Shohei Ohtani Will Not Be Traded

 Shohei Ohtani Will Not Be Traded

Shohei Ohtani Will Not Be Traded

That sounds extremely depressing. And, as I mentioned last week, the purpose of this newsletter is to make baseball fans happy. This is particularly true in the days leading up to the trade deadline. So, before we get to the five tools, here are a few things to get you pumped for the upcoming frenzy.

The Baltimore Orioles!

I'm expecting them to do a buy/sell hybrid, similar to what the Mariners did last year, in the hopes of making a surprise run for a wild-card spot. I believe the Orioles, like the Mariners in 2021, are still a year away from playing postseason baseball. But the fact that Baltimore has a chance to make the playoffs is reason to rejoice.

It's the Mariners!

I'm also excited to see Julio Rodriguez in the playoffs. You know Jerry Dipoto is working on some hot trades right now, possibly for Soto. That would be a lot of fun!

The San Diego Padres!

The Dads are also eager to make the playoffs. Even if they don't beat the Dodgers in the NL West, they're vying for the first wild-card spot, which would give them home-field advantage for every game of the best-of-three first-round series. Soto is also a good fit for the Padres, who have a strong rotation but could use some depth in their lineup. Fernando Tatis Jr. has also begun on-field batting practice as he nears his return from wrist surgery. A lineup that includes Tatis, Soto, and Manny Machado batting back-to-back? Please, yes!

The Angels, on the other hand, are unlikely to part ways with Ohtani. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to make the playoffs again next season. I had hoped for a long time that this would change. I was duped by the incremental improvements they made to their rotation and bullpen during the offseason, as well as their strong start to the season. I was a holdout, to paraphrase the great Jackson Browne. But it took me all this time to realize something I should have known all along: Arte Moreno is unconcerned about winning. He is concerned with the appearance of victory. He is concerned with stars because fans will pay to see them play even if the team is bad. He opens his wallet for Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, as well as Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton before them, knowing that they will be worth far more to him in marketing, merchandising, and gate revenue than the millions and hundreds of millions of dollars he's paying them. Doling out these mega-deals gives him the cover he needs to avoid accusations of tanking, even if the end result is the same—missing the playoffs.

Unless you're a Nats fan, the good news is that Soto is likely to be traded, as Tom Verducci wrote for us earlier this week. There could be as many as 15 teams interested in him, and general manager Mike Rizzo knows what he's doing. The Lerner family is looking to sell the team, so there is a lot of uncertainty right now. New ownership can be exciting at times (see: the Mets), but not this time. From 2012 to 2019, the Lerners and Rizzo built one of the most successful organizations in baseball history, with the Nats making the playoffs five times, finishing first in the NL East four times, and winning the first World Series in franchise history. I wrote just before the All-Star break that the Nationals would be better off spending the money they were going to spend on a Soto extension to build a contender around him in his final two years, because I didn't see how they could get anything close to Soto's value in a trade. That is still true, but if they move him now, they will get far more than if they wait.

If Soto and Ohtani stay with the Nationals and Angels for the rest of the season, they will almost certainly stay with them until free agency. Their trade value will never be higher than it is now, because whoever acquires the two stars will do so for at least two pennant races. Ohtani will be a free agent at the end of the season; Soto will be a free agent in 2024.

If the Nationals and Angels don't trade Soto and Ohtani now, they better be damned sure they can put together a playoff-caliber team while the two players are still on their rosters. Anything less would be a giant middle finger to their respective fans and an injustice to the game.

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