The SF Giants case against trading for Shohei Ohtani

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

The trade deadline is quickly approaching and those whispers and rumors are starting to get louder and louder. Without beating around the bush, the Los Angeles Angels are now considering the possibility of trading star hitter/pitcher Shohei Ohtani. So, is there even a case against trading for Ohtani?

The SF Giants case against trading for Shohei Ohtani

I will preface this by saying that all 30 teams should be interested in trading for Ohtani. Even the Angels. If there was a way for them to trade with themselves to acquire the two-way star, they should absolutely do it. I will also add that I do not believe that the Angels will actually trade him unless they hit an extremely rough patch heading into the deadline.

Subjectively speaking, I would trade whatever it takes to add someone like him. However, I am taking a step back to explain why a front office might not be inclined to trade substantial prospect capital for Ohtani.

If a team thinks that they are one player away from competing for a World Series title, they should absolutely do whatever it takes to trade for Ohtani. Are the Giants one player away? Or, in Ohtani's case, he is the equivalent of two players since he is both an All-Star pitcher and hitter. The Giants might be one player away from that level. They might not be. That is up for debate.

The left-handed bat is on a one-year, $30 million deal and will become a free agent after the end of the season. So, he is a rental. And, rentals do not typically have a high prospect cost. Typically is doing a lot of work in that last sentence as Ohtani is a unique case.

Just to start the conversation, Jon Morosi of the MLB Network elaborates on what Los Angeles might be looking for in trade talks:

According to MLB.Com, the Giants have four top 100 prospects - Kyle Harrison (No. 11), Marco Luciano (No. 15), Luis Matos (No. 68), and Carson Whisenhunt (No. 95). So, how would you feel trading two of those four plays? I mean, if it landed Ohtani, you would probably feel pretty great.

Including both Harrison and Luciano in a hypothetical Ohtani trade is probably a non-starter from the Giants' standpoint. They could replace one of those two with someone like Whisenhunt while adding another well-regarded prospect such as Aeverson Arteaga. That would be tough to stomach, but again, if you land Ohtani, then you have won the trade deadline.

Let's take a step back and ask why the Giants would not be willing to part with multiple top prospects as Morosi indicated. If he is traded at the deadline, that means he might accumulate 200 plate appearances and 8 - 10 starts in the final two months of the season.

If performs as he has done over the past several seasons, that is tremendous value. However, at the end of the day, there is a ceiling to how much value a player can generate in just two months. Does adding him result in three or four more wins down the stretch? Maybe more. Maybe less. Front offices are aware of this calculation, so it is a balancing act of the present versus the future.

If the prospects you trade even reach their floor, then that means they will collectively accumulate more value over the life of their rookie contracts compared to Ohtani's value in just two months. Again, this is how front offices tend to view trade discussions. This is very much a quantitative equation that factors in Ohtani's expiring contract.

However, there is a qualitative aspect to this as well. If the Giants were to trade for Ohtani, they would be trying to sell him on the idea of staying in San Francisco on a long-term deal. In a sense, that two-month window would be a recruiting pitch.

Plus, they would hold exclusive negotiating rights with Ohtani in the days leading up to free agency. So, in trading for him, the Giants would be banking on the fact that he falls in love with the organization and that they are able to make some progress on a deal before he hits free agency. Maybe the Angels think that teams would be willing to pay a premium on the more qualitative factors, but that is unlikely.

Rarely are deals completed during the negotiating window and that window likely means even less for someone like Ohtani because the market will dictate his next contract. So, once he hits free agency, all bets are off. As indicated previously, Ohtani is going to hit free agency. And, his agents will leverage the market to get as big of a payday as possible. In all likelihood, it will become the largest contract in baseball history.

One way or the other, he is going to take the most lucrative deal on the market. His representatives will work to make sure that it is also the best fit in terms of geography, competitiveness, and other factors.

So, the Giants have to consider whether trading for Ohtani improves their odds at re-signing him in the offseason. That is tough to calculate. Though, one way or the other, they are going to be in the mix for the 29-year-old star in the offseason whether he ends 2023 with them or not.

So, does it make sense to trade for him while knowing that they will be one of several teams pursuing him this offseason? Again, if it improves the team's chances at winning the World Series, then they should make the move. Is that where the Giants are at? I think they are a good team, but maybe not at that level.

The front office is likely only focused on the value that Ohtani could produce over the next two months. That is something they can measure. What they cannot measure is whether trading for him increases the possibility of re-signing the three-time All-Star even in the slightest.

Over the next couple of weeks, the Giants need to determine if adding Ohtani pushes them over the hump in terms of becoming a World Series favorite. If they believe that to be the case, then should aggressively pursue him.

However, the front office likely will not go beyond what it believes to be equal value in trading for any player. And, if you approach things like this rationally, you are bound to finish in third place in the trade sweepstakes for Ohtani. If a team acquires him, they are likely going to need to exceed the Angels' trade demands.

It is a case of doing what is rational versus doing what a team cannot fully compute. So, does it make sense to trade considerable prospect capital for Ohtani without knowing if it even factors into his chances of re-signing with the club? I have my doubts.