Sunday, Shohei Ohtani homered twice and drove in eight runs for the Los Angeles Angels in a *loss* to the Royals. Monday, he struck out 13 batters across eight shutout innings in a 5-0 win over Kansas City.
The reigning American League MVP is not only the greatest show in baseball currently, but one of the most must-watch stars in that the sport has ever seen.
And given that Ohtani can become a free agent after the 2023 season, some are starting to imagine a future for the two-way superstar outside of Anaheim.
ESPN's Buster Olney discussed the uncertain future of Ohtani in Los Angeles this week, beginning to wonder whether the New York Mets could become a potential landing spot if he reaches the open market.
"As Joe Maddon said last year, what Ohtani is accomplishing as a position player and a pitcher is ridiculous, it's something we've never seen before. And that's why there's a looming crisis for the Angels. There's only 16 months until Ohtani can become a free agent, and look when you talk to friends of his, they say 'He wants to win.' The Angels have notoriously not been winning, seven straight seasons since their last winning record. And by the way, the guy who was most influential in luring Ohtani to the Angels was Billy Eppler, the general manager at that time. He's now with ... the New York Mets, working for the richest owner in baseball in Steve Cohen. So the Angels have to find a way to lock up Ohtani long-term before he hits the market next fall."
There are multiple issues for the Angels, the biggest being that if Ohtani is hell-bent on winning, he would be fair to wonder if the grass may be greener elsewhere. The Angels are currently 34-38, 11 games back of the Houston Astros in the American League West. Having already fired the aforementioned Maddon, Baseball Reference estimates that the Angels have just a 9.4% chance to reach the postseason in 2022, despite the addition of a third Wild Card.
Beyond that, the Angels are already one of the more top-heavy teams in baseball. Robert Murray of FanSided estimated earlier this week that Ohtani would get over $50 million annually if he hit the open market today. Mike Trout is making $35.45 million annually though 2030. Anthony Rendon is owed $152 million over the next four seasons. Unless owner Arte Moreno is committed to blowing by the luxury tax threshold for a few seasons, it's going to be hard to retain all three and build a contending team around them.
With that said, allowing Ohtani to depart (or trading him) may doom Perry Minasian's tenure as general manager. Trout is the greatest player in the history of the Angels, and remains arguably the best position player in the game. If you were to trade Trout, you would turn off Ohtani. And with Rendon out for the season, you'd be best served hoping he can bounce back in 2023, rather than trying to eat a significant chunk of his remaining money and/or attaching a prospect to convince a team to trade for him.
If Ohtani were to become available -- whether the Angels decided to trade him or he reached the free-agent market -- the Mets would seemingly be an ideal suitor. They are a contending team and possess one of the few owners in the sport willing to spend the type of money it will take to land Ohtani.
Make no mistake, there would be a ton of risk in signing Ohtani -- already a veteran of Tommy John surgery -- to a long-term deal expecting him to sustain being a two-way superstar into his mid-30s. But Ohtani is by far the biggest global star in the sport today, and whether it's from the Angels or someone else, he figures to get one of the most lucrative contracts in the history of the sport ahead of his age-29 season.