It's a new day for fans of the Los Angeles Angels. After weeks of being forced to drink a cocktail of speculation, dread, and maybe just a dash of hope, it's now clear. Shohei Ohtani isn't going anywhere (at least not this year), and the Angels are trade deadline buyers, having acquired Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez from the White Sox in a move that signals that the team is fully committed to making a playoff push in 2023.
Though the merits of risking losing Ohtani for nothing at the end of the season in order to make an improbable playoff push with a team that isn't near full strength can be debated, it's refreshing to see a team just say, "You know what? I'm all-in."
Most fans would probably agree that doing nothing was the worst sin the Angels could commit at the deadline, but inaction is no longer a concern. The acquisition of Giolito and Lopez instantly strengthens an Angels staff that ranks 21st in the majors in ERA, while announcing to the rest of the teams in the American League that the Angels aren't backing down.
This newfound commitment to winning by team owner Arte Moreno may not have been possible without the team's inspired play since the All-Star break. In 10 games, the Halos have gone 7-3 while averaging 6.4 runs per game. Now just four games out of the final Wild Card spot, it's clear the Angels believe they can get over the hump.
The season is already 101 games old, but it feels like it starts today. The LA Angels are going for it, and it feels good.
It can't be undersold how bitter of a pill trading Ohtani would have been to swallow for the Angels fanbase, no matter how prodigious the return. Red Sox fans are still wicked pissed about trading Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, and if memory serves, it took them a wee bit of time to get over The Curse of the Bambino.
Would the Angels have been cursed if they traded Ohtani? I'm no voodoo doctor, but yeah, probably. Will they be cursed if Ohtani walks on his own this offseason and they have nothing to show for it? Time will tell. For a team that hasn't seen the playoffs since 2014 despite employing the two best players of their generation, this is a gamble that they're willing to make.
Outside of one bad showing against the Mets ten days ago, Giolito has been superb, allowing two runs or less in seven of his last nine starts. He'll slot behind Ohtani as the clear #2 in the Angels rotation. Lopez has been highly effective as well, going over a month without surrendering a run in relief.
There will be time to grade the trade from a pure value perspective, but that's a discussion for the future. Edgar Quero and Ky Bush, the players the Angels gave up in this deal, were the two top-ranked prospects in the organization. The Angels could have waited for them to grow and contribute on the major league roster, but by that time another unsuccessful season would have already concluded, and Ohtani likely would be gone. The time was now to make a move.
The Angels have shown tremendous fight to stay in the race, doing so despite the prolonged injury-related absences of Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Brandon Drury, Logan O'Hoppe, and others. It's not unreasonable to think that the additions of Giolito and Lopez, plus the anticipated returns of the aforementioned injured players, could be enough to vault the Angels into the playoffs. Besides, more moves can, and likely will, be made between now and the deadline.
As news of the trade broke, the baseball world came together in solidarity to praise the Angels for their initiative. Ben Verlander summed it up perfectly:
There isn't a real baseball fan alive that wouldn't love to see Shohei Ohtani in the playoffs. We all saw what he could do on the big stage when he led Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship earlier this year, in what was not just the baseball moment of the year, but one of the best sports moments, period.
Arte Moreno has earned every bit of the criticism that has been thrown his way over the years, but he's to be commended for pulling out all the stops now. "Wait 'til next year" is a phrase that no baseball fan wants to hear. The time is now for Angels fans. They're not done. Let's enjoy the ride.