ANAHEIM -- The annual Winter Meetings are just days away, and the biggest storyline in baseball remains two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani’s free agency.
Ohtani, who just won the American League MVP Award for the second time in three years, has unsurprisingly kept things close to the vest during the process, but the Angels have made it clear they’d love to re-sign him. However, he has plenty of suitors and draws enough rumors that it’s tracked almost daily at MLB.com.
The Angels, though, have more needs than just Ohtani, as they must add to a roster that has won 73 games in back-to-back seasons. They replaced manager Phil Nevin with veteran Ron Washington and have an entirely new coaching staff, but they need to be aggressive in free agency and trades.
So far, the Angels have only signed veteran lefty Adam Kolarek to a one-year deal this offseason, but they'll look to get more accomplished at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. Here’s the key information about the event, which officially starts on Sunday with things ramping up on Monday and concluding on Wednesday.
• Sunday, Dec. 3: HOF Contemporary Era ballot results released (Cito Gaston, Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland, Ed Montague, Hank Peters, Lou Piniella, Joe West and Bill White)
• Tuesday, Dec. 5: Draft Lottery
• Wednesday, Dec. 6: Rule 5 Draft
The Angels have plenty of needs, as they must add at least one starting pitcher, an infielder, an outfielder and a bullpen arm or two. Ohtani is their top target, and their payroll flexibility will be impacted heavily by whether or not he re-signs with the club. But general manager Perry Minasian said he plans to be aggressive in improving the roster either way.
Potential trade candidates
The Angels don’t have any obvious trade candidates, but they could dip into their Minor League farm system to make a trade or two to bring in veterans like they did last offseason when they traded for Gio Urshela and Hunter Renfroe. Any rumors about trading Mike Trout should be taken with a heavy grain of salt, as the Angels aren’t looking to rebuild and Trout has a full no-trade clause.
Prospects to know
MLB Pipeline's top Angels prospect is Nolan Schanuel, who is expected to be the club’s starting first baseman in 2024. The top two prospects who haven’t reached the Majors are right-hander Caden Dana and outfielder Nelson Rada. But neither has reached Double-A, and they’re both considered at least a year away from the Majors. The Angels, though, have been aggressive, and other prospects such as Kyren Paris (No. 5), Ben Joyce (No. 7), Jordyn Adams (No. 15), Livan Soto (No. 16), Victor Mederos (No. 20), Kelvin Caceres (No. 24) and Trey Cabbage (No. 26) saw big league action in 2023.
Rule 5 Draft
Second baseman Adrian Placencia (No. 10) and outfielder Jadiel Sanchez (No. 22) were left off the 40-man roster and will be available to be selected by another club in the Rule 5 Draft. But neither is likely to be taken because they’re not considered close to reaching the Majors. The Angels plan to compete in 2024, so it’s unlikely they make a pick. They haven’t made a Rule 5 pick since '20, when they took right-hander Jose Alberto Rivera, who was returned to the Astros before the '21 season started and released by Houston this year.
What will Ohtani decide to do, and when will he make his decision? It’s the biggest question of the offseason, and the Angels aren’t alone in wondering what will happen. It’s been a slow offseason on the transaction front across the Majors, and many believe it’s because clubs are waiting to see what Ohtani will do. The floodgates could open after that.
Ohtani has historically made his contract decisions in a timely manner, signing with the Angels before the Winter Meetings in 2017 and agreeing to a one-year, $30 million deal for '23 ahead of the end of the ’22 regular season. So Ohtani could make his decision soon, which would make headlines all over the globe.