Shohei Ohtani is gone. What's next for the Angels?

The future is as bleak as it has ever been.

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

The day that Los Angeles Angels fans had long dreaded finally arrived. Shohei Ohtani, the best and most unique player in baseball, moved on from the only Major League Baseball franchise he's ever known.

Most baseball fans have been fixated on the details of Ohtani's new lease on life. Twitter was abuzz on Friday with amateur sleuths trying to deduce where the Japanese superstar was and what his intentions were. Now that the cat is out of the bag, they wonder how anyone can hope to stop the Dodgers now that they have Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman in the same lineup. Most are staggered at the astronomical $700 million price tag.

For Angels fans, none of that matters. Like a person in a relationship that just got broken up with, every Angels fan is dealing with the loss in their own way. Some gathered yesterday at Angel Stadium to hold a vigil as Ohtani's mural was removed just a few hours after his Instagram announcement. Others, in the great tradition of Cavaliers fans after LeBron James left Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach, burned Ohtani's jersey.

It's not an overstatement to say that most Angels fans will never get over this.

Red Sox fans were ensorceled by "The Curse of the Bambino" for 84 years. As this generation's Babe Ruth, Ohtani's departure could well have a similar long-lasting effect on the Angels. There's no time for Arte Moreno and company to feel sorry for themselves, though. The real question is, where do the Angels go from here?

It must be pointed out that while Ohtani's free agent egress from Anaheim may have been out of Moreno's control (many in baseball have assumed the Dodgers were always going to be the landing spot), the Angels owner had the opportunity to trade his superstar for a significant haul at last year's trade deadline.

Instead, Moreno opted to double down and make a push for the playoffs, despite his team being three games out of the last A.L. Wild Card slot on the day before the deadline. While part of me admires Moreno for pushing to win even against long odds, the smart move was trading Ohtani to ensure the long-term health of the franchise, especially since it was always a long shot that he would re-up with the Angels.

Even though Ohtani would have been just a rental for whoever acquired him, never in baseball history has a team been able to add a piece of that magnitude to push for a title. He still would have commanded a sizeable haul, especially as teams bid against each other for his services. The double whammy of it all is that instead of stocking their farm system with multiple pieces that could help the franchise for years to come, the Angels instead traded their own prospects for the likes of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Randal Grichuk, and C.J. Cron before immediately losing seven straight games to fall out of the race.

The cupboard is not bare in Anaheim. The Angels have some good young players to build around in Zach Neto, Logan O'Hoppe, Chase Silseth, Nolan Schanuel, and Trey Cabbage, but with Ohtani gone, this is not a team that is ready to compete in an A.L. West that consists of the World Champion Texas Rangers, the perennially stellar Houston Astros, and a Seattle Mariners team that is on the cusp of breaking through.

The logical move is to pivot into a full rebuild, but the Angels do not appear to have learned from their trade deadline mistake. General manager Perry Minasian has refuted reports that longtime face of the franchise Mike Trout could be traded, saying in no uncertain terms, "Mike Trout's not getting traded. 100%." Trout has a full no-trade clause in his contract, but it's hard to imagine him not approving a trade to a contender, or at the very least to his childhood favorite Philadelphia Phillies, rather than sticking around on a team that will struggle to reach .500 yet again.

The Angels have spent the past decade being dragged down by onerous contracts, first with Albert Pujols, then with Anthony Rendon, and, finally, to a lesser degree, with Trout. Trout has been a Hall-of-Famer when he's on the field, but the increasing frequency of his injuries has hamstrung the Angels' ability to truly contend.

Now that Ohtani is gone, the team should work together with Trout to find an agreeable landing spot for him. This will free up the payroll, which was embarrassingly shown to be of vital concern to Arte Moreno when the Angels cut Giolito, Lopez, and Grichuk less than a month after acquiring them in order to squeeze under the luxury tax threshold. Anthony Rendon still has three years and over $115 million remaining on his contract, a picture of which you see when you look up "untradeable" in the dictionary.

The Angels should go all-in on a youth movement and embrace a multi-year rebuild, because there's no quick fix now that Ohtani is gone. Even with him, the playoffs were out of reach. What hope do the Angels have now without him?

Walt Disney, the patriarch of the company that sold the Angels to Moreno in 1996, once said, "You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Angels fans took a boot right to the incisors when Ohtani chose Dodger blue, but whether they can look back at any positives from this will depend largely on how Arte Moreno handles this adversity. For once, it's time to think big picture. Trade anyone that isn't part of the long-term vision, and stock the farm system. Being stubborn is no way to run a franchise, and Angels fans have suffered long enough.