Shohei Ohtani played his final home game of the 2021 season today, limiting the Mariners to five hits and one run over seven innings, while striking out 10 Seattle batters. Ohtani also added a single as part of a 1-for-3 day, underlining another outstanding two-way performance for the AL MVP favorite.
However, Ohtani’s single was one of only three hits for the Angels, and Ohtani ended up with a no-decision as Los Angeles dropped a 5-1 result to the M’s. Following the game, Ohtani told reporters (including Bill Shakin of The Los Angeles Times) that it had been a “very frustrating, very disappointing” season for the 74-82 Angels, and hinted that he is losing patience with Anaheim’s lack of success.
“I really like the team. I love the fans. I love the atmosphere of the team,” Ohtani said. “But, more than that, I want to win. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ll leave it at that.”
Such Angels stalwarts as Mike Trout and Joe Maddon have made similar statements in recent days, which isn’t surprising considering that the Halos haven’t had a winning season since 2015. Trout and Maddon each indicated that upgrades need to be made to the L.A. roster, and Ohtani echoed those sentiments, saying “if nothing changes on the team, I think it’s going to be pretty hard to be in playoff contention.”
Ohtani also noted the interesting detail that he and his representatives have yet to begin talks with the Angels about a contract extension. Ohtani is under team control through the 2023 season, so there isn’t yet any immediate rush for the Halos to pursue a new deal, nor is unusual that a team wouldn’t want to open negotiations during a season (especially given all the extra preparations already on Ohtani’s plate). That said, figuring out Ohtani’s future would seem like a top priority for the Angels.
Ohtani is scheduled to hit the open market at age 29, so Anaheim will have to figure out how much they are willing to pay such a unique talent into his 30’s. The other factor could be that the Angels themselves aren’t yet sure about how Ohtani will continue to perform as both a pitcher and a hitter, so they could conceivably hold off on extension talks until perhaps after the 2022 campaign to gather more information on how Ohtani has (or hasn’t) held up after another year of two-way action. Plus, if the Angels do spend big to acquire more talent this winter, that creates another major long-term salary on a payroll that already ha Trout and Rendon locked up on huge contracts for the better part of the decade.
The Angels have already reached one low-level contract extension with Ohtani; a two-year/$8.5MM pact that covered his first two years of arbitration eligibility. That does set up a very intriguing arbitration case for the 2022-23 offseason heading into Ohtani’s final arb year, as his contributions as both a star batter and a star pitcher could certainly make the argument for a precedent-setting arbitration payday. Of course, an extension to avoid arbitration would make the whole situation moot.