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The Angels Are Going To Try

Shohei Ohtani celebrates with his Angels teammates
Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Apparently a 7-6 victory over the Tigers in which they squandered a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth was enough to convince the Angels that they're playoff contenders. Rumor had it that the 52-49 team, four games off the last wild card spot, was going to wait for the results of their pre-deadline series against Detroit and Toronto before deciding the billion-dollar question of what to do about Shohei Ohtani's expiring contract. But as they were watching the rain fall on Wednesday, the team made a definitive buyer's move. Lucas Giolito, a solid pitcher on a broken White Sox team, is moving to Anaheim along with reliever Reynaldo López in exchange for two Angels prospects: a catcher who played in the Futures Game this month and a pitcher drafted in the second round in 2021.

Like Ohtani, Giolito and López are free agents after this season, meaning the Halos are in something like win-now mode. Multiple reports on Wednesday added that other teams had been told specifically that the best player in the league was off the market, thanks to a six-out-of-seven winning stretch for his team and the evident fact that no franchise was able to offer that mythically powerful package of future all-stars that Ohtani would have commanded.

The Angels definitely needed another useful starter. Giolito can be that. They can also hope that Mike Trout, currently recovering from surgery after a fractured left hamate bone, will be able to return by the end of August and give a boost to an offense that even without him (or Brandon Drury) still has a top-five OPS over the last two weeks.

This feels like a good thing for an Angels team that's been unacquainted with the postseason for nearly a decade. But optimism and the Los Angeles Angels are like an outlet and a fork. Their entire brand since teaming up Trout and Ohtani has been wasted opportunity. Just because this squad has scored some wins against other playoff outsiders like the Yankees, Pirates, and Tigers, and made one trade with short-term benefits, doesn't mean they should be favored over the last chunk of the season to jump New York, Boston, and Toronto for the final playoff ticket—which, by the way, would still only give them a three-game series on the road in the wild card round.

So while it's probably not a season-changer, this deal does have symbolic value. To roll over, and let go of Ohtani before they had to, would have been the final, decisive surrender of a directionless franchise and would run fans off faster than a rusty nail on every seat. Now, at least they can say they kind of tried at the end.

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