Angels Sign Shohei Ohtani

by Andy Stitzer
2019 Fantasy Baseball Week 15 Holds Targets

The LA Angels won’t be in the MLB playoffs this year but there has been some great news this week for Angels fans as they look ahead to the 2023 season and the possibility of a change of ownership.

Despite speculation that he might be the subject of a trade, star two-way player Shohei Ohtani has committed to the Angels for another year, and his confirmed presence provides reassurance both for fans and for baseball bettors who might be contemplating using one of the MLB sportsbook promotions to bet on the Angels winning the AL West next season.

The Angels and Ohtani have reached an agreement on a $30m contract for the 2023 season, the player’s final season of eligibility for arbitration before becoming a free agent. By announcing the deal on Saturday, the Angels have been able to avoid a potentially tricky arbitration case for the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani's contract has no extra clauses and is fully guaranteed. It also surpasses the $27m paid to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers, catapulting Ohtani to the top of the list of highest one-year contracts.

He has effectively received a raise from his 2022 salary of $24.5m, which is by far the biggest arbitration-eligible player raise in major league history. This is the second time that Ohtani has set a record in this area. When his salary was increased from $7.4m to $17m prior to the 2019 season, he was smashing the previous record of $9.6m that was held by Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets.

Having joined the Angels in 2018, Ohtani won Rookie of the Year and has continued to improve, most notably last season when he returned from Tommy John surgery.

He is having another incredible season both at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing and surpassing feats that haven't been seen in the major leagues since Babe Ruth's heyday. He is, not surprisingly, a major contender to win the AL MVP once more, although he is up against Aaron Judge of the Yankees, who has earned a share of the AL home run record and who is also targeting the Triple Crown.

With the regular season almost over, he is hitting .276 with 94 RBIs, 34 home runs and a .888 OPS. The designated hitter, who has four multi-hit games in his last five appearances, is fourth in the AL in home runs and seventh in RBIs. He is also on a 15-game hitting streak going into the Angels' home game against the Texas Rangers on Saturday night.

With a record of 15-8, a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts, Ohtani is even more spectacular on the mound. The Angels' ace is allowing opponents to hit just .207 while coming within four outs of a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics in his most recent start on Thursday.

In order to be featured among the season-ending AL leaders in pitching statistics, the 28-year-old Ohtani needs to pitch just one inning in his final start of the year on Wednesday in Oakland. If he does, he will have completed 162 pitches for the year. He already ranks third in strikeouts, fourth in ERA and fourth in victories in the league.

While his committing to an extension is good news, it doesn’t solve all the Angels’ problems. Ohtani will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and beyond that, his future may well be related to how successful the Angels are in the short term. This week they will be completing their seventh losing season in a row but resisted the chance to move Ohtani on when the trade deadline came around.

He remains extremely popular with Angels fans, and clearly enjoys being at the club, but he has also made it clear that his decision on where to go after 2023 will be based around whether the Angels are winning. The chances of an improvement in team performance in turn seem to hinge on whether the owner Arte Moreno is able to find a buyer for the team.

Moreno's ownership has been the subject of widespread criticism as the Angels' have been on a largely poor streak of play going back to 2009. A fresh start with ambitious new owners may be the only way that the Angels will be able to persuade Ohtani to stay on after 2023.

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