2023 trade deadline, Ohtani free agency botch may have destroyed the Angels' future

The Angels' problems go way back, but 2023 may have been their death knell.
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago White Sox / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Looking at the Los Angeles Angels as a franchise over the last decade or so, a lot of their problems have been long in the making. The team never really invested in pitching (which is always a bad idea), couldn't attract big free agents outside of Anthony Rendon (who has promptly robbed the team blind ever since), and has been generally run poorly with the bulk of the issues starting at the top with owner Arte Moreno.

However, the year 2023 is likely to go down as a crucial point in the franchise's downturn once this story is fully written. Not only did they partially mortgage their future at the 2023 trade deadline on some very questionable assets in an attempt to win while Shohei Ohtani was still around, but then that effort failed and the Angels just let Ohtani walk in free agency anyway.

The Angels' future is very murky after 2023 missteps, particulary with Shohei Ohtani

Again, how LA completely mismanaged things in 2023 starts at the top with Moreno as well as the front office led by Perry Minasian. While the immediate blowback from fans would have brutal to be sure, the Angels were very fringe playoff contenders last year (at best) at the deadline. LA should have known that what Ohtani was going to command in free agency was over what they could/would pay him and that trading him would have set the farm system up for years. Instead, they traded away Edgar Quero, Ky Bush, and other prospects as they chased a playoff spot that was a long shot bid.

Obviously the 2023 trade deadline looks a lot worse in hindsight as Lucas Giolito was terrible and the Angels cratered in the month after the deadline. However, this is about follow-through, and LA just didn't do that. If they were trying to convince Ohtani to stay and he gave the Angels the opportunity to match the offers he got in free agency even after they stunk it up — why did they decline to do so despite how lucrative his marketing dollars were?

No team can have everything exactly the way they want. In the Angels' case, they wanted good players without developing them or paying for them. They wanted Ohtani's fans and their money, but couldn't figure out that he was worth actually investing the effort and dollars to keep him. Now the Angels have a bereft farm system that might get a mild boost once the team sells off a bunch of players at this year's deadline, but without a clear path to contention in place.

In short, the Angels stink right now, they are probably going to stink for a while, and they can thank the year 2023 for a whole lot of it.

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