Shohei Ohtani is doing things baseball has not seen in over 100 years.
Currently, the Los Angeles Angels two-way player is among the league leaders in a bevy of hitting statistics. Ohtani leads all of baseball in triples (7), home runs (35), slugging percentage (.680, and no one else is above .600), and OPS (1.072). Ohtani is also ninth in batting average (.307) while leading the league in some advanced offensive metrics such as Adjusted OPS+ (186), Adjusted Batting Wins (4.1), and Offensive Win Percentage (.803).
Making these numbers even more remarkable is that Ohtani is doing this while being at or near the top of many pitching statistics. Entering play on Wednesday Ohtani has a 7-5 record with an ERA of 3.50, but his batting average against of .192 is best in the MLB, as his his Hits/9IP of 6.152.
However, as he is posting an historic season, the Angels are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason. Los Angeles is currently 4.5 games back in the Wild Card standings, with both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees ahead of them. When you add in the fact that Mike Trout is currently sidelined with a fractured hamate bone in his left hand, and that the Angels are 4-11 over their last 15 games, things seem to be sliding away from them.
All of this is leading to speculation over Ohtani’s future in Los Angeles. The two-way star is in the last year of his contract, and with the Angels seeing their playoff odds decrease by the day, the odds are increasing that Los Angeles could decide to make a move before the August 1 trade deadline.
Especially if they get a blockbuster offer for Ohtani.
Of course, anytime a player of his caliber is rumored to be available, the teams you hear linked to them is a familiar one. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the aforementioned Yankees are among those. But given both Ohtani’s reported priorities, and what the Angels might look for in return, there is a rather surprising name to add to the list.
The Baltimore Orioles.
Could Ohtani finish out the season in Camden Yards? Let’s dive in.
What would Los Angeles want in a trade?
If you are going to trade a unicorn like Ohtani, you are going to want a massive haul in return. Even if it is just a one-year rental.
According to reporting from Jon Morosi of the MLB Network, the Angels want “multiple top-100 type prospects” just to “begin” the conversation:
The Angels are now in a listening mode with Shohei Ohtani trade inquiries, sources say, as I reported in this @MLBNetwork segment. Suitors must be prepared to offer multiple top-100 type prospects to begin the conversation. @MLBPipeline @MLB pic.twitter.com/WEea8ReOlt— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 15, 2023
That certainly is a lot to ask, but if anyone in baseball is worth it at the moment, it is Ohtani.
That asking price is exactly what leads us to the Inner Harbor.
What could the Orioles offer Los Angeles?
We have talked about the Orioles a lot this season, and with good reason. Baltimore has a core of young, exciting players, and they are playing winning baseball right now. As things stand the Orioles are just a game back of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, with a 57-37 record.
This marks the first time since Barack Obama was in office that the Orioles are 20 games above .500. The last time they accomplished that feat was in 2014, when they finished the season 96-66 and won the AL East.
However, their current success might be a year or two sooner than expected. While the Orioles have a core of young talent playing for them right now — Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman, and Felix Bautista are among their young stars — their minor league system is one of the best in baseball.
Currently, Baltimore can point to eight of their prospects among the Top 100 in the minors, including shortstop Jackson Holiday, currently ranked the top prospect in baseball. They can also boast having seven in the top 77, the most of any team in baseball.
As for the Angels, they have just two players in the Top 100, catchers Logan O’Hoppe and Edgar Quero.
With that kind of organizational depth, the Orioles could put together a package of players with multiple Top-100 prospects for Ohtani. In discussing a potential Ohtani-to-Baltimore trade, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic floated a few scenarios:
A package for Ohtani could include one of first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, outfielder Colton Cowser (No. 13 in the BA rankings), third baseman Coby Mayo (No. 32) or outfielder Heston Kjerstad (No. 66), plus one of a middle-infield group that includes Jordan Westburg (No. 46), Joey Ortiz (No. 77) or César Prieto. Catcher Samuel Basallo (No. 59) could be in play. So could a pitching prospect such as lefty Cade Povich or righty Seth Johnson, the latter of whom is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Holliday is likely a non-starter for the Orioles, as would be Bautista, Rutschman, Henderson, Bautista, and right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez. But with that kind of organizational depth, the Orioles might be best suited to make the Angels an offer they cannot refuse.
