What happens next to Shohei Ohtani and Angels? Dodgers' 2012 sale might provide clues




Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani, right, looks back in the dugout.  

The Angels have not had a playoff team since 2014. Now that Arte Moreno said he's exploring a sale of the team, what happens to the current team and what is the future of Shohei Ohtani with the Angels?

There won't be answers for a while, but the scenario isn't new for Southland baseball fans.

The potential sale of the Angels comes about 10 years after the Dodgers went through an ownership change. Ned Colletti was the team's general manager when Frank McCourt agreed to sell the team in November 2011.

"We had a payroll, we had a budget and we did what we did," Colletti said. "Our payroll did decrease. We just had to work with what we had. We weren't prohibited from making transactions, but we had a budget to live under."

The Dodgers' payroll at the beginning of the 2011 season was about $120 million. At the beginning of the 2012 season it was about $105 million, which was ranked 10th in baseball.

The 2012 Angels, who finished third in the American League West and did not make the playoffs, had a payroll over $151 million. After the Dodgers sale to Guggenheim became official in May 2012, the payroll increased dramatically, ending the year at about $129 million.

Former Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti stands on a red carpet in 2017.
Former Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti stands on a red carpet in 2017.  

"My roster had a lot of players on one-year deals, who could play hard, not overly talented, had some age on the team," Colletti said. "We tried to get players who would sign a one-year deal, who would compete. That was the goal at the beginning of 2012."

Veterans Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy, Jamey Wright and Matt Treanor were among the eight veterans signed to one- and-two-year deals the winter before the 2012 season. And everyone understood what the deal was.

Hairston knew he wanted to retire and wanted to sign a contract of no more than two years when he and his agent talked to the Dodgers.

"I wasn't Matt Kemp, I wasn't Derek Jeter, but I was adamant about signing a two-year deal," Hairston said of his two-year, $6-million deal. "Obviously it wouldn't hurt the sale of the team because it wasn't outrageous. But I knew going in that that was the process. … And I knew that whoever was going to purchase the Dodgers was going to take them to new heights."

Asked for advice he could give players, like the Angels, entering an offseason in which new ownership of the team will be discussed, Hairston said, "No matter what, your job is to be a baseball player. Doesn't matter who's the owner of the franchise. There's only so much you can control. You can't control that aspect. All you can control is the performance on the field."

After the Dodgers' new ownership took hold, Colletti made a flurry of midseason moves, including signing Yasiel Puig and Julio Urías, and trading for Adrián González and Hanley Ramírez. The Dodgers (86-76) made a late-season push but were eliminated from the wild-card race in the penultimate game of the season.

The winter before the 2012 season, the Dodgers faced a situation somewhat similar to what the Angels are now dealing with - a star on the verge of free agency. McCourt was able to sign Kemp, the 2011 runner-up in National League MVP voting, to an eight-year, $160-million deal, at the time the largest contract in NL history.

The Angels had the opportunity to do the same with Ohtani as the Dodgers did with Kemp but worked out a one-year deal worth $30 million for the 2023 season instead. That deal allows Ohtani and the Angels to avoid the arbitration process - Ohtani was arbitration eligible after this season.

Ohtani is still eligible for free agency after the 2023 season.

In contrast, the Washington Nationals, who are also up for sale, did not leave Juan Soto's future for a new owner to decide. The Nationals traded Soto to the San Diego Padres. The Nationals did offer Soto a 15-year, $440-million extension this season, but he turned it down.

The Angels had no comment on questions about baseball operations in the offseason as part of their policy while the team is exploring a sale.

Each sale presents its own challenges.

The offseason before Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler purchased the Padres in August 2012, San Diego signed only one free agent, veteran Mark Kotsay, to a one-year deal. The Miami Marlins, who sold to Bruce Sherman in 2017, signed five veterans to one- and-two-year deals the winter before the sale was official, including Edinson Vólquez and A.J. Ellis.

When the Kansas City Royals went through one in 2019, Dayton Moore, then the team's general manager, went about business as usual.

"I have a strong sense of what we can and cannot do economically," Moore, who was promoted to president of baseball operations for this season, said in an interview in September. "And I knew that ownership change was occurring, and I operated accordingly. I knew where we were in the rebuilding process."

The Royals won two American League pennants and a World Series during Moore's time as GM. He was fired on Sept. 21, three years after the ownership change. The Dodgers won NL West titles in 2013 and 2014, but Colletti was removed as GM two years after the ownership change.

The Angels under Perry Minasian, who signed a four-year contract as GM in November 2020, went 77-85 record in 2021 and are 73-86 in 2022.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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