Back in January it was reported that the Angels and two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani had yet to engage in long-term extension talks. In his latest piece, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Angels had “informal discussions” with Ohtani’s representatives late in spring training that may hint at what the hybrid player’s next contract looks like. Specifically, Ohtani’s camp indicated that any contract would have to award the reigning MVP a record average salary, currently held by Max Scherzer with an annual $43.3MM salary courtesy of the Mets.
Rosenthal notes that the Angels were, at the time, reluctant to offer a market value deal of length to Ohtani at the presumed apex of his value. The team may very well be running out of time to lock up another superstar, but he remains under control another year via arbitration and was always unlikely to accept a discounted extension on the heels of an 8.1fWAR season. It can certainly be reasoned then that the franchise is looking for Ohtani to come down from his great 2021 heights to make the hit of his next contract slightly less monumental.
Through 61 games this season the 27-year-old is off his MVP-pace from the year prior, but it would be disingenuous to suggest he’s hampered his value much with 13 home runs and a solid .260/.336/.481 (133 OPS+) batting line. Even his rotation work remains decidedly above average, with strong peripherals and an elite strikeout rate of 31.7% suggesting his 3.64 ERA is unluckily high.
In this regard, the Angels find themselves with a catch-22 on their hands. The more Ohtani performs, as he continues to do, the greater the team’s chances of reaching the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. As Ohtani’s two-way excellence continues, however, the team is faced with a greater price tag that they may be hesitant to pay given their already top-heavy payroll.
For context, any contract that buys out Ohtani’s first free agent year will begin in 2024 when the Angels will have nearly $92MM devoted to just three players: Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Raisel Iglesias. When factoring in guaranteed salaries to both catcher Max Stassi and infielder David Fletcher that 2024 figure jumps to nearly $105MM, more than half of this year’s $190MM team payroll (per RosterResource). That leaves room for an eventual Ohtani contract, of course, though at a projected rate of $44MM+ it wouldn’t leave a ton of room to round out the rest of the roster.
Plenty of time remains until Ohtani secures an unfathomable payday, be it with the Halos or a competing club. Until then, the Angels and Ohtani have an unprecedented arbitration case to look forward to next offseason. And before that point, both parties will look to upend this season’ 29-34 record that can only serve to jeopardize a longer-term union between player and club.