Angels star Shohei Ohtani, left, and Washington Nationals star Juan Soto.

Angels should follow Nationals’ Juan Soto blueprint with Shohei Ohtani

Angels star Shohei Ohtani, left, and Washington Nationals star Juan Soto.

Angels star Shohei Ohtani, left, and Washington Nationals star Juan Soto. (Sarah Steer/Getty Images; Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

The World of Major League Baseball updated on Saturday. This is what happens when a player of the caliber of Juan Soto is called into the trading market.

The Washington Nationals recently offered Soto a 15-year, $440 million contract extension, as first reported by The Athletic. Soto declines this and as a result, Citizens has chosen to launch amusing business offers on Generation Superstars. He has until August 2 to find a partner for the 23-year-old outfielder or wait until the off-season to make a move.

This is an astonishing development. It shouldn’t be the only one in that department over the next few weeks. Angels should take the same approach with Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani, 28, often doesn’t speak definitively. When he does, it is with a purpose. And last September, he said something that should have worried the Angels.

“I like fans,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “I like the atmosphere in the organization. But my feelings of wanting to win are strong.”

Ohtani spoke his mind two weeks before another Angels disappointing season ended. The club finished 77–85, placing fourth in the American League West and missing out on the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year. The Ohtani had become an unprecedented two-pronged force. He would win the AL MVP. it did not matter.

It is more like this this year as well. The Angels are a mess again, with even a healthy Mike Trout in the lineup for most of the season and Ohtani pulling off more mind-blowing two-way acts. He fired his manager after losing 14 games. He lost Anthony Rendon for the season. His pitching is still not good enough.

Shohei Ohtani walks onto the field after warming up ahead of Saturday's game against the Dodgers.

Shohei Ohtani walks onto the field after warming up ahead of Saturday’s game against the Dodgers. (Alex Gallardo / The Associated Press)

Just a few weeks earlier, Ohtani hinted at the Angels’ struggles after a win, noting that he felt he needed to pitch deeper in a game as the bullpen was short-handed and produced an offense without Trout in the lineup. Will not done. That night, Ohtani made 13 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings. The night before, he drove off, losing eight of the Angels’ 11 runs.

Barring one shocking change, they are yet to miss the playoffs despite the field being expanded. This would give the organization one more year to right the ship before Ohtani becomes a free agent.

Instead, they must figure out what it takes to keep Ohtani in Anaheim longer, if anything, and offer him that. If not, they should trade him after next season to avoid facing the strong possibility of losing anything.

Ohtani is a singular asset. With a salary of $5.5 million this season, he is the biggest deal in North American professional sports. He is an All-Star both as a pitcher and a hitter. He is a major attraction in Japan with a crazy fan following. This combination is tantalizing for World Series contenders. His value will never be higher than now, a season and a half before free agency.

But he has suffered significant injuries, which coupled with his workload over the past two seasons could drive prices down, whether through trade or in free agency.

“The best player we’ve ever seen,” said a team executive. “The only issues are injury history and age when he hits [free agency],

There are legitimate counters to the Angels for not trading Ohtani. That’s one reason to buy tickets to the ballpark. He provides advertising dollars from Japan. Most importantly, team estimates can be wildly wrong. Who’s to say the Angels, with a roster of top-end talent, won’t be competing for a playoff spot next season? Check out the Baltimore Orioles this summer.

But the Angels haven’t been a legitimate contender since Ohtani’s arrival in 2018, and the haul they’ll find for Ohtani could bolster the agricultural system with elite prospects for a future push. While Soto is slated for free agency after the 2024 season, Ohtani will hit the market after the next season. It’s October two, two opportunities for a playoff team to ride Ohtani’s unparalleled ability to a title. The Angels are not in a position to reach those heights this season. Chances are they won’t even next year. It’s time to make a choice.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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