Ohtani's agent praises Angels, mum on talks

With extension for star a club priority, Balelo speaks with Minasian at GM Meetings

November 10th, 2021

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- One of the biggest storylines for the Angels heading into next season is if they’ll be able to extend two-way star ’s contract this offseason.

Ohtani, the favorite to win the American League MVP Award, remains under team control for two more years, as he’s set to make $5.5 million in 2022 and will be eligible for arbitration in ’23. The Angels have made it a priority to retain Ohtani beyond ’23, much like when they signed fellow superstar Mike Trout to a 12-year extension shortly before the 2019 season with two years remaining on his contract.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian met with Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, on Tuesday at the annual GM Meetings at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, but both declined to comment on a potential extension for Ohtani.

“He’s under contract,” Minasian said. “I don’t talk about negotiations. But we’re happy to have him. I can tell you that much."

Balelo, though, did say that Ohtani enjoys playing for the Angels and that he believes the organization is heading in the right direction.

"It's just one thing I never talk about," Balelo said. "I could be in the middle of something, but it's kind of my own policy, the agency policy, we just don't talk about deals or talk about extensions. But look, here's what I'll say about the Angels. It's a great organization. He's extremely happy there. He likes being a part of the Angel organization. We'll see where it shakes out."

Ohtani was asked about an extension late in the season and initially said the biggest thing to him was winning. But he later clarified his comments and said he was happy with the Angels and would be open to an extension.

The Angels haven’t had a winning record since 2015, but Balelo said he believes Minasian and the Angels are committed to building a winning team this offseason. Balelo said he could tell from meeting with Minasian that he’s serious about upgrading the roster.

"I know one of the things that he's really set out to do is to put together a competitive team,” Balelo said. “He's all about it. And I think that's wonderful. You always have a plan as a GM or a front office to go out and you target certain players. And let's just hope that some of the players they're targeting, they get, and they strengthen the team. They're really close to being a really dynamic team. And there are just a few things that they need to do to help."

The Angels should have payroll flexibility to extend Ohtani, especially after Justin Upton’s contract expires after the 2022 season. The only Angels players under contract beyond ’22 are Trout, Anthony Rendon and David Fletcher. It would lead to a large amount of the payroll tied up to only a few players -- especially if they sign players to multi-year deals this offseason, as expected -- but the Angels have not shied away from spending on star players under owner Arte Moreno.

Minasian has declined to give a specific number on the club’s payroll going forward, but he believes he has the support of ownership to make necessary moves.

"I think the beauty of having the ownership group I have in Arte and Carole [Moreno] is I can examine everything," Minasian said. "I can say, 'Hey, this is what's in front of us. This is how it helps us.' And that to me is one of the reasons why I'm sitting here today."

Balelo also credited Minasian and manager Joe Maddon for their open communication with Ohtani throughout the season, as previous restrictions were lifted from Ohtani in 2021. Instead of being held out of the lineup the day before, the day of and the day after his start, Ohtani was in the lineup nearly every day. He hit .257/.372/.592 with 46 homers, 26 doubles, eight triples, 100 RBIs, 103 runs and 26 stolen bases in 155 games. And he went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings on the mound.

"We lifted the rules and said, 'Let's just be honest with each other,'” Balelo said. “'Let's really make sure that if you're tired, you're going to communicate that.' Joe was wonderful. Perry and his staff were great, we were all on the same page. And that made Shohei feel really comfortable."