Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani hits free agency as arguably (probably?) the best player in Major League Baseball, as he proved, at least in the American League, last season after winning his second MVP award, this one coming with a unanimous vote. He is a generational player who just happens to be stuck with a moribund franchise in the Angels which has not made the playoffs since 2014. They hoped to change that fate this season with a series of trades before the trade deadline to make a playoff push and not waste a season from Ohtani that saw him win another MVP trophy, but that quickly fell apart when Ohtani once again got injured shortly after the trade deadline and the Angels spiraled out of playoff contention.
Now, Ohtani is poised to become a free agent where he could literally break the bank. Every team should be handing a blank check to Ohtani with the hope he'd sign with them and help them win a World Series or a few. The Angels should not be an exception. They have to bring him back and give him whatever he wants for a multitude of reasons.
Shohei Ohtani is the Angels' best hitter
The first reason is that the Angels need Ohtani's bat. How badly do they need it? Well, among players who played in at least 50 games last season, Ohtani only led the team in runs (102), hits (151), triples (eight), home runs (44), RBI (95), total bases (325), walks (91), stolen bases (20), batting average (.304), on-base percentage (.412), slugging percentage (.654), OPS (1.066), and WAR (6.00). Is that good?
Despite Ohtani's sheer brilliance and excellence, the Angels were a middle-of-the-pack offensive team. They ranked 18th in the MLB in batting average (.245) and on-base percentage (.317). They were at least eighth in slugging percentage (.426) and 12th in OPS (.743) in large part due to Ohtani's greatness, but the Angels still ranked 16th in runs scored with 739 of them.
The Angels would've fared much better in these categories if Mike Trout had not dealt with injuries for most of the season as well as taken a dip in play. Perhaps injuries played their part in that, but Trout's numbers from last season were unrecognizable. Trout's batting average (.263), on-base percentage (.367), slugging percentage (.490), and OPS (.858) were all the lowest they've been since his rookie season. It would still be wise to bet on Trout, but he probably can't prop the Angels up by himself anymore.
Trout, and the rest of the Angels' lineup, need Ohtani's power bat very badly.
Ohtani is also the Angels' best pitcher
There are questions about whether or not Ohtani will continue to pitch after suffering an injury to a ligament in his pitching elbow that required surgery this season. Ohtani and his camp plan to continue as a two-way phenom according to a report via Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. If that's the case, the Angels should continue to let Ohtani helm their pitching staff because he is the best they've got.
Among any pitcher who pitched at least 40 innings for the Angels last season, Ohtani ranked second on the team in ERA (3.14) and WHIP (1.06); he only trailed relief pitcher Matt Moore, who pitched 88 fewer innings than Ohtani in 2023. Ohtani led the team in pitching WAR as well as quality starts.
If you divided Shohei Ohtani in two, Ohtani the hitter would be the Angels' best hitter, and Ohtani the pitcher would be the Angels' best pitcher. If Ohtani is willing, the Angels have to bring him back. And if he isn't, the Angels should do everything in their power to change his mind, because they need him quite badly.