Let’s Get Weird. Let’s Send Shohei Ohtani To The A’s
10:09 AM EDT on July 25, 2023
With only six days and change until Monday's Major League Baseball trade deadline, the days remaining in Level 1 of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are dwindling fast, and nearly every team in the sport has been mentioned by someone as a potential landing spot for this continent's bankable version of Kylian Mbappe.
All but one, in fact. There are still the Oakland Athletics.
But hear us out … well, read, actually, but you know what we mean. In a world in which no team is likely to have him on August 1 save the Angels, let's think the unthinkable. Or in this case, underthinkable. There are, after all, various stages of benefit for everyone involved here, so let's play our game.
For Ohtani: At first glance, nothing whatsoever, but he would have to view this as a longer play in that he wouldn't be playing in the A's’ opossum sanctuary but the bright lights of Las Vegas, if that's his idea of fun. He would still know the joyous futility of being the best player on a team with no playoff aspirations, and the comforting narrative of a career wasted in the service of his inferiors, but that would likely be true in most cities because no matter how grand a talent he is, he still will only pitch six to 12 innings a week and bat 24 times. In short, he'd REALLY have to want to go to Vegas to get anything out of this, but be honest, you never even considered that much upside for him when you started this.
For Arte Moreno: He can show Ohtani that whatever the Angels' competitive shortcomings, there are far worse places to make $500M. Moreno knows that he has to outbid the field to keep Ohtani, and if he is willing to do that, it doesn't matter where he buys him from, and if he isn't, Ohtani cannot hurt his own aspirations if he is toiling on the most forlorn team in organized sport.
For John Fisher: Now universally and properly regarded as the sixth worst person and the most detestable owner on earth with the passage of Danny Snyder to the penthouse suite in the Phantom Zone, Fisher can show his new victims in Nevada a new toy that might inspire Vegas fans to … well, hate him less might be an overstatement, but care slightly more about him. Ohtani can't be a rental, and Fisher has never given any indication that he wants to spend $500M on anything, but it might buy him some time and goodwill until his new fan base learns what his old fan base already knows. I'd give it until the Fourth of July of the new stadium's first year, but even that window is wider than the one he already has.
For Oakland: Two months to prove to the 29 other owners what they should already know: Put a proper show on the field and they will come out in their tens of thousands. I mean, you can't throw a reverse boycott out there every night without losing some of the audience. Plus, two months of Ohtani against what they already have? Need we say more?
For Mark Kotsay and A’s baseball ops: Two months of Ohtani against what they already have? Need we say more?
For Las Vegas: They do love a show, and Ohtani is The Show's best show, with all due respect to Ronald Acuna Jr. and Elly De La Cruz. A team they never wanted playing for a man who stole $380 million from them and the promise of having to fork over much more when it comes time to pay Ohtani? Vegas can handle that. Besides, getting a team that could win it all in its first year is something Vegas is used to. The downside, of course, is that having already shown itself to be a mark for Fisher's grift, the citizens would have to be prepared to lay out much more—for Ohtani's $650M salary, for the stadium, for the rental of Fisher's art collection, whatever. But hey, they can say no any time they want. They've closed casinos before, and casinos are way more important to them than baseball.
For baseball fans everywhere: When the owners next gather, they will ask Rob Manfred how he could let this calamity happen and when he can't answer, or worse, says what he really believes, which is, "I don't know what you're talking about, and what's an Ohtani?" they might give actual thought to replacing him with a more beloved public face—say, Elon Musk. Not that it will make much difference overall. People who like baseball will like it despite Musk the way they like it despite Manfred, but Musk running baseball will mean that Twitter still has a chance to survive, and you can make up your own minds whether that's worth the collateral damage.
For Kylian Mbappe: He could get his Saudi offer bumped up while he waits for the Saudi government to buy Real Madrid. And then Spain.