Angels keep Ohtani while bolstering pitching staff with Giolito and Lopez

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
The baseball world has revolved around the Angels in 2023, with the looming free agency of Shohei Ohtani and any potential move that could send the worldwide superstar elsewhere.

Wednesday morning, the Angels were rained out in Detroit with a double-header scheduled for Thursday. The Angels couldn’t dictate any needle moving in their direction at least for 24 hours, and saw their status drop a half-game naturally with a Toronto victory over the Dodgers, now seeing the Halos four games out of a wildcard spot with 120 hours before the trade deadline.

The baseball world has revolved around the Angels and the trade deadline in 2023, with the looming free agency of Shohei Ohtani and any potential move that could land the worldwide superstar anywhere but Anaheim for the final two months of the season. Those queries of where he could land and what it would take to acquire him were cancelled by Wednesday afternoon when Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated posted an exclusive article with the Lede staring right at your face in the first sentence: “Shohei Ohtani is off the trade market.”

The article continued to discuss the state of the Angels going into the deadline which included the key words: “become buyers.”

There has been nothing short of immediate aggression from Angels general manager Perry Minasian when it comes to patching holes in the roster via trades in 2023, in the likes of acquiring Eduardo Escobar and Mike Moustakas within days of losing both Gio Urshela for the season, and Anthony Rendon for the part-time.

The morning rain delay on Wednesday that led to a double header on Thursday, the Angels took another unique hit on the competitive aspect with Ohtani — who was going to pitch in Toronto on Friday against the team ahead of them in the playoff standings — being moved up in the rotation to the first game of the dual set on Thursday as to not put more pressure on his body while hitting two times the day before he pitched.

By Wednesday night, that same aggression shown by Minasian rose again, as he bolstered the Angels rotation and bullpen by acquiring Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopéz from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for two of the Angels top prospects, with Giolito taking a spot in the rotation over the weekend against the Blue Jays.

Giolito, 29, has acted as the front man or “ace” of the White Sox rotation for parts of five seasons following some rookie and sophomore woes, and has steadily established himself as a high-quality starting pitcher who is expected to give his team a chance to win every time, he takes the mound. The Angels will reap the benefits — albeit for two months as an impending free agent — as a needed counter to Ohtani at the front of their rotation which has been a missing piece to any late-season Angels push for October.

Giolito, a Southern California native, is among a group of talented starting pitchers who will be free agents as season’s end. Ohtani is the clear headline, and Giolito likely fits behind the likes of Julio Urias, Aaron Nola, and maybe others.

Lopéz, 29, shared similar prospect hype to his trade counterpart but has transitioned from a starting role into a high-leverage relief arm over the course of three seasons where he’s been dependable in the scenario with a combined 125 ERA+ from 2021-23. Lopez also comes as a needed asset — as a short-term rental — with the Angels needing excess situational/leverage relievers behind and among Matt Moore and Carlos Estevéz.

The cost of the bolster did come with some price, as the Angels parted ways with their top non-Major League position player prospect in Edgar Quero, and top pitching prospect in Ky Bush.

Quero, 20, has held his head above water after receiving a challenging and aggressive assignment to Double-A to start the season where he has a 104 wRC+. Quero, who has been argued as a Top-100 prospect through the winter and into the season with some prospect ranking affiliates placing him as high as 67, is praised for his bat over his glove. Though most scouts believe he will catch long term, he is an approach-based hitter who has been able to make consistent contact in the low and mid minors, while potentially needing to alter his bat plane from the right side to tap into what could be average power.

Bush, 23, was a second-round selection by the Angels in 2021 and has seen scattered success throughout his professional career. He started 2023 on the injured list with an oblique injury that carried into July before he was able to pitch in affiliated ball and has a 5.88 ERA in 26 innings with Double-A Rocket City. Bush has the potential for three average-or-better pitches in his fastball, changeup, and slider with the breaker being the best pitch in his arsenal, though he’ll need to find better command to reach his mid-rotation ceiling.