Any conversation about Shohei Ohtani has to begin with the unprecedented nature of who is and what he is doing to the sport of baseball. We have simply never seen what we are witnessing from Ohtani and likely never will again.
Due to his exceptional play and the current state of affairs for his team, a rare opportunity is about to present itself to GMs around the game of baseball. We could see the greatest rental in the history of professional sports hit the open market.
Ohtani as a hitter alone would be in the conversation by himself of being the greatest rental ever. Since the calendar flipped to June, Ohtani is hitting .360/.456/.880, with 20 home runs in just 39 games played. His 247 wRC+ is by far the best mark in baseball, as is his .520 Isolate Power.
Yet during this time where Ohtani has been so excellent, the Angels have gone 18-21.
It is not often that we see the best hitter in baseball hit the open market at the trade deadline. Juan Soto might be an MVP candidate ever year, but he wasn’t in the midst of an MVP campaign when he got traded last year. Ohtani is and he would be with the bat alone.
The fact that Ohtani can also be the ace of a team’s playoff rotation is what sets him apart as the best rental not only in baseball history, but in the history of sports.
A team who acquires Ohtani at the deadline not only gets the best hitter in baseball, but also the best pitcher who will be moved this year.
Ohtani hasn’t been throwing the ball great as of late, 4.46 ERA in his last seven starts, but still holds a 3.50 ERA on the season and can click into gear at any time. Last year, Ohtani pitched to a 1.62 ERA after the trade deadline over his final 11 starts.
In a future article, we will break down exactly what trade packages could look like for Ohtani.
For now though, think of it this way: a team who acquired Ohtani as a rental bat would likely need to include at least two, if not, three blue chip prospects. As a rental arm, he would net at least one blue chip, if not two.
If a true bidding war starts, there is every chance that the Angels could net themselves a return that is not too far off from the one the Nationals received last year for Juan Soto, who still had two years of control beyond that season.
While that is a hefty price to pay for a rental, we are talking about the greatest rental in the history of sports. A player who is so good that in one trade, a team can skyrocket their championship odds.
Still, there will be far less teams in the mix for Ohtani now, then there will be when he becomes a free agent in the offseason. But for the following teams, pushing their chips in the center of the table for Ohtani is a trade worth gambling on.
Los Angeles Dodgers
We begin with a team that is always opportunistic at the trade deadline, the Los Angels Dodgers.
The Dodgers certainly need to add a starting pitcher and a big bat to the middle of their lineup at the deadline. Ohtani kills two birds with one stone. They are also a landing spot for Ohtani in free agency and have a good enough farm to make any trade they want.
The problem. Why would the Angels trade Ohtani in their own market?
Outside of a team in division, a Dodgers uniform is probably the last one the Angels would want to see Ohtani in for the next decade. With that said, a responsible GM is taking the best offer on the table and the Dodgers might be the team aggressive enough to put the best offer on the table, so you can’t count them out.
Speaking of trading in division, the Texas Rangers are currently having the season the Angels hoped to in the AL West. Texas made big additions in each of the last two offseasons and have been able to jump the line on the Angels to contend this year.
The Rangers have been building a farm system over the last few years while retooling in free agency and have the capability to make a big swing at this deadline. If they landed Ohtani, the Rangers instantly become the favorite in an extremely contentious American League.
It would both put a target on their back and give them an incredible chance at winning the World Series this year. If everything worked out, the Rangers might even be able to convince Ohtani to stay.
Whether or not the Angels want to trade Ohtani in their division is to be seen, but it feels like the Rangers are less of a threat to sign him in free agency than the Dodgers. Maybe the Angels can talk themselves into Ohtani only being on the Rangers for a year and decide to deal him there.
Tampa Bay Rays
Now let’s get to our dark horse landing spot for Shohei Ohtani. The Tampa Bay Rays.
While on the surface, the Rays don’t appear like the team that would mortgage their future for a rental, there is reason for the Rays to cash their chips now. They are so good at developing that they are at a 40-man roster crunch after this season, and they have been competitive for nearly a decade.
Assuming they make it out of the gauntlet that is the American League East, and into the playoffs, the Rays will have made it five years in a row. They have tasted the World Series twice as a franchise, but have never won it. Now three years removed from their last appearance, maybe the Rays are calculated gamblers, who finally want to do whatever it takes to win it all.
If the Rays do the math on how much their championship odds would increase if they traded for Ohtani, maybe it would be convincing enough to go all-in on the best rental ever. Ohtani pays for himself with the money a small market team could make over the final two months of the season, especially if they make a deep playoff push.
While it doesn’t feel like the Rays could sustain a player like Ohtani on their payroll long-term, a shot to win it all this year might be worth it. And you never know, if they make money hand over fist, maybe they realize Ohtani is a viable investment for any team in baseball and they get in the mix more than we think this winter.
New York Yankees
Could the New York Yankees really get in the mix for Shohei Ohtani? They’d certainly like to after watching him up close and personal over the last few days.
Ohtani and Cole, Ohtani and Judge, come October we could be talking about both the best pitching and best hitting duos belonging to the same team. The Yankees want nothing more than to get over the hump and would be willing to make the win-now trade. Especially since it would allow them to make a two-month free agent pitch to him as well.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants might be the best landing spot for Ohtani, particularly if we are talking about free agency. This is a team that is clearly hungry for a star, considering their pursuits of both Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last offseason.
Simply put, the Giants have money to spend and bringing on Ohtani would have to be seen as the top priority heading into the offseason.
Some would argue that a team like the Giants should hold all their cards, make a playoff push with the team that they have and then focus their pursuit of Ohtani to the offseason. My counter would be that your best free agent pitch for Shohei Ohtani is to get him now and help bring him to the playoffs for the first time in his MLB career.
At the time of writing, the Giants currently hold the top Wild Card spot in the National League. They have won eight of their last 10, jolting themselves above the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been ahead of them all season. At 54-41, the Giants are in second in the AL West, merely 1.5 games behind the Dodgers.
There is absolutely a chance the Giants can make a run this year and Ohtani would put them over the top to do so.
If the Giants go on a magical run down the stretch, topple the Dodgers and then march to the NLCS, imagine the moments Ohtani will enjoy in a Giants uniform during the process?
The Giants making a run with Ohtani is the best possible sales pitch that he can be winner in San Francisco long-term. Having never played in the playoffs before, making it there this season could be the foot in the door that a team like the Giants need to win the ultimate prize in free agency.