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Hernández: With inspiring moves, the Angels are fighting to win big now and keep Shohei Ohtani


Suddenly, everything feels possible.

The Angels playing in October. Shohei Ohtani remaining in Anaheim beyond this season. And maybe someday, another championship parade that starts at Disneyland.

The Angels aren’t just dreaming. They’re dreaming big.

And why shouldn’t they? Isn’t that the entire point?

Hours after Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reported the Angels decided to not deal Ohtani before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the team shocked the baseball world on Wednesday night by acquiring one of the top starting pitchers on the market in Lucas Giolito.

The Angels also added reliever Reynaldo López in their deal with the Chicago White Sox, which cost them a couple of prospects.

Four games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League’s final wild-card position at the time, the Angels were doing more than not giving up on their season.

They were going for it.

They weren’t afraid of the risk, which is considerable. They weren’t discouraged by their history, which is marked by similar wagers that were lost.

Owner Arte Moreno did right by their fans. He did right by the organization. He did what he had to do, and the Angels somehow just became the most interesting team in a region that is also home to the Dodgers.

Moreno kept the best player in baseball and did what he could to maximize Ohtani’s chances for success by sacrificing two prospects from a notoriously talent-deprived farm system. General manager Perry Minasian was smart to strike early, eliminating the possibility of another team snatching up Giolito.

Now that Moreno and Minasian have done their jobs, manager Phil Nevin and the players have to do theirs.

In the wake of the front office’s commitment to Ohtani and addition of Giolito, responsibility has shifted to the organization’s uniformed personnel. Nevin and his players will have to win games. They have to return the Angels to the postseason for the first time in nine years. They will have to play better than they have.

The Angels could point to their failing health to defend their place in the standings, but the reality is that they were underperforming even before their recent wave of injuries.

Minasian picked up Carlos Estevez on a bargain deal and Estevez became an All-Star closer. The third-year GM fortified a previously top-heavy lineup with the likes of Brandon Drury and Hunter Renfroe.

Why weren’t the Angels closer to the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West?

The Angels will have another chance to be as good a team as they are on a spreadsheet, only now they will have another former All-Star in their rotation in Giolito. Zach Neto has returned from the injured list. Drury could also be back soon. Mike Trout could rejoin the team in August.

The players just have to perform.

This means Trout can’t have another extended slump when he recovers from his wrist injury.

This means Anthony Rendon will have to do something, anything, to justify his $245-million contract.

This means Tyler Anderson will have to pitch the way he did last year for the Dodgers.

This means Reid Detmers or Griffin Canning will have to be more consistent.

This means Ohtani will have to rediscover his form on the mound while maintaining his MVP-level production at the plate. Ohtani said last week that he wanted to go to the playoffs “with this team.” Well, here’s his opportunity.

The stakes are enormous.

Ohtani will be a free agent after this winter. The Angels could very well lose him and receive nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

They could have taken a conservative approach and secured a greater bounty by sending Ohtani to a contender before the trade deadline. To his credit, Moreno recognized what Angels fans wanted. He understood that with the team as close to the playoffs as it’s been in years, his paying customers didn’t want him to retreat. They wanted him to see the season out.

And so he will.

Moreno is gambling the Angels can win. He is gambling they can convince Ohtani to re-sign with them rather than move onto the Dodgers or any of the other teams that will be offering him record contracts this winter.

There will be no middle ground. The Angels will win or they won’t. They will re-sign Ohtani or they won’t.

The Angels could be destroyed by the decisions they made this week. But they could also be transformed by them. The possibilities are breathtaking.

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