With Mike Trout done for the year in Los Angeles, someone had to step up and Shohei Ohtani has done that and then some. He is, without question, the best overall player in the league this season. The likely league MVP winner later this year he impressed with his amazing power and his blazing fastball.
He’s now making others realize that being a two-way player, once unheard of, is a very real possibility.
Best Two-Way Player Out There
As great as Ohtani has been this season (37 home runs, 2.93 ERA, 106 strikeouts in 86 innings), there is very much uncertainty as to his future with the Angels. He becomes a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, at which point Ohtani will be 29 years old.
One must note the MLB rules for international free agents. Players who are under the age of 25 and have played at least six seasons in a foreign league can sign with any MLB team for as much as they want, basically like an MLB free agent.
Since Ohtani didn’t meet those requirements when the Angels were able to sign him for $2.3 million, which is equivalent to what a lower pick in the first round would get. If Ohtani would have waited he could have received significantly more and perhaps from another team other than the Angels.
The Angels have actually gotten away very cheap, having paid Ohtani just a little more than the league minimum in two of his three pre-arbitration years. He’s set to make $3 million this season, then $5.5 million in 2022 before he is arbitration-eligible in 2023.
Ohtani Future in Los Angeles
The next question is whether or not the Angels can afford to keep Ohtani post-2023. A big issue is the $70 million each season to Trout and Anthony Rendon, although with contracts of Justin Upton and Albert Pujols ending, that helps with extra cash to dish out.
If Ohtani can stay away from the injury bug, he is in for a huge payday, possibly unlike the one that has never been seen in league history. The Angels, in theory, could spend nearly two-thirds of its payroll on three players. Is that something to consider or make some trades, including perhaps Ohtani for a king’s ransom?
That is a question for the future, but for now, let’s take a look at the Angels’ chances this season with Ohtani. Coming down the stretch, they are 56-56, fourth in the AL West and eight games out of a wild card spot. After Ohtani’s 37 home runs, Jared Walsh is hitting .266 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI.
There is little firepower after that, as the Angels are relatively average at 12th in the league in scoring. Their biggest woes have been on the mound, where their team ERA of 4.68 ranks 23rd in the league.
A playoff appearance this season doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the Angels and even MLB spreads point to that. The return of Trout next season to team with Ohtani with a little added pitching could but the Angels over the top. With the time ticking on an Ohtani decision, the Angels need to make the most of this opportunity.
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