Ohtani set for WBC in Japan, but Angels future uncertain

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ANAHEIM, Calif. – Although Shohei Ohtani‘s long-term future with the Los Angeles Angels is decidedly uncertain as he heads into the final season under contract, the two-way superstar’s plans for the spring are all set.

Ohtani will make one start on the Cactus League mound this month for the Angels before he heads to Japan on March 1 for the World Baseball Classic, Halos general manager Perry Minasian said Saturday.

Whatever Ohtani wants to do in the tournament is entirely up him and the Japanese team, since the Angels will stick to their long-standing policy of allowing him to do whatever he feels is best for his growth on his unique career path.

“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.”

Ohtani’s future beyond 2023 might be the most of Minasian’s concerns, although the GM isn’t giving much insight into the Angels’ hopes of retaining the player who won the 2021 AL MVP award and finished second in last season’s vote after going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA while also batting .273 with with 34 homers and 95 RBIs.

Ohtani will make $30 million this season under his final year of team control. Angels fans are clamoring for their team to sign Ohtani to a long-term deal at any price, while fans from Boston to San Diego are salivating at the prospect of adding the majors’ greatest two-way player.

Minasian deftly avoided any definitive statements about the Angels’ chances of keeping Ohtani beyond this summer.

“Obviously, we love Shohei Ohtani,” Minasian said. “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.”

Speculation about the Angels’ chances of signing Ohtani has fluctuated wildly since they completed their seventh consecutive losing season and eighth consecutive non-playoff season – both the worst droughts in the majors.

At 28 as he heads into his sixth big league season, Ohtani has made it clear wants to play for a winner, and the Angels have not been winners since the middle of the previous decade. But aside from the usual optimism of a fresh season with new signings and the possibility of improved roster health, Orange County fans still have hope because of Ohtani’s loyalty and the Angels’ willingness to allow him to train and to play in any way he chooses.

“There’s a respect level here, obviously,” Minasian said. “He chose to play here, and I think that was one of the reasons he chose to play here. We’ve been able to agree on two deals over the last two years, which is not easy to do. There’s a respect and trust level there that I don’t think will change. I think the relationship is outstanding.”

Angels owner Arte Moreno explored a sale of the season throughout the winter before deciding last month that he will keep the team. Moreno’s departure likely would have brought in a wealthy new owner capable of making a splash by paying top dollar to Ohtani amid a new commitment to winning, but Moreno is also capable of handing out lavish contracts – even if most of his biggest deals have gone wrong.

Minasian obviously couldn’t speculate on whether Moreno’s retention of the team improved or hurt its chances of keeping Ohtani.

“He’s already invested in this club throughout his whole ownership,” Minasian said. “We’ve been top-10 in payroll for a long time. I don’t see that changing. Knowing (Moreno) and knowing how much he wants to win, I wouldn’t put anything out of the realm of possibility.”

Minasian said first baseman Jared Walsh and pitchers Griffin Canning and Chris Rodriguez will be ready to go for an essentially normal spring training after missing much of 2022 due to injuries. The GM also confirmed the Angels are still looking for bullpen additions, and they haven’t decided on the identity of their sixth starter in the rotation around Ohtani.

MLB free agent watch: Ohtani leads possible 2023-24 class

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CHICAGO – The number will follow Shohei Ohtani until it is over. No, not Ohtani’s home runs or strikeouts or any of his magnificent numbers from the field. Nothing like that.

It’s all about how much. As in how much will his next contract be worth.

Ohtani is among several players going into their final seasons before they are eligible for free agency. There is still time for signatures and press conferences before opening day, but history shows a new contract becomes less likely once the real games begin.

There is no real precedent for placing a value on Ohtani’s remarkable skills, especially after baseball’s epic offseason spending spree. And that doesn’t factor in the potential business opportunities that go along with the majors’ only truly global star.

Ohtani hit .273 with 34 homers and 95 RBIs last season in his fifth year with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2021 AL MVP also went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA in 28 starts on the mound.

He prepared for this season by leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship, striking out fellow Angels star Mike Trout for the final out in a 3-2 victory over the United States in the final.

Ohtani, who turns 29 in July, could set multiple records with his next contract, likely in the neighborhood of a $45 million average annual value and quite possibly reaching $500 million in total.

If the Angels drop out of contention in the rough-and-tumble AL West, Ohtani likely becomes the top name on the trade market this summer. If the Angels are in the mix for the playoffs, the pressure builds on the team to get something done before possibly losing Ohtani in free agency for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

So yeah, definitely high stakes with Ohtani and the Angels.

Here is a closer look at five more players eligible for free agency after this season:


Nola, who turns 30 in June, went 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA in 32 starts for Philadelphia last year. He also had a career-best 235 strikeouts in 205 innings for the NL champions.

Nola was selected by the Phillies with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. There were extension talks during spring training, but it didn’t work out.

“We are very open-minded to trying to sign him at the end of the season,” President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll remain a Phillie for a long time.”


Chapman hit 36 homers and drove in 91 runs for Oakland in 2019. He hasn’t been able to duplicate that production, but the three-time Gold Glover finished with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 155 games last year in his first season with Toronto.

Chapman turns 30 on April 28. Long one of the game’s top fielding third basemen, he is represented by Scott Boras, who generally takes his clients to free agency.


Hernández was acquired in a November trade with Toronto. He hit .267 with 25 homers and 77 RBIs in his final year with the Blue Jays. He was terrific in 2021, batting .296 with 32 homers, 116 RBIs and a .870 OPS.

The change of scenery could help the 30-year-old Hernández set himself up for a big payday. He is a .357 hitter with three homers and seven RBIs in 16 games at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.


The switch-hitting Happ is coming off perhaps his best big league season, setting career highs with a .271 batting average, 72 RBIs and 42 doubles in 158 games. He also won his first Gold Glove and made the NL All-Star team for the first time.

Chicago had struggled to re-sign its own players in recent years, but it agreed to a $35 million, three-year contract with infielder Nico Hoerner on Monday. The 28-year-old Happ, a first-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft, is on the executive subcommittee for the players’ union.


Urías, who turns 27 in August, likely will have plenty of suitors if he reaches free agency. He went 17-7 with an NL-low 2.16 ERA in 31 starts for the NL West champions in 2022, finishing third in NL Cy Young Award balloting. That’s after he went 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA in the previous season.

Urías also is a Boras client, but the Dodgers have one of the majors’ biggest payrolls. Los Angeles also could make a run at Ohtani, which could factor into its discussions with Urías’ camp.