High tension as Arte Moreno, Angels mull Shohei Ohtani trade

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When you ask Los Angeles Angels employees about Arte Moreno, their posture -- physical, and emotional -- seems to change immediately. They stiffen, as if conversation about their boss is like playing a golf course overrun by sand traps and ponds and streams, all kinds of hazards. If they say the wrong thing, tell the wrong story, do the wrong thing, well, they run the risk of unleashing his temper.

Unfortunately for them, everybody in the industry is asking about Moreno these days. The baseball world is waiting to see if the Angels owner will trade Shohei Ohtani, the game's best and most unique player, who is in the midst of the greatest single-season performance in history. As a hitter, Ohtani leads the majors in home runs (35), triples (7), slugging percentage (.676), total bases (246), and OPS+ (188). As a pitcher, he has held opponents to a .195 batting average, the lowest among all pitchers, and he has a 3.71 ERA, with 148 strikeouts in 111⅔ innings.

Despite Ohtani's unprecedented performance, though, the Angels' playoff chances are slim. They haven't made the playoffs in more than a decade and, according to Fangraphs, they have a 15.2% chance of reaching the 2023 postseason, and just a 3% chance to win the American League West. They are currently playing without All-Star center fielder Mike Trout, who is still recovering from a broken hamate bone in his wrist, and former All-Star Anthony Rendon, who has played just 43 games this season. The Angels' pitching has been a problem, again: Excluding Ohtani, the rest of the staff has an ERA of 4.60.

Between now and the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the Angels' front office will field proposals from other teams, evaluate them and present their recommendations to Moreno. It's the same thing the Angels' staff did last July when, by all accounts, the interest in Ohtani was robust -- plenty of teams are willing to put up generous offers for a player single-handedly capable of fixing both lineup and rotation problems.

"That's the time [Moreno] should've traded him, because his value was at its peak and the Angels weren't going anywhere," said one rival exec who tried to land Ohtani last year. "He would've been with his next team for two postseasons" -- instead of just one -- "and somebody would've paid very well for that. They could've addressed a lot of roster issues."

Instead, according to industry sources, Moreno reacted angrily when the idea of trading Ohtani was presented to him by his front office last July. He had no interest in dealing his team's best hitter and best pitcher -- not to mention the most marketable player in baseball -- and scoffed at the suggestion.