Would Ohtani want to play in Baltimore?
While the Orioles have the prospects to make such a move, there are some potential hurdles.
Whether Ohtani would want to play in Baltimore is one of them.
According to recent reporting, the two-way star has three priorities when it comes to a potential next destination: He wants to win, he wants to be on the West Coast, and he prefers a private lifestyle.
On paper at least, the Orioles satisfy two of those three.
While they cannot move the Inner Harbor to the West Coast, the Orioles are winning right now, and Baltimore offers more of a chance at a private lifestyle than say a move to New York City or to the Dodgers. While there are some teams positioned to satisfy some of these conditions — like the Rays or the Seattle Mariners — few have the kind of prospect depth that Baltimore could offer.
It is important to remember that Ohtani, even under his reworked deal from last fall, does not have a no-trade clause. So his list of priorities could be more of a factor if or when he hits free agency,
So perhaps this is a topic best shelved for the winter. But in a world where Ohtani becomes an Oriole for the playoff stretch, Baltimore could still be an option for him once he hits the market.
Would the Orioles make this move?
This might be the biggest hurdle.
Would Baltimore make their biggest trade since perhaps 1965, when they acquired Frank Robinson?
Read that sentence again, and you might understand while the Orioles fans populating my neighborhood — along with my own son — are skeptical of an Ohtani-to-Baltimore move.
But there are some reasons that the Orioles would, or should, make this move. While they might view themselves as a year or two ahead of schedule, you sometimes do not get to pick your window of contention. In a year where the Yankees are struggling, this might be the perfect time to make a run. Even if Ohtani is just a half-season rental, it could make for a magical run in Baltimore.
Not only would Ohtani provide a big lift to their starting rotation (provided the blister issue he is dealing with right now clears up) but his left-handed bat might be built for Camden Yards. According to StatCast, Camden Yards remains a haven for left-handed hitters, and this season alone it is above league average when it comes to lefties hitting home runs, and it has been above league average every year dating back to 2008, except for last season.
Another reason the Orioles might do this deal has nothing to do with the product on the field.
But those sitting in the pricey suites above Camden Yards.
A long, contentious battle within the Angelos family was finally resolved in February, putting to an end a public struggle for power among the family of Peter Angelos. Angelos bought the team in 1993 and was the main decision-maker until 2017, when a heart issue rendered him unable to make decisions for the team, and his law practice.
That lead to a lawsuit filed by his son Louis, against Louis’ brother John and his mother Georgia. In the lawsuit, filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Louis Angelos alleged that John and Georgia conspired to push him out of the family’s two businesses: The Orioles, and the law practice, Peter Angelos Law. That firm has been in practice for over 50 years.
Georgia and John countersued against Louis, alleging that Louis had, in effect, stolen the law firm by selling it to himself.
After a bitter litigation process, those lawsuits were settled and dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning that all of the matters are finalized and cannot be revived.
With this done, it has led to speculation that the team could be sold. During the protracted family litigation, it was alleged that the family had a deal in place to sell their interest in the team, but John scuttled those plans. In addition, Goldman Sachs was retained last year to assess a potential sale, and while the pending litigation posed a stumbling block on finding new ownership, with that removed, the road could be paved for new ownership.
Acquiring Ohtani before the deadline would make the Orioles a very enticing purchase for a new ownership group.
What could sink such a trade?
Well, some other teams might have something to say about a potential Ohtani-to-Baltimore deal.
While the Orioles might put an enticing package of prospects in front of the Angels, other teams will certainly make their offers. Furthermore, while Baltimore might have a deep prospect list, they might ultimately decide that the asking price — particularly if a bidding war ensues — is just too high. Would a half-season rental of Ohtani justify the price, especially if it scuttles what could be a multiple-year window?
Maybe, maybe not.
But the Orioles are in a unique situation, and the planets may be aligned for such a move. They are playing some of their best baseball in years, and this might be their best shot at a deep run.
Adding Ohtani, even if just for a stretch run, is the kind of move that could put them over the top.
Even if some hurdles are in the way.