Ohtani era with Angels ends as phenom chooses SoCal rival

December 12th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- The Shohei Ohtani era with the Angels is officially over.

Ohtani, the most coveted free agent in MLB history, announced he signed with the rival Dodgers on Saturday after a wild Friday that included initial reports of him signing with the Blue Jays. With the Dodgers, he inked a 10-year contract worth $700 million, which surpasses his former teammate Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426.5 million contract as the biggest in Major League history. The Angels will receive a pick after the second round of the 2024 Draft as compensation for losing Ohtani after he rejected the qualifying offer.

It’s a heartbreaking decision for Angels fans, especially considering Ohtani will be playing for the club’s rival up the 5 Freeway. Ohtani enjoyed his time with the organization and the Angels treated him well, but they simply didn’t win enough. He originally signed with the club before the 2018 season in a highly publicized posting process after playing five seasons in Japan, but the Angels never had a winning record in his six years with the club.

"Shohei Ohtani is a generational player and it was an honor to watch him make history throughout the six seasons he spent in an Angels uniform," the team said in a statement on Monday, after the Dodgers officially announced the deal with Ohtani. "We feel extremely fortunate that Angels fans were able to witness him redefine what is possible in our sport. We thank Shohei for his many contributions to our franchise and the game of baseball. We wish him the best during the next chapter of his career."

Ohtani, the AL MVP in 2021 and '23, chose to stay in Los Angeles over other highly interested suitors such as the Blue Jays, Giants and Cubs. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts indicated that the Dodgers met with Ohtani last week, while Ohtani also reportedly met with Toronto’s front office at their Spring Training complex in Florida on Monday.

It’s a huge disappointment for an Angels franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2014, which is tied with the Tigers for the longest active streak in the Majors. But the Angels recently hired Ron Washington as manager, and general manager Perry Minasian has said the plan is to be aggressive in improving the roster this offseason.

The Angels are now likely to pivot and focus on adding a frontline starter and a premium bat. They’re still roughly $70 million below the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) and have no plans to rebuild under owner Arte Moreno. Trout is also not on the trading block, so it makes sense to still spend, as they won just 73 games in 2023 and want to build a winner around Trout.

Ohtani, 29, is coming off another historic season that saw him win the AL MVP Award unanimously for a second time, becoming the first player to ever accomplish the feat. He was also an All-Star as both a designated hitter and a starting pitcher for a third straight season.

As designated hitter, he slashed .304/.412/.654 with 44 homers, 26 doubles, eight triples, 20 stolen bases, 102 runs scored and 95 RBIs in 135 games. And in 23 starts on the mound, Ohtani went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings.

But Ohtani tore his ulnar collateral ligament while pitching on Aug. 23 and also sustained a season-ending oblique injury on Sept. 4. Ohtani underwent elbow surgery on Sept. 19 and is expected to be ready for Spring Training as a DH.

Ohtani will now have to rehab with a new organization, and it’s unknown if he’ll have the same type of control he had during his time with the Angels.

The Angels, to their credit, allowed Ohtani to flourish to his highest possible level, as they were the ones that lifted any and all restrictions to make him a full-time two-way player in 2021.

As a rookie, Ohtani was held out of the lineup the day before, the day of and the day after he pitched, but it changed in 2021, as he served as the everyday DH while being part of a six-man rotation.

It was a somewhat risky decision, considering he previously underwent Tommy John surgery after his 2018 AL Rookie of the Year season. Ohtani didn’t pitch in '19 and threw just 1 2/3 innings in 2020, but he proved he could handle being a true-way player with his '21 season.

Ohtani's two-way process broke preconceived notions about what was even possible for a Major League player, and he was honored with not just the 2021 AL MVP Award but the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award.

Ohtani finished as runner-up to Aaron Judge in the AL MVP race in 2022 but became an even bigger global superstar earlier this year, when he helped carry Team Japan to the 2023 World Baseball Classic title and won Tournament MVP honors.

Ohtani has become the face of baseball, and now that face will be with a different club -- and one not far from Anaheim.