Last week, Shohei Ohtani made headlines for his comments surrounding the state of the Los Angeles Angels organization. It wasn’t intended this way, but many took those words as a threat that Ohtani would leave the Angels in two years if they could not put together a winning season.
Since then, the Angels season came to an end. They finished 77-85, securing their sixth consecutive losing season and seventh consecutive season without a playoff berth. Ohtani’s historic — and soon-to-be MVP — season was perhaps the only saving grace from a year where nothing seemed to go according to plan.
77-85 can hardly be described as winning, essentially meaning that the clock would be ticking until Ohtani’s 2023 free agency. However, following the final game of the season, the Angels two-way star had a different attitude surrounding his long-term future in Anaheim, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“Of course I’ll be very open to negotiation,” Ohtani said. “The team’s supported me for this whole four years and I’m really appreciative of that. Whether or not there’s any long contract extension, I just want to be ready to perform next season.”
The natural reaction to these comments is to simply get a deal done and lock Ohtani up for the long haul. However, it’s trickier than that, as even he realizes the difficulty in assessing his value for a long-term contract.
“Obviously this was my first time doing it,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, “so I can’t tell you with confidence that I’ll be able to do it for many years to come, but all I can do as a player is to prepare so I would be able to continue this for many years to come. In order to do that I need to have a good offseason training-wise and good recovery.”
If there were guarantees that this level of play was sustainable over multiple years, then the Angels would absolutely jump at the chance to make Ohtani one of the highest paid players of all time. But history — both Ohtani’s and baseball’s — suggests that may not be plausible.
Ohtani is under contract for $5.5 million in 2022, then has one more year of arbitration in 2023 before becoming a free agent. This gives the Angels a couple of options.
They could negotiate with him this winter and come to an agreement, even with all of the previously mentioned difficulties in finding a dollar amount. They also could play out 2022 and negotiate after. By then, it could become more clear what his level of sustainability is.
Worst case scenario, they play things out all the way through 2023 when Ohtani becomes a free agent. Of course, that runs the risk of him leaving, but the amount of variables that go into giving Ohtani a long-term deal may make that the most practical choice.
Joe Maddon pleased with Angels’ performance against Mariners
The Angels absolutely could have rolled over and allowed the Seattle Mariners to defeat them in a three-game series. The Mariners still had a playoff spot to fight for while the Angels had nothing. Instead, they put together by far their best series of the year against an AL West opponent, stealing two of three in a playoff atmosphere.
Maddon was proud of his team for stepping up in that environment and keeping the Mariners out of the postseason for yet another year.