Two weeks before the Aug. 1 MLB trade deadline, the Los Angeles Angels are hovering around the .500 mark, which leaves one question hanging over the entire sport: Will the Halos trade free-agent-to-be Shohei Ohtani?
Though we don't yet know what the Angels' decision will be, we aren't about to let that stop us from trying to find the best trade partner for a potential Ohtani blockbuster.
We asked our MLB experts to play GM for nine teams that could potentially pull off a deal for Ohtani, making their best possible offers to land the two-way superstar, and we enlisted Jeff Passan to decide which proposals are worth the Angels' time.
Sorry, you must have the wrong number
An Ohtani trade wouldn't constitute a rebuild for the Angels; they'd want to try to win again next season, and they'd be looking to add players who are (1) controllable for several years and (2) ready to contribute in 2024. That's why this is the perfect package.
Baz has the ability to become one of the most dominant pitchers on the planet, and he should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery for the start of 2024. Mead, No. 34 on Kiley McDaniel's latest prospect rankings, boasts a nice combination of contact ability and power and can be the everyday second baseman next season, plus he provides insurance for an injury-prone Anthony Rendon at third base.
This is an aggressive package, especially when you consider the lower-level, higher-ceiling guys tacked on. But the Rays are a championship-caliber team that could use a boost and would never have a chance at a superstar player like this if not for the trade market. Who knows -- maybe Ohtani, who has taken to analytics since working out at Driveline three winters ago, falls in love with the infrastructure in Tampa, and the Rays, trying to finalize a new stadium in the area, do the impossible and sign him long term. Wilder things have happened. For now, though, Ohtani for the rest of this season alone would place them head and shoulders above everybody else. -- Alden Gonzalez
GM Jeff says ... If Junior Caminero isn't in this deal, I'm hanging up. As good as Baz could be, as well as Mead has hit, as much as Isaac's numbers show he wasn't an overdraft, as gaudy as Johnson's strikeout to walk ratio may be (74-to-6), I need a no-doubt carrying piece. Caminero's rocketing stock -- .330/.386/.588 between High-A and Double-A as a just-turned-20-year-old -- and his ability to play both positions on the left side of the infield make him a must in any trade. If not him, at least give me Carson Williams, also a shortstop and also mighty dynamic. The Rays have a robust enough farm system to get Ohtani, no doubt, but for an organization that knows it has no chance of re-signing him, the offer will only go so high, even if he is the sort of player who can get them to the World Series.
Proposed deal: CF Everson Pereira, SS Trey Sweeney, RHP Chase Hampton, RHP Drew Thorpe, 2B Jared Serna
I prioritized including multiple prospects who could be on a top 100 list this winter or next rather than just one top player and skewing most of the value toward (1) position players and (2) being in Double-A now or soon. Pereira (power-over-hit outfield tweener) and Sweeney (hit-over-power lefty-hitting shortstop) are probably both in the back half of the top 100 right now. Hampton and Thorpe are arrow-up starters with above-average stuff and enough feel to start, while Serna is a nice late-blooming power/speed performer. -- Kiley McDaniel
GM Jeff says ... This feels a lot like the Joey Gallo deal, which, in hindsight, turned out pretty well for the Rangers. But this is Shohei Ohtani, man. I want Spencer Jones, the leviathan outfielder. I want Jasson Dominguez, The Martian. The Yankees certainly can deal in bulk, and they're the team that might benefit most from Ohtani's presence. And because -- unlike the Rays -- they're plenty capable of signing him as a free agent, this would be as much a showcase to him as it is a rental to the club. So, sorry, Fake Cashman. Get back to the drawing board and bring me something better.
Proposed deal: SS Ronny Mauricio, 3B Mark Vientos, C Kevin Parada, RHP Mike Vasil
You think owner Steve Cohen believes his team is too far out of contention? C'mon. DH Daniel Vogelbach and rotation filler David Peterson aren't exactly All-Stars, and half of this team is over 34 years old. The Mets have no interest in melding these top prospects to the big club, and each is blocked. Ohtani can join former teammate Kodai Senga and see what it's like in the top media market. Oh, and which team can spend the most money this winter? Yep. -- Eric Karabell
GM Jeff says ... I get it. There are a lot of names in this deal. But Mauricio and Vientos, for all their power, have troubling plate-discipline numbers, Parada is redundant with Logan O'Hoppe -- a catcher in the midst of a breakout before a brutal left shoulder injury -- and Vasil is more a back end of the rotation type than a top dude. This feels like a missed opportunity, frankly. If the Angels really were to move Ohtani, they could use him as the carrot to wheedle a team into taking on the rest of Rendon's deal, which will cost about $127 million. Yes, Rendon has a no-trade clause, but he also could be in search of a change of scenery after 3½ middling years in Anaheim. Considering owner Arte Moreno operates on a finite budget, financial flexibility really would be meaningful as I try to rebuild this team post-Ohtani.
