ANAHEIM — The Angels avoided arbitration with Shohei Ohtani on Saturday, as they signed the two-way star to a one-year deal worth $30 million for the 2023 season. Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, remains set to be a free agent after next year.
Ohtani, who was honored before the Angels’ 3-2 win over the Rangers as the team MVP and the winner of the Nick Adenhart Award for the Halos’ best pitcher this season, never went through arbitration with the Angels, as he also signed a two-year deal worth $8.5 million before the 2021 season. He looked headed toward a record-setting arbitration process this winter, but this agreement avoids that prospect. At $30 million, the deal sets a record for a player in his third year of arbitration, surpassing the $27 million Mookie Betts received before the 2020 season.
“It’s great for him,” said interim manager Phil Nevin before Saturday’s game against the Rangers. “I think with the comfort level heading into the offseason, it’s a good thing. It’s not really my department, but managing him has been a pleasure, and hopefully we get to stay together for a while.”
It’s a big jump in salary for Ohtani, who made $5.5 million this year and $3 million last year. The Angels, though, have several large salaries coming off the books, including Justin Upton’s $28 million, Noah Syndergaard’s $21 million and Michael Lorenzen’s $6.5 million. They also traded closer Raisel Iglesias, who had $51 million remaining on his deal. But it’s still going to be an interesting offseason for the Angels, as they have several holes to fill heading into next year but also have a possible impending change in ownership, as Arte Moreno indicated in late August that he’s exploring selling the team. It’s still unclear how that potential change in ownership will affect the club’s spending this offseason.
The one-year deal also doesn’t change anything regarding Ohtani’s future with the Angels beyond next year. Ohtani was already under team control for one more year, so this was just a case of avoiding arbitration earlier than usual. It also doesn’t preclude the Angels from trading Ohtani this offseason, although that remains highly unlikely.
The timing of the potential ownership change could prove important regarding extension discussions for Ohtani. He has stated in the past that winning is the most important thing to him, but the Angels haven’t finished above .500 since 2015.
A new owner, however, could sell him on a new vision for the franchise. But that would have to happen before Ohtani’s contract expires after next season. If the Angels can’t sign him to an extension, Ohtani will be one of the most coveted free agents in Major League history after the 2023 season, given his unique talent as an elite hitter and pitcher.
Ohtani, 28, is having another historic season and believes he’s been even better than last year, when he won the AL MVP Award unanimously. He’s in a race with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge for the AL MVP Award this season and also is in the conversation for the AL Cy Young Award.
He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the A’s on Thursday and has one more start remaining on the mound in Wednesday’s season finale in Oakland. He’s 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts in 161 innings this year on the mound.
He also went 1-for-4 with a single in the eighth inning on Saturday, extending his hitting streak to 16 games, which is a personal best and the longest active streak in the Majors. He’s hitting .276/.359/.527 with 34 homers, 29 doubles, 11 stolen bases and 94 RBIs in 153 games this season.
It came after he was honored in a special pregame ceremony, as general manager Perry Minasian, Moreno and Nevin were on the field to give Ohtani his awards as the club’s MVP and best pitcher, as voted on by his teammates. It marked the second straight year he won both awards.
“It was awesome,” Nevin said. “It was a really cool moment for Shohei. Those awards are meaningful to him and he doesn’t take them lightly. He’s a great teammate, and those awards are voted on by his teammates. It was my first time being part of one with the Angels, so it was neat.”