Who needs Shohei Ohtani the most?
Trade rumors have swirled around the Angels' two-way superstar, who is set to become a free agent after the season. Clearly, Ohtani would make an impact on any team -- but for which squad would that impact be the greatest?
Without considering a potential trade return, we asked 10 MLB.com writers to pick their ideal destination for Ohtani if he were to be on the move at the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline. Here are the results.
First of all, just take a moment to envision Ohtani wearing a Rays uniform. Does that look weird? Yes.
But if Ohtani’s main objective is to win, playing for the team leading the toughest division in baseball should sound desirable. The need is evident as the Rays have been leaking oil for a while and require reinforcements just about everywhere.
Many of the hitters who helped author the club’s historic start this season -- Wander Franco, Taylor Walls, Jose Siri, Josh Lowe, etc. -- have gone cold over the past handful of weeks. In the rotation, Drew Rasmussen is now officially done for 2023, joining Jeffrey Springs. Tyler Glasnow’s health is seemingly always tenuous, and rookie Taj Bradley, although he has an extremely bright future, is experiencing a bumpy debut year.
Acquiring Ohtani -- and Tampa Bay has the prospects to make it happen -- would provide a huge jolt to a lineup that desperately needs one and couple him with AL Cy Young Award candidate Shane McClanahan.
It would also really help if Ohtani could pitch in relief, but hey, he would at least shore up most of the roster and aid the Rays’ push for their first World Series title.
-- Brian Murphy
Let’s talk offense first. With Rhys Hoskins out for the year due to a torn ACL, Philadelphia has struggled to fill the second corner infield spot opposite Alec Bohm, as Edmundo Sosa (.676 OPS), Kody Clemens (.644) and Darick Hall (.469) are among the options that have tried and struggled to get going. But with Bryce Harper set to move to first base as he gets further removed from Tommy John surgery, that will leave open a DH spot with Ohtani’s name all over it.
As for pitching? Andrew Painter was supposed to be the Phillies’ fifth starter, but his season never got off the ground due to elbow issues. Enter Ohtani, who could join forces with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Taijuan Walker and Ranger Suárez to give Philadelphia a rotation that can hang with anybody’s.
-- Cole Jacobson
With baseball’s second-highest payroll and the star power of Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole, the Yankees weren’t supposed to need Ohtani. But boy, do they. On the pitching front, the Bronx Bombers could use upgrades over Clarke Schmidt and Luis Severino; Ohtani would immediately slot in as, at worst, their third-best starter. Throw in the injury woes of Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes, and Ohtani would clearly be a welcome addition to the rotation.
That’s not even to mention the offensive side of things, where the Yankees’ .708 OPS as a team ranks 22nd in MLB. Guess who leads the Majors in OPS? That’s right: Ohtani, at a whopping 1.068. With no timetable for Judge’s return from a lingering toe injury, the Yankees’ lineup has been scuffling majorly. Ohtani would go a long way toward fixing that -- and imagine him and Judge batting back to back in the postseason. Ohtani could be the savior to what is right now a disappointing year in the Bronx.
-- Theo DeRosa
Oh, you don't think the Braves need Ohtani? Hear us out. With this team as good as it is right now, sure, Atlanta might come out on top from the pack of World Series contenders. But with Ohtani, it's the Braves, in a league of their own, and then everybody else.
Imagine Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. on the same team. One the best player in the world today, the other the most electric. That on its own is worth making Ohtani-to-the-Braves happen.
As far as the roster fit: Slot Ohtani in at DH, into the No. 2 spot in the order, and behind Spencer Strider in the rotation. It all works. You get a ridiculous lineup top six of Acuña-Ohtani-Austin Riley-Matt Olson-Sean Murphy-Ozzie Albies. You get to win the matchup battle with Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna as slugging platoon left fielders. And you get a dominant top-to-bottom playoff rotation with Strider, Ohtani, Max Fried and Charlie Morton, plus Bryce Elder ready to go. That's just a World Series championship team. Who beats the Braves with Ohtani?
-- David Adler
With all due respect to how entertaining it would be to see Ohtani wearing Devil Rays throwbacks or Reds City Connects for two months, there’s only one answer here.
That’s because there’s just one perfect combination of A) a high-level contender that could really, really use an ace and another elite bat for a postseason push; B) a team clearly expected to bid on Ohtani this winter, who would like the head start on pitching him on their organization; C) a place he might agree to go to (while he lacks a no-trade clause, it seems hard to think the Angels end their relationship with such hard feelings by sending him to a place he doesn’t desire) and D) a team that actually has the assets to do it.
