Individually, it’s hard to imagine how much more Shohei Ohtani could have done for the Los Angeles Angels in 2022. Coming off of an MVP campaign, Ohtani proceeded to improve as a pitcher and firmly place himself in both the MVP and Cy Young debates.
At the plate, Ohtani batted .273 with an .875 OPS. He hit 34 home runs, 95 RBIs, 30 doubles, and six triples while stealing 11 bases. He compiled an offensive WAR of 3.8 and a 142 wRC+. On the mound, he tossed 166.0 innings, posting a 2.33 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 1.012 WHIP, 219 strikeouts, 172 ERA+, and a WAR of 5.6.
And yet, despite all this dominance, the Angels actually finished with a worse record than last season. They went just 73-89, missing the postseason by a whopping 13 games. Mike Trout was healthy for a majority of the season — unlike 2021 — and the Angels had a top-10 pitching staff.
So when Ohtani returned to Japan for the offseason, he spoke frankly about the team’s results and his feelings towards another losing season, according to Koji Ueda of The Associated Press:
“I have to say that August and September in particular felt longer to me than last year,” Ohtani said, speaking in Japanese. “We were not able to play as many good games as we would like — including 14 consecutive losses. So I have a rather negative impression of this season.”
Just like his comments prior to the trade deadline about his future with the Angels, this quote is almost certain to start a frenzy about a potential trade. In August, Angels owner Arte Moreno refused to entertain Ohtani offers even knowing he was planning to sell the team in the offseason.
Now, with Moreno working on a sale and Ohtani under contract for $30 million in 2023, the questions of a trade will likely resurface. But the Angels have stated on multiple occasions that their plan is to try and build a winner around Ohtani and Trout next season.
Ohtani has made it known that he wants to win. And if the Angels can’t make that happen, then him leaving in free agency next winter is a real possibility. But the Halos appear willing to try one more time and take the risk that Ohtani does leave when he hits the open market.
Ohtani, Trout named Hank Aaron award finalists
Ohtani and Trout were both named among the eight American League Finalists for the Hank Aaron Award, which goes to the player with the best all-around offensive performance in each league.
The frontrunner in the American League is Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, who is also the MVP favorite after one of the best all-around offensive seasons in recent MLB history.