After 6 Years Together, Angels Move on from Shohei Ohtani’s Departure for the Dodgers

After the Los Angeles Dodgers signing of former Los Angeles Angels player Shohei Ohtani, left, his image still adorns the Angels’ Tempe Diablo Stadium, sharing the prominent spot with pitcher Patrick Sandoval at the spring training home of the Angels on Monday in Tempe, Ariz. The Angels have already removed the Ohtani photo banner at the Angels regular season stadium.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Shohei Ohtani decided to move 30 miles up the I-5 freeway to the Dodgers, he left several massive holes in the Los Angeles Angels.

In the heart of their lineup. At the top of their starting rotation. And in the coffers of a franchise that reaped huge financial benefits from their two-way star’s international acclaim.

But the Angels have no choice but to move on after the two-time AL MVP left owner Arte Moreno’s Orange County club this week for the Los Angeles metroplex’s much more successful baseball team, agreeing to a 10-year deal worth $700 million.

“It’s somebody that I have a huge amount of respect for personally, the organization loved having,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said Friday. “He’s one of the best players that’s ever played for this organization, and we understand that, but life goes on. We’re going to take the rest of the offseason and work as hard as we can to put a really competitive team on the field.”

Minasian repeatedly declined to say anything of substance about the negotiations that ended with Ohtani choosing the Dodgers over the Angels, Giants and every other interested club. Minasian, who wasn’t in charge when Ohtani chose the Angels six years ago, also refused to comment on multiple reports that the Halos were given the chance to match the Dodgers’ massive offer, but declined.

“I’m not going to get into specifics,” Minasian said. “I understand the question. I just, when it comes to negotiations, it’s not something we make public, I make public. I’ve got a great relationship with Nez, a great relationship with Sho. The organization has a great relationship with both, and we congratulate him on his deal and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, said Thursday that the Angels “are special to Shohei” and “a place that he really loved to play. He loved the people there, everything. The Angels had every opportunity.”

Whether the Angels might have kept Ohtani with even a $700 million offer remains quite uncertain, largely because they were never a winner with him. Ohtani cited his desire to win as the biggest factor in his decision to leave the Angels, who are on major league-worst streaks of eight consecutive losing seasons and nine straight non-playoff seasons.

A few hours after Ohtani announced his decision last Saturday, the Angels quickly pulled down the towering mural of Ohtani that filled a prominent position near the main gate of Angel Stadium. Across the same plaza is the team store where the Angels have sold untold millions of dollars in Ohtani-related merchandise to fans arriving from all across North America and Asia to witness the talents of a singular athlete.

Ohtani’s decision is even more painful to the Angels and their fans because the team decided not to trade him this year at the deadline despite knowing there was a significant chance they would lose him for no more than a compensatory draft pick.

The Halos were 65-61 at the trade deadline, and Moreno authorized Minasian to make several acquisitions in a desperate bid to end their playoff drought — and then they promptly lost seven straight games and went into an 8-25 skid, eventually finishing their second straight season at 73-89.

“We were playing really good baseball, [and] we definitely had a chance to compete the rest of the way,” Minasian said. “It didn’t work out. There’s zero regrets. We felt like we had a really good team. It just didn’t work. From an injury standpoint, we didn’t have guys return that we thought we would. We didn’t perform like we thought we would. That being said, we took a chance on trying to win and I have no regrets.”

Minasian said he intends to add players to the Angels’ middling roster, and Moreno has given him the financial ability to do it.

Along with the craters created by Ohtani’s departure, the Angels need to upgrade a pitching staff that struggled in 2023 while deciding what to do with the designated hitter spot that Ohtani occupied for six years.

Minasian said the Angels haven’t decided whether to sign a regular DH or to rotate other hitters through the spot, particularly giving defensive rest to oft-injured veterans Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.

“This is a group that wants to win,” Minasian said of Moreno. “Financially, what ownership has committed over the years, I think it says that. We’re going to make this team better in the offseason. It’s still early in the sense of from a market standpoint and what’s available.”