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OC Register: Shohei Ohtani open to extension with Angels, but has no guarantees he can repeat 2021

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SEATTLE — Shohei Ohtani said the obvious about his intentions for the future — he’s open to a new deal with the Angels — and then he conceded something that suggests why his future is so tricky.

It took him four years in the big leagues to have a season like this, when he was healthy and productive.

Referring to his durability more than his production, Ohtani said there are no guarantees.

“Obviously this was my first time doing it,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, “so I can’t tell you with confidence that I’ll be able to do it for many years to come, but all I can do as a player is to prepare so I would be able to continue this for many years to come. In order to do that I need to have a good offseason training wise and good recovery.”

If Ohtani, 27, can keep doing this, he could be one of the highest paid players in major league history.

It remains to be seen whether the Angels will open those negotiations this winter. Ohtani is under contract for $5.5 million in 2022 and he’s arbitration-eligible in 2023.

“Of course I’ll be very open to negotiation,” Ohtani said. “The team’s supported me for this whole four years and I’m really appreciative of that. Whether or not there’s any long contract extension, I just want to be ready to perform next season.”

It was no surprise that Ohtani is “open” to listening to the Angels offering him hundreds of millions of dollars to stay in Anaheim. Last week when Ohtani said that he wants to win, many fans and media interpreted that to be some kind of threat to the Angels front office to improve the roster or he won’t re-sign.

The Angels obviously would like to win, and part of that is certainly keeping Ohtani happy. However, figuring out the dollar value for a contract extension for Ohtani is going to be difficult.

There are no comps for him, and even Ohtani admitted that what he did this year might be hard to replicate, at least in terms of the volume.

Ohtani managed 23 starts and 130-1/3 inning on the mound, and 634 plate appearances heading into the final day. He rarely had days off. He did not spent a single day on the injured list.

In his first three years, he suffered two pitching injuries. He also dealt with a congenital knee condition that required surgery, which may have affected his hitting.

Ohtani said his health was the primary reason that he was able to finally reach his potential in 2021. He had been rehabbing from surgeries in the winters prior to the 2019 and 2020 seasons, but last winter he underwent a rigorous training regimen without being restricted by a rehab schedule.

He plans to do that again.

“For the most part (the routine) is going to be remain pretty similar but I would like to increase the workload on my lifting, and I’m trying to get stronger and better for next year,” Ohtani said.

Aside from simply remaining strong, Ohtani said the area he would like to improve is in his pitching. He had issues early in the season with walks, although those were corrected by the end.

Ohtani finished with a 3.18 ERA, to go with 10.8 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings. He was 9-2.

“I think there’s definitely a lot of room to improve, especially on the pitching side,” Ohtani said. “Earlier in the year I was kind of searching my way through. I’m trying to get back, brush off the rust. So I felt better as the season went along pitching-wise. I think there’s a lot of room to improve on the pitching side.”

Ohtani never pitched on a standard four days rest, and most times it was on five or six days rest. Asked if he could increase the frequency next year, Ohtani said “my plan is to be strong and ready for whatever the team asks for.”

Offensively, Ohtani hit .257 with 45 homers, 99 RBI and a .959 OPS. He stole 26 bases.

Manager Joe Maddon figures that the best way to help Ohtani’s offense is to keep a good lineup around him so teams can’t walk him so much. Ohtani spent much of this year in a lineup without injured Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.

Ohtani said getting their injured players back will be a key to improvement, but he’s also eager to see what moves general manager Perry Minasian will make.

“I think the biggest thing is the guys that we have right now we need to have an offseason so we can stay healthy the whole next year so we could compete,” Ohtani said. “And I’ll be looking forward to seeing all the additions that Perry is going to make.”

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I wouldn't be surprised if he oscillates a bit. But what is exciting is that there's room for improvement on both sides. His BA was rather low for him, with a .303 BABIP compared to .350+ in 2018-19. I really see him as more of a .280+ hitter. And there's no telling how having Trout or Rendon batting behind him will impact his numbers.

On the pitching side, he performed this well after barely pitching for a few years. He could improve in both quality (sub 3.00 ERA) and quantity (150+ IP) next year.

The main thing is that he proved that he's capable of excelling at both, and performed better than anyone expected. The trick will be to stay healthy.

Even if the worst happens and he blows out his arm, the Angels still have a 6 WAR right fielder, which is about what he would have been this year if he had played average RF rather than DH.

Edited by Angelsjunky
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This is a bit of a conundrum for the Angels because he might be most willing to negotiate an extension now BUT now is also the hardest time to extend him because his value is pretty close to its peak and he may never replicate a season like this one again.

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