ANAHEIM -- The Angels avoided arbitration with two-way star Shohei Ohtani by signing him to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million, the club announced Monday.
The Angels and Ohtani were set to go to an arbitration hearing after failing to agree to terms before the deadline to submit arbitration figures on Jan. 15. Ohtani filed at $3.3 million and Los Angeles countered at $2.5 million. But the Halos instead received some cost certainty by signing Ohtani through 2022, avoiding the arbitration process next year as well. Ohtani will go through arbitration a final time for the ’23 season before becoming a free agent.
Angels general manager Perry Minasian explained that, per club policy, Los Angeles was only open to signing Ohtani to a multi-year deal to avoid arbitration once the deadline to exchange figures had passed. But Minasian credited Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, for finding common ground and getting the deal done. Ohtani is now only one of four Angels signed beyond this season, joining Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton.
“I think with the one-year deal we just ran out of time because it was a unique case,” Minasian said. “There’s not a lot of examples of players like him. But we further discussed it and talked about a multi-year deal, and we felt like this number lined up over a two-year deal. There's risk and reward to both sides and it made sense for us, obviously, and made sense for them. I'm ecstatic we were able to get a deal done."
"I think the biggest decision moving forward on this two-year deal was to create comfort on both sides," Balelo said. "We want the player to feel comfortable. It's not always about the money. It's not always about the deal. It's to create comfort for him to go out and perform the way we know he can. And I think that was really an important component to us getting something done."
Ohtani, 26, is attempting to return as a two-way player in 2021, but he is coming off a right elbow/forearm injury sustained during his second start of '20. Ohtani had a down year last season, slashing .190/.291/.366 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 44 games as a designated hitter and allowing seven runs over 1 2/3 innings in two starts.
But Ohtani is still a rare talent who won the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs in 104 games and posting a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts. Ohtani then sustained an injury that caused him to undergo Tommy John surgery, which kept him from pitching in '19.
Ohtani figures to get one last chance to be a two-way player this season, as he could be switched to a full-time position player if he gets injured while pitching again. But he has had a normal offseason, and the club is optimistic he'll be healthy and bounce back in 2021.
"He's feeling great," Minasian said. "Mentally and physically, he's definitely put in the work. What's pretty impressive is just the amount of time and energy this guy puts into his craft. And 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 games in multiple ways. We believe he's a difference-maker type player."
Minasian declined specifics when asked how the club plans to utilize Ohtani this season or what kind of benchmarks it is looking for him to hit as a pitcher and as a hitter. The arrangement will likely be similar to the 2018 and '20 seasons, with Ohtani pitching once a week and serving as DH three to four times a week. It’s something the Angels will hash out in Spring Training.
“We feel like he can help the team in both categories -- on the mound and in the batter’s box,” Minasian said. “He's going to have every opportunity to do that. And he's excited for the opportunity."