Shohei Ohtani's status is major factor in Angels' offseason plans

This offseason for the Angels has been nothing quite like what their last one was.

Around this time last year, the Angels had already gotten to work on addressing their depth. Before the start of the 2022 winter meetings, they had already acquired starting pitcher Tyler Anderson, outfielder Hunter Renfroe, infielder Gio Urshela and were closing in on signing closer Carlos Estévez.

This offseason, the Angels’ manager search and signing of Ron Washington, and subsequent hiring of coaches, have taken up much of their news cycle.

They have signed just one free agent, left-handed relief pitcher Adam Kolarek. They do not have an answer to whether Shohei Ohtani will re-sign with them.

As this year’s meetings kick off this week, here are four things to consider about the Angels’ offseason and why it all, no matter what, revolves around Ohtani.

The luxury tax

The Angels managed to get back under the first Competitive Balance Tax threshold — by $30,000, per Cots Baseball Contracts — after a late-season salary dump and other roster maneuvering, to avoid paying a luxury tax bill for the year.

If Ohtani signs with another team, the Angels get a compensatory pick at the end of the second round of next year’s MLB draft — as opposed to after the fourth round if they had remained over the first CBT threshold.

Why so slow?

Overall, this free-agency period, at least in the signing of bigger names, has been a little on the quieter side for all of baseball. The main catalyst has seemingly been the major player on the board: Ohtani.

Until he makes his decision, the Angels and any other teams that want him are in a bit of a holding pattern. The expectation is Ohtani will make his decision, if not sometime this week, then soon after.

The Angels are still believed to be in the running for Ohtani. Whatever deal Ohtani signs is expected to be record setting for an MLB player contract. His contract will have to factor heavily, even to the biggest spenders around the league.

Need to know

The Angels have a history of clever, or otherwise frugal, spending to fill out the roster around the biggest contracts on their payroll — in recent years, notably Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon — in order to stay under the CBT threshold. They went over the tax and paid a bill just once, in 2004, and paid less than $1 million for it.

Overall, it would be to their benefit to know whether another sizable chunk of that payroll for next year — and beyond — will be committed to Ohtani, so that they know how much money they have to work with before hitting that first tax threshold ($237 million in 2024).

Who else?

This goes back to the Ohtani question. If he leaves, the Angels not only have to account for filling a spot in the batting lineup and their primary designated hitter, but also figure out how to replace the ace of their staff.

They already would have been without Ohtani in their pitching rotation in 2024 after he had his second Tommy John surgery.

With Ohtani in the rotation the Angels have had to roll out a six-man rotation over the last three seasons.

Who their new regular DH could be is a conversation that starts with Trout. But the Angels still have to address their major league infield and outfield depth, as well as their pitching options, accounting for everyone who left this year.

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