Turns out, we were fooled all along. Through baseball’s offseason, Yankees fans were treated to two competing narratives: Shohei Ohtani had the team on his short list of preferred destinations, and the Yankees were not going to add any expensive contracts in the winter. Reality ensued, and the Yankees never actually made a formal pitch to Ohtani at his request (or non-request), and Brian Cashman instead netted the richest contract in North American pro sports.
Fast forward to late April, and we’re just beginning to experience the fallout of the winter’s biggest deals. Ohtani has been everything the Angels wanted and more, boasting a 185 wRC+ and 3.60 ERA, 3.13 FIP with 11.40 K/9 in his first taste of the majors. The two-way star appears to be on a fast track to Rookie of the Year voting, and barring a possible blister problem, is must-see TV every start.
Giancarlo Stanton...has not. The reigning MVP has had his share of struggles in the Bronx, exasperating even the most loyal and optimistic Yankees fans. For an awful lot of people, the two crown jewels of the offseason have had polarizing impacts and the corresponding reaction.
Shohei and Giancarlo are the most recent examples of “winning” the offseason, on paper anyway. Both teams made other moves - Brian Cashman trading for Brandon Drury, and Billy Eppler re-signing Justin Upton - to help augment the roster, but the big names were the big catch. They didn’t shake the roster to the core the way that, say, the Red Sox signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval did, but they set the tone for each team’s expectations.
Fangraphs has upped the Angels by a win in their projection systems, and in a cutthroat AL Wild Card race one win could be all the team needs. That’s not all on Ohtani, of course. Mike Trout is still the closest thing to Ted Williams we’ve ever seen, Upton is as solid as ever and the relief corps has stayed healthy and effective, just like in 2017. Still, the unexpected emergence of Ohtani as a bona-fide superstar has greatly altered playoff odds and increased the spotlight in Anaheim.
Stanton, sadly, has been part of a team that’s seen their stock drop early in the season. The Yankees are down to 94 projected wins, down a couple from the preseason projections. Like Ohtani, Stanton alone isn’t responsible for this. The Yankees pitching has been a disappointment, and despite a sterling offensive performance early on, they just can’t keep runs off the board. Giancarlo himself has been at least league average, but like Ohtani, has become a focal point for the team’s performance.
All this is to say, of course, that both teams are better for having “won” the offseason. You’d be hard pressed to make any kind of legitimate argument that the Angels would be a better team without Ohtani, or the Yankees being stronger with no Stanton. Both teams can still be classified as the victors of the winter, and both are in better spots than other offseason winners - like the 2015 Red Sox. Still, both players are a reminder that one single move, and the hullabaloo around it, can’t replace the play of a 25-man roster.