That team is the NL West-leading Dodgers, who have the second-most wins in the National League despite a rotation currently held together by Julio Urías, three rookies, prayers about Clayton Kershaw’s shoulder, and a whole lot of duct tape. Unlike most teams, they could view the prospect cost as an investment on a potential future; unlike any other team, they could view it as a real stick in the eye of another club that calls themselves “Los Angeles.” (Which, to be fair, from the Angels' point of view, may be exactly why they won’t do this.)
Does it mean you might have to flip incumbent DH J.D. Martinez somewhere in the middle of a successful season (or put up with his below-average outfield defense) to make room? Sure. Is that in any way an impediment? It is not.
-- Mike Petriello
With a young core of players led by Elly De La Cruz, the Reds have been one of the most exciting teams in baseball this year. You know what would make them even more exciting? Shohei Ohtani. The NL Central is right there for the taking (they're 2 1/2 games back of the Brewers), and what better way to insert life into a young ballclub than by getting a once-in-a-generation player?
Better yet, Ohtani’s two-way presence would fill two immediate needs for the Reds, where he could immediately slide into the middle of the order at DH (the Reds have gotten -0.6 bWAR from the DH spot this season) and become the anchor of a rotation that should get Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo back in August.
Plus, imagine Shohei spending half of his games in the launch pad of Great American Ball Park. And, as mentioned above, we’d get to see him in those City Connect jerseys. Sign me up.
-- Henry Palattella
Set aside the Braves for a minute. Since May 1, the Giants have the second-best record in MLB (44-24) and are 1 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West. We spent the entire 2021 season waiting for the Giants to come back down to earth. By the time we figured out that our logic didn’t apply to them, they’d won 107 games. Have we learned our lesson yet?
The Giants have been using a built-in bullpen day in place of a fifth starter for much of the 2023 season – there’s one problem solved by Ohtani. If a permanent move to the outfield isn’t a long-term solution for primary DH Joc Pederson, he will be a free agent at the end of the year. What’s more, the Giants proved last winter that they’re willing to do what it takes to get that one guy who could legitimize them as contenders. It won’t be Judge or Carlos Correa, but it could be Ohtani – and the unspectacular but remarkably effective supporting cast he’d have in San Francisco would make for a poetic shift after years spent on high-ceiling, low-floor Angels rosters.
-- Shanthi Sepe-Chepuru
There is no doubting the Rangers’ “go for it” credentials in pursuit of their first championship. Not after the club dropped $500 million on a new middle infield (Corey Seager and Marcus Semien) and signed an entire rotation’s worth of veteran starting pitchers over the past two offseasons. If that wasn’t enough, Texas already pulled off the first significant trade of this Deadline season, landing Aroldis Chapman from the Royals to bolster their bullpen. So why stop there?
While the Rangers have roughly three-in-four odds of making the playoffs, per FanGraphs, they’re only a tossup to win the division and nail down that key first-round bye, with the still-dangerous Astros on their heels. Meanwhile, Ohtani is an ideal fit here in multiple ways. First, DH is easily the least productive spot in the Rangers’ lineup (.647 OPS). Second, with Jacob deGrom out for the season and Martín Pérez and Andrew Heaney not particularly effective thus far, another top-tier starting pitcher would be more than welcome, especially in October.
-- Andrew Simon
Seattle is currently the third team out in the AL Wild Card race, behind the Red Sox and the Yankees. If the Mariners are going to make the playoffs, an impactful trade could make all the difference. We know that Jerry Dipoto isn’t shy about making swaps, so why not go all in? Not to mention the fact that a midseason trade would give Seattle a head start for convincing Ohtani to sign there in the offseason.
The Mariners could certainly use Ohtani’s DH production, ranking last in MLB in both batting average and on-base percentage from DHs. Their starters’ ERA is among the best in the Majors, but there’s always room for a talent like Ohtani.
-- Sarah Langs
Is it too early for the Orioles to make a win-now move like this? Perhaps. But future success isn’t guaranteed in sports, even when you have a stockpile of young talent as impressive as the O’s.
Baltimore’s window is open RIGHT NOW, and with the Orioles potentially on the verge of overtaking the Rays for the AL East lead, it’s no longer time to exercise patience, especially considering the club can put together an enticing package for Ohtani without having to include Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson or top prospect Jackson Holliday.
Acquiring Ohtani would solve two of the Orioles’ biggest issues -- they need an ace, and they need more home run power -- and make Camden Yards the center of the baseball universe, all in one fell swoop. In a wide-open AL, the O’s with Ohtani would have as good of a chance as any team to reach the World Series.
-- Thomas Harrigan