Ohtani to the Yankees? (Nope.)
by Paul Semendinger
October 26, 2022
Yesterday in the comments, there was discussion that the Yankees should, or might even be able to acquire Shohei Ohtani. While I would love to have Ohtani on the Yankees, I just do not see it happening.
The following are the reasons why:
1. I don't see the Angels trading him (Reason 1).
We will see a ton of articles on why the Angels will trade Shohei Ohtani and where he should or will go. These are article that will be enjoyable to read. Speculation like this is fun. But, from my perspective, it would be foolish for the Angels to trade him. Ohtani is the Angels' biggest attraction. He is their most marketable player. He is a superstar of the highest magnitude on two continents.
There is speculation and some preliminary research that Shohei Ohtani brings more fans to the ballpark on the days he pitches. For that reason alone, The Angels would be foolish to trade him this year. He generates great revenue for the club. I think it is safe to assume that Ohtani also creates fan interest (and thus increased attendance) on the days he doesn't pitch.
There would be a public relations backlash if the Angels traded away their biggest star. (And, yes, Ohtani, far and away, has bigger star value than Mike Trout.)
2. I don't see the Angels trading him (Reason 2).
If the Angels trade Ohtani, they would, for all intents and purposes be giving up on the 2023 season. That would also be a huge marketing hit for the club (see above). I don't see this happening from a financial standpoint, but, more, I don't see it happening from a competitive standpoint.
The Angels have shown, by the fact that they have acquired some big contract players, that they are a team that tries and wants to compete. They are not a team that seems content being a second division club. I don't see the Angels trading Ohtani and relegating themselves to a finish at the bottom of the standings. Rather, I see the Angels as a team that will try to find and add players to make them more competitive next year.
To believe that they can compete, the Angels only have to look to this year's playoffs. In 2022, the Angels went 73-89. That might seem that they are a long way from competing; that is, until you look at the Mets (77-85 in 2021) and Padres (79-83 in 2021). Those two playoff teams turned it around in one off-season.
I believe that the Angels will attempt to compete in 2023 rather than giving up on the season by trading one of their two best players.
Of note here, as well... Mike Trout is now 31-years-old. He is entering, or will soon be entering his decline years. The window for the Angels to win with Mike Trout is closing. If they are to win, it would have to be soon. The path to winning includes having Shohei Ohtani on the team.
3. I don't believe Shohei Ohtani wishes to play in New York or for the Yankees
Even if the Angels were to trade Ohtani, I do not believe that he wishes to play in New York.
Remember, when he first came to the USA, Shohei Ohtani could have chosen to play in any city and for any team. The Yankees went hard for Ohtani. When given the chance, Ohtani decided not to play for New York. He chose California when he had the chance to choose any team.
Some speculate that Ohtani wants to play for a winner, but I don't necessarily see where that line of thinking comes from. Shohei Ohtani chose the Angels even though they had lost for years previously. It wasn't like Ohtani said, "I'll play for them, they're winners!" They were a sub. 500 team. He knew, exactly, the team he was going to. This was also at a time when the Yankees had just finished one game from reaching the World Series. It is clear that playing on a winner was not one of Ohtani's deciding factors.
As such, the Yankees would have to know that were they to trade for him, the likelihood that they would retain him past 2023 would be slim. I also don't believe that the Angels would trade Ohtani to a city where he has no desire to play. To do so would be a bad look and it would not help the Angels in the future if they wished to compete for the next great Japanese or international superstar looking to play in America.
Finally, if Ohtani wishes to play for a winning team, if that's his desire, there is a team close to home, the Dodgers, where he could easily go. The Dodgers are a team that is willing to spend big. They are more recently champions than the Yankees. The Dodgers play in a bigger ballpark that helps pitchers. The Dodgers are also an iconic team (much like the Yankees).
If Ohtani's wish is to play for a great team that is also winner, it's much more likely that he'd choose the Dodgers than the Yankees.
(The Mariners, also on the west coast, and closer to Japan (obviously), and who are a team on the rise, would also be a more logical destination for Ohtani than New York.)
