As Shohei Ohtani’s historic 2021 season winded down, he — seemingly without intention — made comments that fueled rumors regarding his impending free agency. Those comments were about wanting to play for a World Series contender, and he said so with the Los Angeles Angels out of playoff contention.
Ohtani’s two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Angels expires at the end of the 2022 season. To some, Ohtani’s comments read as a threat to put together a winning team in 2022 or he’ll head out the door. He since has walked back those comments, even saying he would be open to a long-term deal to stay in Anaheim.
But with free agency — and a following lockout — it doesn’t appear the two sides ever had a chance to communicate on a potential deal, according to Sam Blum of The Athletic:
He did, however, briefly address a potentially significant decision about his future, noting the Angels have had “no talks yet” with him about signing a contract extension.
Ohtani also said that his main focus, for the time being, is his second and final year under contract with the Angels.
“Before jumping ahead to anything. I’m still in the second year of my two-year deal coming up this season,” said Ohtani. “So I’m just trying to complete that last year of the two-year contract.”
The Angels and Ohtani could still agree to a long-term extension after a CBA is agreed to and the lockout ends, but they would have to do so before the first game of the 2022 regular season. This would be similar to David Fletcher’s contract extension that came on Opening Day of 2021.
Both sides carry high risk and high reward potential regardless of which decision they make. If they choose to extend this offseason, the Angels don’t have to worry about free agency and Ohtani can play freely without thinking about financial benefits.
However, the Angels could make the mistake of overpaying based on one year of elite production and nothing more, while Ohtani could be leaving money on the table if he extends, then plays another MVP-caliber season.
On the flip side, the Angels and Ohtani could wait until the offseason and let the two-way star enter free agency. Then, the Angels could give a more honest evaluation of how much money Ohtani is worth, while Ohtani gets a chance to start a bidding war.
The cons of that are that the Angels run the risk of losing Ohtani to another team, while Ohtani could hurt his value if he is not an MVP-level player or gets injured.
This is a highly complex situation for both the Angels and Ohtani. Both sides will have to sit together and come to an agreement over the best path forward. If they agree on something, it will ensure a drama-free 2022 season. If they fail to agree, it may lead to a year filled with circulating rumors.
Ohtani excited to be video game cover athlete
Ohtani was named the cover athlete for MLB The Show 2022 on Monday, and was quick to express his excitement over the announcement. He spoke about this type of recognition after his historic season, saying that it makes him want to play his best and “live up to the hype.”