AL Notes: Ohtani, Angels, Vespi, Yoshida, Red Sox

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Despite the busy Angels offseason, Shohei Ohtani’s future remains the team’s biggest question in 2023, and Arte Moreno’s decision not to sell the Angels adds another layer of intrigue to Ohtani’s situation.  Speaking with reporters (including the Associated Press), Halos GM Perry Minasian reiterated that the organization would love to keep Ohtani, and suggested that Moreno was willing to pay Ohtani the record-setting contract it might take to keep the two-way star in Anaheim.  “[Moreno has] already invested in this club throughout his whole ownership.  We’ve been top-10 in payroll for a long time,” Minasian said.  “I don’t see that changing.  Knowing [Moreno] and knowing how much he wants to win, I wouldn’t put anything out of the realm of possibility.”

Desire to win notwithstanding, Moreno’s ability to construct a winning team is the another factor, as the Angels are mired in a string of seven consecutive losing seasons.  Unsurprisingly, Ohtani was openly disappointed by the Halos’ lackluster 2022 campaign, and any doubts he has about the Angels’ ability to compete might possibly result in Ohtani signing with a more proven contender next winter.  Even if Moreno is willing to splurge on Ohtani and take the Angels into luxury tax territory, it might not be enough to sway Ohtani from a comparable offer from a winning team.

More from around the American League….

  • Orioles left-hander Nick Vespi underwent hernia surgery in early January, and the reliever told’s Roch Kubatko that he is “cleared to throw, so I am starting to throw already and I’ll be ready for Opening Day.”  There was some doubt as to whether or not Vespi’s recovery process might last into the early part of the season, and while it appears that might not be an issue, Vespi will miss pitching for Italy in the World Baseball Classic.  Vespi made his MLB debut in 2022, posting a 4.10 ERA over 26 1/3 innings out of the Orioles’ bullpen.  Cionel Perez and Keegan Akin are Baltimore’s top southpaw options in the relief corps, though Vespi may face further competition from any left-handed starting candidates who don’t make the rotation.
  • The Red Sox signed Masataka Yoshida to a five-year, $90MM deal in December, an investment that surpassed all projections for Yoshida as he made the move from Nippon Professional Baseball to the majors.  That said, the Sox also feel “other teams were prepared to bid more aggressively for Yoshida than has been widely reported,” the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier writes.  The Blue Jays and Dodgers were reportedly the other finalists for Yoshida’s services, though it isn’t known what those two clubs were willing to pay.  The $90MM guarantee is also a sign of just how much faith the Red Sox have in Yoshida’s ability to continue his production against Major League pitching, which is a belief born from heavy scouting and evaluation of Yoshida in Japan over the last three years.

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