Call back when you're ready to get serious
Proposed deal: OF/1B Heston Kjerstad, 3B Coby Mayo, LHP Cade Povich, LHP DL Hall
With the Rays faltering and the Rangers and Astros having some of the same pitching concerns as Baltimore, now is absolutely the time for the Orioles to make the biggest trade in franchise history since they acquired Frank Robinson. If they acquire Ohtani, they would be the best team in the American League -- and no team is better equipped to make a deal than the Orioles, who have the best farm system in the majors. Heck, it's so deep they won't be able to play all these guys anyway. It's more loaded in position players and the Angels probably want some pitching, so we're including two hitting stars and two potential lefty starters. And, no, don't even ask about Jackson Holliday. -- David Schoenfield
GM Jeff says ... So, how about Jackson Holliday? OK. Fine. But what you've got here isn't enough for the Angels ... and probably is too much for the Orioles. They have built their stout major league roster with patience, a plan and the understanding that as great as 2023 has been, their future competitiveness rests on a player-development run that's almost too good to be true. Keeping their young core together is imperative. That said: I love Kjerstad's left-handed swing, Mayo's production is elite and in Povich and Hall you get two lefties with premium stuff. Perhaps plumbing the big league roster is in order. Colton Cowser is the sort of headliner who would make this more attractive.
Proposed deal: LHP Kyle Harrison, SS Marco Luciano, LHP/DH Reggie Crawford, OF Mike Yastrzemski
It's painful to give up two top-20 prospects in Harrison and Luciano, but a San Francisco trade for Ohtani isn't just about 2023. This gives the Giants a leg up on signing him long-term. We already know they have money to spend -- see their pursuits of Carlos Correa and Aaron Judge for evidence. The Angels get back a few home runs in Yastrzemski while the Giants open up a spot for Joc Pederson to play the outfield when Ohtani is the designated hitter. Putting Crawford in the deal just seems right considering he's doing an Ohtani in High-A. Yes, I'm proposing a two-way player gets traded for another two-way player. Fun. -- Jesse Rogers
GM Jeff says ... Not bad, but I want left-hander Carson Whisenhunt, too. And I suppose that's my problem here. Trading for pitching prospects is scary, and this deal revolves around them. Yes, the Dodgers' deal below does, too, but the volume -- and Rushing being better than Luciano -- exceeds the Giants' offer, even if they were to include Whisenhunt. Remember, too, the Giants' big league roster is extremely deep, and while I wouldn't expect them to offer Patrick Bailey for a rental -- even Ohtani -- grabbing Luis Matos, Casey Schmitt or maybe Blake Sabol would turn this deal from an afterthought into a competitor.
Proposed deal: SS Cole Young, CF Jonatan Clase, RHP Emerson Hancock, RHP Darren Bowen
I focused on trying to offer the single best prospect, because the quality depth that I'm dealing with here isn't enough to just pick a couple players from the options at each prospect tier. It's up for debate whether Young (or Harry Ford if you prefer) would be the best single prospect on the table, but that would at least be a discussion, with all of the players in that discussion ranking in the 26-50 tier of a top 100 list. Clase is an 80-grade runner with big tools and a big arrow up this season (now at Double-A), while Hancock is a former top-10 overall pick who is turning the corner (in Double-A) to becoming a rotation player as soon as 2024.
You get two obvious big leaguers and one intriguing lottery ticket, and none are more than two years away. Other than the already-good-in-the-big-leagues Bryan Woo, these are the best prospects I can offer who are close to the majors. Oh, and I'll throw in the biggest arrow-up pitcher in the system this year in Bowen, who has two plus pitches and starter traits, but he's a late-bloomer with limited pro innings. -- McDaniel
GM Jeff says ... This is a good offer, but if I'm the Angels -- er, I am the Angels -- I want a sure-thing leading man, and that doesn't exist here. Seriously, you have a big league rotation full of productive starters, and you're not going to even offer me one? Start with Logan Gilbert or George Kirby and you leap to the top of the list. Woo is plenty intriguing, too.
As for the names included: Young can really, really hit, Clase's power-speed combo belies his short stature and Hancock and Bowen are both tooled-up arms. The problem with any Mariners offer, of course, is that they're just not good enough this season to warrant selling the farm. So this trade would essentially be: a bunch of very promising players for the right to put the hard sell on Ohtani over a two-month period. And as ridiculous as this sounds, it's the sort of gamble the Mariners might consider worth taking -- and they wouldn't be wrong. The "Come to Seattle" chants at the All-Star Game said everything the Mariners need to know. If there is anybody in baseball worth getting stupid over, it's Shohei Ohtani.
