Jeff Passan's early MLB trade deadline preview

Shohei Ohtani received high praises from Greg Maddux on Thursday. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Every Los Angeles Angels victory, every day they spend over .500, every win-now move they make reinforces what people across baseball now almost universally believe: They will not trade Shohei Ohtani, the best player in the world, before the 6 p.m. ET deadline Aug. 1. Of course, a year ago today, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo went on a D.C. radio station and said he was not trading Juan Soto. Two months later, Soto was a San Diego Padre.

Baseball's trade deadline is a beautiful mess of lies and posturing and leverage. What's true yesterday and true tomorrow might not be true today. And so hazarding guesses two months in advance is dangerous, particularly when logic suggests that holding onto Ohtani is far likelier than not to lead to a disastrous outcome for an organization that has spent the last two decades spinning its wheels and the last decade wasting the careers of two Hall of Famers.

The expectation for the Angels is very simple: Unless they flat-out collapse prior to the deadline, they will keep Ohtani -- despite his impending free agency in October -- and chase his first postseason berth. The Angels are doing what they can to make it happen: installing Zach Neto at shortstop less than a year after he was drafted and summoning fireballing reliever Ben Joyce in the same shortened window.

With Ohtani, the Angels believe they at least have a chance. More than anything, they want to show him they can be a winner, that if a championship is what he most desires, he can find it in Anaheim. Since Ohtani arrived in 2018, they have not once finished a season with a winning record. Their last playoff win came in 2009. Ohtani was a sophomore in high school.

The problem: This Angels team, while better, is still a long shot to play meaningful games in October. They are currently 30-27, behind Texas and Houston in the American League West, 3½ games back of the Astros for the final wild-card spot. And with missing out a distinct possibility, that's where keeping Ohtani at the deadline leads to disaster. Last year, the Nationals spun 2½ seasons of Soto into one of the largest prospect hauls of all time. While two months of Ohtani wouldn't be as valuable, he is a frontline pitcher and an elite hitter -- two great players in one -- and a winning team would gladly overpay to use those two months (and October) to convince Ohtani to stay. The Angels could rebuild their bad farm system overnight.