

The representative said that, since Ohtani will be assessed as a prime asset when selling the franchise, the team’s asset value will differ immensely by whether he is on board. As Moreno explored the sale of the franchise, he must have realized Ohtani’s significant presence. That is why he took the deal off the market last year when the team only had a one-year contract with the two-way star; Moreno may seek for a multi-year deal, then put the team out for sale again.

Reports say that Ohtani’s next deal may eclipse $600 million (about 82 billion yen), MLB’s all-time high. The Angels wielded absolute power over Ohtani during the trading period. The situation has reversed completely after the trade deadline. This time, the Angels will make an offer while trying to gauge Ohtani’s mind.

The High Pay Doesn’t Matter If the Franchise Is Sold

Since the Angels already have big contracts with the slugger Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, with an additional massive deal with Ohtani, the team is likely to exceed the “luxury tax” salary cap,

According to the representative, Moreno has tried to avoid the luxury tax in the past, but with Ohtani, he is poised to keep the superstar even if it costs the penalty. The team will probably try to offer a deal Ohtani could agree with, while it has exclusive negotiation rights. The high pay and the luxury tax may weigh on the franchise, but once it is sold off, the next owner will bear the risk. Moreno would spend lavishly as he can to keep Ohtani and put the team on sale at an aggressive price.

Moreno escaped the dishonor of being the owner who traded Ohtani. Moreover, if he succeeds in re-signing him, his name will be remembered in American baseball history as the owner who signed the biggest MLB deal with one of the greatest players ever. So, he will promptly seek the optimal timing for selling the franchise.

If he succeeds in selling at a profit, it would be a zero-risk high return deal, without having to pay Ohtani’s salary or the luxury tax himself. The representative said that at the earliest, Moreno could sell the team immediately after re-signing with Ohtani, and the Angels may have a new owner at the next season’s opening.

This is a translation of the Japanese article published on July 31, 2023, on Bunshun Online.


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