Now we're talking
Proposed deal: SS Jordan Lawlar, OF Alek Thomas, RHP Slade Cecconi, LHP Yu-Min Lin
The Diamondbacks are building something really nice here, so they'll be reluctant to deal away future talent, but given Ohtani is favored to land with the Dodgers or Giants as a free agent, 2023 might actually be their best opportunity to win a division title over the next five years. Added bonus: They might be the only National League team with both the resources and motive to make a deal -- the Braves and Phillies don't have the prospects, for example, and the Dodgers could prefer to just sign Ohtani. The D-backs have two premium prospects in Lawlar and outfielder Druw Jones, and Geraldo Perdomo's breakout could allow them to include Lawlar in a deal. Thomas gives the Angels a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder who could be the next Kevin Kiermaier -- great D, good enough at the plate. That's a strong package right there, and we've included two solid pitching prospects as well. -- Schoenfield
GM Jeff says ... This is a strong offer -- and I'm still inclined to say no. While Lawlar is a top-25 prospect, some scouts have doubts that he's the sort of player around whom a deal of this magnitude could be built. Lin is a favorite, already up to Double-A having just turned 20 years old, but Thomas simply hasn't hit in 600 big league plate appearances and Cecconi is faltering in Triple-A. If you want to consider shortstops Blaze Alexander and Jansel Luis in the deal, I'd be a lot more willing to listen.
Proposed deal: RHP Brock Porter, RHP Jack Leiter, UT Ezequiel Duran, 2B Justin Foscue, OF Yeison Morrobel
It'll take a lot for any team to pry Ohtani away from the Angels, especially within the division. It'll almost assuredly require at least three of this deep farm system's top six prospects, a budding big league star and a promising younger pitching prospect. Might it take six players? Perhaps, but Texas has more of an in-season rental feel among prospective Ohtani destinations, which is why OF Evan Carter and SP Owen White are off-limits. Or, at least, that's the part that's for Jeff's ears. The part that's not: If it needs to be White in place of Porter or Leiter, or SS Luisangel Acuna in place of Foscue, so be it (though probably not both). When you've got a chance to win, you take it, and Ohtani would fill the injured Jacob deGrom's shoes as staff ace nicely. Ideally, we keep Jeff on the line and haggle on those final pieces. -- Tristan Cockcroft
GM Jeff says ... Now we're starting to talk. Perhaps some don't know much about Duran -- who, incidentally, came over in the Gallo deal -- but he's quite a good big leaguer already. He just turned 24, isn't a free agent until after the 2028 season, is hitting .300/.336/.514 and is capable of playing every infield position and both corner-outfield spots. He's the best current player offered so far, and Alden's point about the Angels wanting close-to-the-big-leagues contributors makes this deal very attractive. Foscue could be a productive major leaguer right now. Porter is the best pitching prospect in Texas' system. Leiter has the pedigree. Want a definitive yes? Flip Morrobel for Sebastian Walcott, the 17-year-old Bahamian shortstop who is wowing scouts as he destroys the Arizona Complex League.
You had me at hello
I'm not listening to suggestions that we can just wait until the winter to blow the Ohtani market out of the water. I want him in Chavez Ravine and I want him now. There is a title out there to be won -- this season -- and Ohtani could well be the player who gets us over the top.
But make no mistake: This is not a mere short-term splash. We have been angling for this player since last season ended. Getting him now only enhances our ability to keep him for the rest of his Hall of Fame career. How is he going to resist a market-value offer from the Dodgers after a deep postseason run that unfolds in a setting that doesn't require him to move house, with a club that has more than a decade of proof that every single season we are in it to win it? I don't want him to experience the playoffs with another team. And I don't worry about our system -- it's deep. Our scouting and development operations are fecund. We are the Dodgers. Resistance is futile. -- Bradford Doolittle
GM Jeff says ... Um. Yes. I almost feel bad about this, because the Dodgers would not do this in real life, but you know what? That's cool, because it serves as a wonderful illustration of how good their farm system actually is. Rushing might be the best player offered in any deal, and while the O'Hoppe factor exists, you don't say no to a player with his talent. Even if only two of the pitchers pan out, the upside is so high -- from Sheehan's fastball to Stone's and Pepiot's changeups to Nastrini's slider -- that you absolutely bet on any of them. And to get De Paula, the 18-year-old who is more than holding his own in full-season ball, as an add-on?
Perhaps this offer is a function of the reality, which is that there's almost no chance Moreno ever would move Ohtani to the Dodgers. Then again, however rough those optics would be -- especially if Ohtani fell in love with the team and signed there this winter because he so enjoyed his post-deadline time -- taking six elite players, all with six years of major league control, is a far better consolation prize than not dealing him and losing him in free agency for a middling draft pick after the second round.