Shohei Ohtani, Angels agree on 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels are far from finished with their effort to unlock Shohei Ohtani‘s enormous two-way potential.

Ohtani agreed to an $8.5 million, two-year contract with the Angels on Monday, avoiding arbitration. He will make $3 million in 2021 and $5.5 million in 2022, and both years are guaranteed.

Ohtani had asked for $3.3 million for the upcoming season, and the Angels had countered with $2.5 million. Instead of going to what would have been a difficult, complicated arbitration hearing because of Ohtani’s two-way talents and the pandemic-shortened season, the sides reached a deal that extends up to his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2023.

“Obviously it’s a unique case,” new Los Angeles general manager Perry Minasian said. “There aren’t any examples of this. But as we talked, we felt this number lined up over a two-year deal. There’s risk and reward for both sides, but it made sense for them and it made sense for us. We’re ecstatic we could get a deal done.”

Although the Japanese star is coming off a rough season at the plate and on the mound, the Angels remain committed to Ohtani’s potential at both positions. Minasian said he fully expects Ohtani to be a two-way player again this season.

“I think he’s feeling great,” Minasian said. “He’s ready to go. Mentally, physically, he’s definitely put in the work, and what’s pretty impressive is the amount of time and energy this guy puts into his craft. When you combine that with the talent, we feel like he’s going to be a huge part of this club and help us win multiple games in multiple ways. We believe he’s a difference-maker.”

Ohtani earned $259,259 in prorated pay from his $700,000 contract in 2020, but the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery to double duty after serving exclusively as a designated hitter in 2019.

Ohtani batted .190 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 175 plate appearances as the Angels’ DH, his numbers declining sharply from his first two seasons in the majors.

He also performed poorly in his first two mound starts since 2018, giving up seven runs, three hits and eight walks while getting just five outs. He was subsequently shut down for the season as a pitcher to rest his arm, but Minasian said Ohtani has been working out at full strength this offseason in California and Japan.

The Angels eagerly wrapped up a mutually agreeable deal for a player whose attention-commanding skills and international visibility have been quite valuable to the long-struggling franchise beyond his contributions on the diamond.

The Angels don’t plan to decide how often Ohtani will pitch until after spring training, but Minasian indicated Ohtani will have every opportunity to be in a six-man rotation expected to include Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and newcomers Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb.

“To lock Shohei in for a couple of years where he feels comfortable and knows what’s ahead of him for a couple of years benefits him,” Minasian said. “And for us going forward, it tells us what we’re doing financially. We felt comfortable taking the risk on a multi-year, and we felt like locking Shohei in.”

The big-budget Angels have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, and they’ve endured five straight losing seasons for the first time since 1977. Los Angeles hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.

NOTES: As part of last week’s trade to acquire Cobb, Baltimore agreed to pay the Angels $7.5 million on March 31. That offsets half of the $15 million Cobb is owed in the final season of a $57 million, four-year contract.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.