Shohei Ohtani's Angels Future Uncertain; Has No Restrictions for Japan at WBC

Erin WalshFebruary 5, 2023

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels poses for photographs during a press conference ahead of the 2023 World Baseball Classic tournament in Tokyo on January 6, 2023. (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP) (Photo by YUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Shohei Ohtani's future with the Los Angeles Angels is murky as he enters the final year of his contract, though general manager Perry Minasian told reporters Saturday that he hopes to keep the two-way phenom in Anaheim for years to come.

"Obviously, we love Shohei Ohtani," Minasian said, per Greg Beacham of the Associated Press. "This whole organization would like nothing more than to see him here for a long, long time. ... We love the player. We love what he's about. He's somebody that we can envision here for a long, long time."

Ohtani is expected to become one of the highest-paid players in baseball, though Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported that the dual threat is not most concerned with money:

"[The Angels] want to try [to extend Ohtani], and have two things going for them: 1) He's presumed to prefer the West Coast (one rival exec says, 'he's about comfort, more than money'), and 2) They've clearly honored his wish to prove he's the best two-way player ever. However, with no playoff appearances in five years, the likelihood of a quick spring deal is practically nil."

Ohtani has been spectacular in each of the last two seasons.

During the 2021 campaign, he slashed .257/.372/.592 with 46 home runs, 100 RBI and 26 stolen bases in 155 games en route to winning a Silver Slugger Award. He went 9-2 on the mound with a 3.18 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 156 strikeouts in 130.1 innings across 23 starts.

The 28-year-old earned an All-Star Game selection and was named the American League MVP.

Ohtani followed that up with another All-Star campaign in 2022, slashing .273/.356/.519 with 34 home runs, 95 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 157 games. He also went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 219 strikeouts in 166 innings across 28 starts.

The Japan native finished second in AL MVP voting and fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting. He would have won back-to-back MVP Awards if not for New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who hit an AL-record 62 home runs.

While Ohtani has found immense individual success, the Angels haven't made the postseason since 2014 (he entered MLB in 2018 and was the AL Rookie of the Year), and the franchise isn't considered a title contender in 2023, either.

Ohtani may want to play for a team that has title hopes. After all, he has made it clear he wants to win. He will have to suit up for the Angels for one more season, though.

Ohtani is gearing up for the campaign and will make one start in the Cactus League this month before leaving for the World Baseball Classic in March, when he will represent Japan.

While some have speculated that Ohtani may play only one position to decrease his injury risk, Minasian said the superstar won't have any restrictions and will make his own workload decisions with the Japanese team.

"I am not worried about Shohei Ohtani," Minasian said. "He's been in Arizona for a while now. He's preparing for the season. He's doing everything he needs to do to be ready to go when the bell rings. He'll get the proper work in when he needs it. He's the least of my concerns."

The World Baseball Classic begins March 8 and runs through March 21. After that, Ohtani will return to spring training with the Angels, who open the season March 30 at the Oakland Athletics.