4. I don't see the Yankees willing to pick up his $30m salary for 2023 and then paying what it would cost to keep him long term - especially if they retain Aaron Judge.
Remember, these are the Yankees who focus, a great deal, on the luxury cap tax. The owner talks about it in almost every interview he gives. I do not see the Yankees willing to pay multiple players the $35-40 million (plus) that it will take to retain Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani. Remember, the team is also paying Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton huge salaries.
It's also very reasonable to speculate that if the luxury tax is a hard cap for the Yankees, it does not make good financial sense to invest so much of that cap space in just two players.
5. I don't believe the Yankees have what it takes to acquire Ohtani
Over the summer, the reports were that Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe (and other big prospects, maybe even Jasson Dominguez) were offered to the Nationals for Juan Soto. The Nationals said, "You ain't even in the ballpark." The Yankees best offer wasn't good enough for the Nationals. If that is the case, why would the Angels be interested?
It is very possible that the Yankees value their prospects more than other teams. Also, the Yankees do not have a great history of seeing their great prospects find success in the Major Leagues.
Let's also remember that not only does it seem that other teams don't rate the Yankee prospects very high, it doesn't seem like the Yankees do either. Actions speak louder than words. Oswald Peraza, the team's #3 prospect is the guy the Yankees wouldn't give playing time to in August and September and is the same player they left off the roster for the ALDS. They kept him out of the lineup and off the roster, not for a superstar, but so that Isiah Kiner-Falefa could play. Just think about that for a moment. Other teams see this. And maybe even the Yankees don't really believe in him. (If the Yankees do believe in him, they have a very strange way of showing it.)
6. Ohtani doesn't have a position on the Yankees (when he's not pitching)
Shohei Ohtani is a great pitcher, and the Yankees need him in that area, of course, but if he became a Yankee, he'd be a designated hitter on the days he doesn't pitch. Shohei Ohtani is not an outfielder, he is a designated hitter. The Yankees already have a high priced DH under contract for many years - Giancarlo Stanton.
If the Yankees acquire Shohei Ohtani, Giancarlo Stanton would have to become a regular outfielder. For a team trying to promote athleticism and defense, that makes no sense. Stanton played all of 38 games in the field in 2022. In 2021, he played just 26 games out there. He didn't play in the field at all in 2020 and in 2019 he was in the field for only 13 games.
I don't see any world where Giancarlo Stanton at 32-years-old becomes a regular outfielder. No way. No way at all. In his entire Yankees tenure, over five season, Giancarlo Stanton has played in the field, at any point in any game, a total of just 77 times. That's all. When he was a Marlin, Stanton was good enough outfielder, but that was a long time ago. That ship has sailed. It sailed a long time ago.
And, to be clear, Shohei Ohtani, won't be playing the field. First, he is too valuable as a pitcher to do that. Next, he simply doesn't play in the field. And he hasn't. Shohei Ohtani has played a grand total of seven games in the outfield in his MLB career. Seven. That's one more than six and one fewer than eight. Seven. He has played the outfield 70 fewer times that Giancarlo Stanton has as a Yankee. Ohtani is a pitcher/DH. He is not a pitcher/OF.
7. The overall cost is simply too much
If the Yankees were to get Shohei Ohtani, they'd have to trade Giancarlo Stanton. There is not a world where Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani can coexist as a team's designated hitter. I don't believe there is a team in baseball willing to trade for Giancarlo Stanton unless the Yankees would take some of the salary responsibility. Stanton is a player on the decline. He is often injured.
As such, the Yankees would have to pay Shohei Ohtani's salary, and, in addition, pay part of Giancarlo Stanton's salary (to another team), and they would have to send away their very best prospects to the Angels just to make this work. That cost is just far too much.
Acquiring Shohei Ohtani is one of those ideas that sounds great until you look at the facts and all that would go into acquiring him.
The more one looks at this, the more it shows that it just isn't happening. No way. Not unless Aaron Judge leaves, but even then, the Yankees be stuck with the same problem... Giancarlo Stanton would have to play in the field for about 140 games and that just won't happen.
I'd love to have Shohei Ohtani on the Yankees, but it is just not realistic by any measure. At all.