Saturday, July 13, 2024

Angels will ‘roll the dice’ by keeping Shohei Ohtani, making other deals

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DETROIT — Perry Minasian acknowledged the gamble the Angels are taking with the direction they’ve chosen.

“We’re going to roll the dice and see what happens,” the Angels general manager said Thursday.

A day earlier, the Angels dealt two of their top prospects to the Chicago White Sox for pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who are both set to be free agents at the end of the season.

Those moves demonstrated the Angels’ desire to push for the playoffs this season, which further explained why they aren’t trading Shohei Ohtani, who has two months to go before he reaches free agency.

Minasian said there still had been no formal discussion with Ohtani in which they explained that they were keeping him. It’s been their plan all along.

“I never went up to Shohei and said ‘Hey, we’re not trading you,’” Minasian said. “I think I made it pretty clear (in the media) … I said he wasn’t going anywhere. I don’t know if anybody believed me. I don’t think it’s somebody who we wanted to move. This is a special player, having a unique season with a team that has a chance to win.

“To me, that’s grounds for trying improve the club. Whether it works or it doesn’t, I can go to bed at night and say, ‘You know what, we did this for the right reasons.’ We’re giving ourselves a chance and I’m excited to see how we play.”

Minasian said he is still open to other trades.

“We’ll look to add and improve the team in any way we can,” Minasian said.

The Angels still have an uphill climb to make all of this work.

As they went into a doubleheader Thursday against the Detroit Tigers, they were four games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the third wild-card spot in the American League. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees were also between the Angels and Blue Jays.

The Angels could take some solace in the fact that they had played better lately, winning seven of their previous nine games. They also have three games this weekend against the Blue Jays, and Giolito will now pitch the first one Friday night.

“For this team to be in this position with the injuries we’ve had, I felt like I owed it to the group to give them a better chance to win,” Minasian said.

Minasian said the difficulty of the Angels’ task was a reason that he wanted to make these moves now, instead of waiting to see where they stood at the deadline Tuesday.

“We’re trying to win as many games as we can,” Minasian said. “Obviously we have some work to do … the earlier we can improve our club, the better chance we have of catching those teams.”

If disaster strikes the Angels before the deadline, they could still flip Giolito and Lopez next week.

The risk is that the Angels will still end up without Ohtani when it’s all over, and they will get only a draft pick as compensation. Also, that draft pick is now going to be even worse because the Angels will likely exceed the luxury-tax threshold with the latest additions.

Asked if he has an idea of what it will take to keep Ohtani beyond 2023, Minasian said “that’s a question for him,” but he then spelled out why he though it made sense for Ohtani to stay.

“I do feel like this is a great place to play,” Minasian said. “If you ask the guys in this room, in the clubhouse, they would tell you it’s a great place to play. The environment’s pretty good. Our fan base is very underrated. I think it’s one of the better fan bases in baseball. So I think there’s a lot of appeal to playing here. And he’s somebody that I could see being here for a long, long time.”

OTHER MOVES

Giolito did not join the Angels in Detroit, instead flying directly to Toronto to join the roster and start against the Blue Jays. Reid Detmers and Tyler Anderson will pitch the final two games of the series.

Chase Silseth could still be a candidate to start Tuesday in Atlanta. The Angels need an extra starter that day because of the schedule issue caused by Wednesday’s rainout. Either Ohtani or Patrick Sandoval could pitch the final game next Wednesday in Atlanta.

Lopez was not scheduled to join the Angels until Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader. The Angels will need to remove another reliever from the roster before the second game to create a spot for Lopez.

The Angels also had right-hander Zack Weiss in the clubhouse, set to be the “27th man” for the second game of the doubleheader. The teams play with the normal 26 for the first game.

In order to create spots on the 40-man roster for Giolito and Lopez, the Angels designated first baseman Jared Walsh for assignment and moved right-hander Ben Joyce to the 60-day injured list. Joyce has already been out for six weeks, so the move does not change his timeline. He has thrown two bullpen sessions in Arizona, so he’s at least two weeks away still.

As for Walsh, that move was more of a surprise. Walsh, who missed the first quarter of the season while dealing with neurological issues, hit .119 with a .468 OPS in the majors and is now hitting .231 with an .804 OPS in Triple-A.

If another team claims Walsh, it would pay him the remaining $1 million of his 2023 salary, but it could option him. If he clears waivers, Walsh could remain with the Angels.

NOTES

Mike Trout (fractured hamate) said he’s feeling “better every day.” He held a bat Wednesday, testing the new padded batting glove he received. At this point, he can increase his activity as much his pain tolerance allows. …

Second baseman Brandon Drury worked out inside, including hitting off the high velocity machine. Nevin said he will work out for at least the first two days in Toronto, and then they’ll decide if he needs to get any minor-league at-bats.

UP NEXT

Angels (RHP Lucas Giolito, 6-6, 3.79) vs. Blue Jays (RHP Kevin Gausman, 7-5, 3.18), 4:07 p.m. Friday, Rogers Centre, Apple TV+, 830 AM.

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