Major League Baseball has never seen anything quite like Shohei Ohtani.
The Los Angeles Angels won the bidding war for the Japanese star in 2018 and he’s since blossomed to one of, if not the best players in baseball.
Ohtani rose to stardom as a two-way star in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Many assumed he could never maintain that level of play in the MLB.
But he’s proven them all wrong.
Ohtani won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2018 when he hit .285 with 22 home runs, 61 RBI and 59 runs scored in addition to a 3.31 ERA in 10 appearances on the mound.
Since then, he’s only gotten better.
The Angels superstar took his play to the next level in 2021. He hit .257 with an incredible 46 home runs, 100 RBIs and 103 runs scored while going 9-2 in 23 starts with an astonishing 3.18 ERA.
Ohtani may have been even better in 2022. While New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge won the AL MVP, there was an argument that Ohtani was yet again baseball’s best player. He hit .273 with 34 homers, 95 RBIs and 90 run scores. But he also took his pitching to yet another level. Ohtani posted a 15-9 record with a minuscule 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts.
He finished second in the MVP voting and fourth in the AL Cy Young race.
Ohtani and the Angels agreed to a one-year, $30 million deal in October to avoid going to arbitration. But now Ohtani is just one season away from hitting the open market.
And if Angels fans thought Ohtani might sign an extension before hitting the open market, his agent’s latest comments won’t make them feel very well.
Shohei Ohtani’s Agent Says He Has A ‘Right’ To Test Open Market
Judge’s nine-year, $360 million deal with the Yankees signed earlier this offseason set a league record. But Ohtani, who will turn 29 in July, is expected to shatter that mark should he remain healthy this season.
Which is why his agent, Nez Balelo, says that free agency is the most likely out.
“I’ve always been open to it,” Balelo said. “But there’s several layers to this one, and Shohei’s earned the right to play through the year, explore free agency, and we’ll see where it shakes out.” – via ESPN
Balelo also said that the Angels lack of success could play a factor in Ohtani potentially leaving after the 2023 season.
“He’s so competitive, like all great players are, so of course they want to experience postseason, of course they’d love to be in the World Series,” Balelo said. “But is that the deciding factor? I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Between the struggles on the field and the impending bidding war, things aren’t exactly looking up for the Angels in their bid to keep the superstar in LA