The Angels made another big splash Friday morning, acquiring the services of “Japanese Babe Ruth,” Shohei Ohtani.

Seven teams, the Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Rangers, Cubs, Dodgers and Padres were said to be in on the two-way superstar, but Anaheim reeled him in thanks to a great connection between him and Billy Eppler–and a facetime session with Mike Trout (not kidding).

The process to getting Ohtani was surrounded by mystery though. His representatives had sent a memo to all thirty teams about the right hander and outfielder, saying that he would like their best pitches. 23 teams were eliminated within the span of a week, leaving it to the aforementioned 7 clubs. Seattle’s rich Japanese history and opening on the roster made them a big player, and Jerry DiPoto made three trades to acquire international money. All said, the effort fell short, and will likely set them up for pursuit of Yu Darvish, or other pitching. The Padres also had many ties to Ohtani, but ultimately, he went with the Angels, who have a preferable location and situation. He gets the chance to play with Trout, should assimilate well with the extensive Japanese-American population in Orange County, and gets to help take them to the playoffs.

Speaking of Trout, the duo of him and Ohtani should be one of the most interesting ones in baseball. Trout, the 2-time MVP, is widely regarded as he best player in baseball, and is under team control for three more seasons. With Ohtani in the fold along with recently added Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons, their core is locked up for the foreseeable future. They also have Kole Calhoun, Tyler Skaggs, Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian, and others set to return. Additionally, the acquisition of Kevin Maitan, and the minor league core of Jo Adell, Jahmai Jones, Matt Thaiss, makes the future look considerably brighter.

Before we jump into the intangibles of Ohtani’s duality on the roster, let’s take a look on expectations for the 23 year old rookie.

Ohtani, Starting Pitcher
Ohtani the starting pitcher is perhaps the most dynamic part of his game. Ohtani impressed in Japan, with a 2.52 ERA with 624 Ks in 543 innings pitched. Despite the change from Japan to the U.S., his stuff should translate well, and make him a potential ace with Garrett Richards at the top of the rotation.

Ohtani, the Slugger
While Ohtani may be a more established and anticipated pitcher, his offense is something that is unprecedented for an ace. Ohtani, through 5 seasons, hit a solid .286, with 48 home runs and 166 RBIs. His offensive tool is unusually advanced for the fact that he pitches, but there could be a dip in production at the major league level.

The most interesting thing about the Ohtani signing is how they will assemble their lineups. Ohtani is expected to be the Angels ace, but when he’s not on the bump, he could DH. The designated hitter as of late has been Albert Pujols, who struggled last season despite his 100+ RBIs. Presumably, Pujols, who won multiple gold gloves with the Cardinals, will return to first base. Questions still remain though. Will Albert’s age hurt his defense? Does he hold up for 162 games in the season? All these questions will hopefully be answered sooner than later. Assuming Ohtani starts about once a week, we could see him split time at DH in the other games, assuming Pujols plays first base. Another option is placing Ohtani in the outfield or first base. If Ohtani does play outfield, they’d have to bench Kole Calhoun, who is a viable offensive threat and a gold glove winning starting outfielder. Whichever way they go, Ohtani will give them plenty of flexibility and ability to tinker with the lineup.

The rotation will also be an interesting development for the Halos. They’ve got plenty of depth, but health will determine how much success they have. The top of the rotation will likely include Ohtani and Garrett Richards, followed by Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker. The 5th spot is wide open, with Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, Parker Bridwell, and J.C. Ramirez all being candidates. Either way, their staff should improve significantly. Their bullpen outlook remains similar, but one of the starters could find their way into a long relief role. J.C. Ramirez is the most likely to take on that role, as he fit there at the end of the 2016 season.

Another huge win for the Angels is the lack of money and controllability with Ohtani. They used their 2017 international pool money on Ohtani, and sent $20M to his former Japanese team. Luckily though, this won’t play a huge factor into their payroll, as he is under team control for six years at a low cost. This allows the Angels to go after a major free agent, perhaps 3B Mike Moustakas. “Moose,” a left handed bat, would help almost complete a significantly improved lineup. Another third baseman on the market is Eduardo Nuñez, who could add some speed and versatility to the Angels lineup. Another target will be second base, where they’ve been linked with Ian Kinsler, Cesar Hernandez, and free agent Neil Walker. Additionally, they could look to add some bullpen depth.

For now, their lineup will look like:
Kole Calhoun (RF)
Mike Trout (CF)
Justin Upton (LF)
Albert Pujols (1B)
Shohei Ohtani (DH)
Andrelton Simmons (SS)
Luis Valbuena (3B)
Martin Maldonado (C)
Kaleb Cowart (2B)

But, if they fortify their infield with Mike Moustakas and Ian Kinsler, it could hypothetically look like:
Ian Kinsler (2B)
Mike Trout (CF)
Justin Upton (LF)
Albert Pujols (1B)
Mike Moustakas (3B)
Shohei Ohtani (DH)
Andrelton Simmons (SS)
Kole Calhoun (RF)
Martin Maldonado (C)

It’s an exciting time to be an Angels fan with Justin Upton, Kevin Maitan, and now Shohei Ohtani joining (arguably) the best player in baseball. If they can add a few more pieces, they could turn the corner from an up-and-down 2017 season. As a big fan myself, I think this is the perfect move for the, to make. Even if Ohtani struggles in one of the aspects of his game, there’s plenty of time to learn, and he should have many chances. Welcome to Anaheim, Ohtani, we need the playoffs badly.

 

(image via mlbtraderumors.com)

One thought on “It’s Sho-Time! Angels sign Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *