Shohei Ohtani focused on the offseason, even if Angels negotiate contract extension
Shohei Ohtani hasn’t reflected much on his historic season.
Between his 23 pitching starts, his near-everyday role as the Angels’ designated hitter and the meticulous between-games routine that has allowed him to handle both over the course of a full major league season, he hasn’t had the time.
But, on the eve of the offseason, the two-way star had already begun to make plans for the winter.
He’ll spend a couple of weeks in Anaheim, then return to his home in Japan. He wants to increase his offseason training workload, hoping to get even stronger going into next season.
And, if the Angels approach him about negotiating a contract extension, Ohtani said he would be open to that too.
Angels first baseman Jared Walsh rebounded from a slump after his All-Star game selection and is poised to be a big part of the team’s future plans.
“They’re, of course, the organization that’s supported me the most over the last four years,” Ohtani said in Japanese before belting his 46th home run of the season in the Angels’ season-ending 7-3 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
“I think I would, of course, talk to them with feelings of openness,” Ohtani said of potential contract extension negotiations. “Regardless of whether that leads to anything, I individually want to have a solid offseason to make sure we can win next year.”
Ohtani’s future with the Angels has become one of the bigger story lines over the team’s finish to the regular season, following comments he made last week that raised doubts about whether he would want to stay with the club long term — especially if they fail to become postseason contenders before he’s scheduled to reach free agency following the 2023 campaign.
Manager Joe Maddon and general manager Perry Minasian both downplayed the situation, insisting Ohtani was simply echoing frustrations shared throughout the clubhouse in the midst of the Angels’ sixth straight losing season and seventh in a row missing the playoffs.
The likelihood of Ohtani, 27, and the team agreeing to a long-term extension this winter remains unclear.
The unprecedented nature of Ohtani’s season — he finished with a .257 batting average, 46 home runs and 100 RBIs in addition to posting a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts, making him the heavy favorite to win the American League most valuable player award — would make any negotiation complicated, with no true precedent to follow regarding the value of his two-way skill set.
Another unknown: how much Ohtani will be able to replicate his 2021 production, in which he avoided any stints on the injured list and appeared in 158 of the team’s 162 games.
During his final regular-season video conference with reporters Sunday, Ohtani instead focused on his personal goals for the offseason.
The Angels pitched well and beat Seattle 2-1, dealing a blow to the Mariners’ playoff hopes in front of a sold-out crowd Friday night at T-Mobile Park.
He thinks he still has room to improve for next season, especially on the mound — where he threw more than 130 innings this season after making only two starts in the two injury-plagued years prior.
While he said he didn’t struggle with fatigue this year, he added he wants to increase his weightlifting routine to continue adding strength this offseason as well. It will be the second winter in a row he won’t be limited by any lingering injuries or rehabilitation from surgery.
And he reiterated that, regardless of what his long-term future might hold, he’s hopeful that he can help the Angels return to relevance as soon as next season.
Angels end on high note
The Angels did accomplish a season first in their season finale, collecting their first series win against an AL West team other than the last-place Texas Rangers.
In front of a sold-out crowd at T-Mobile Park hoping to see the Mariners snap their 20-year playoff drought — the team entered the day one game back in the American League wild-card race — the Angels jumped in front early.
Ohtani led off the game with a solo blast. Jack Mayfield, David Fletcher and Jared Walsh added RBIs to make it 4-0 in the second. Then, after the Mariners cut the deficit in half, Walsh hit a two-run homer that made it 6-2.
The only time the Angels’ lead was threatened the rest of the day was in the bottom of the sixth, when the Mariners loaded the bases with one out but only came away with one run.
Watch every home run Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani has hit so far this season.
The Angels finished the season 77-85.
“On the road, in this environment, against a team that had to win their games, I could not be more pleased,” Maddon said of how the Angels finished the season. “It’s a good way to wrap it up for the year — other than being able to participate a little bit longer.”
Times staff writer Dylan Hernández contributed to this report.
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