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

National Sports
Shohei Ohtani

FILE – In this Aug. 2, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani, of Japan, throws during the second inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros in Anaheim, Calif. Ohtani agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Angels on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, avoiding arbitration. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — 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 enormous potential in 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 José 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.

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