Monday's MLB: Shohei Ohtani, Angels agree on 2-year, $8.5 million contract
Anaheim, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels are far from finished with their effort to unlock Shohei Ohtani’s enormous two-way potential.
Ohtani agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Angels on Monday, avoiding arbitration. He will make $3 million in 2021 and $5.5 million in 2022, and both years are guaranteed.
Ohtani had asked for $3.3 million for the upcoming season, and the Angels had countered with $2.5 million. Instead of going to what would have been a difficult, complicated arbitration hearing because of Ohtani’s two-way talents and the pandemic-shortened season, the sides reached a deal that extends up to his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2023.
“Obviously it’s a unique case,” new Los Angeles general manager Perry Minasian said. “There aren’t any examples of this. But as we talked, we felt this number lined up over a two-year deal. There’s risk and reward for both sides, but it made sense for them and it made sense for us. We’re ecstatic we could get a deal done.”
Although the Japanese star is coming off a rough season at the plate and on the mound, the Angels remain committed to Ohtani’s potential at both positions. Minasian said he fully expects Ohtani to be a two-way player again this season.
“I think he’s feeling great,” Minasian said. “He’s ready to go. Mentally, physically, he’s definitely put in the work, and what’s pretty impressive is the amount of time and energy this guy puts into his craft. When you combine that with the talent, we feel like he’s going to be a huge part of this club and help us win multiple games in multiple ways. We believe he’s a difference-maker.”
Ohtani earned $259,259 in prorated pay from his $700,000 contract in 2020, but the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery to double duty after serving exclusively as a designated hitter in 2019.
Ohtani batted .190 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 175 plate appearances as the Angels’ DH, his numbers declining sharply from his first two seasons in the majors.
He also performed poorly in his first two mound starts since 2018, giving up seven runs, three hits and eight walks while getting just five outs. He was subsequently shut down for the season as a pitcher to rest his arm, but Minasian said Ohtani has been working out at full strength this offseason in California and Japan.
The Angels eagerly wrapped up a mutually agreeable deal for a player whose attention-commanding skills and international visibility have been quite valuable to the long-struggling franchise beyond his contributions on the diamond.
The Angels don’t plan to decide how often Ohtani will pitch until after spring training, but Minasian indicated Ohtani will have every opportunity to be in a six-man rotation expected to include Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and newcomers José Quintana and Alex Cobb.
“To lock Shohei in for a couple of years where he feels comfortable and knows what’s ahead of him for a couple of years benefits him,” Minasian said. “And for us going forward, it tells us what we’re doing financially. We felt comfortable taking the risk on a multi-year, and we felt like locking Shohei in.”
The big-budget Angels have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, and they’ve endured five straight losing seasons for the first time since 1977. Los Angeles hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.
Reds add Doolittle, Strange-Gordon
Left-hander Sean Doolittle and the Cincinnati Reds finalized a $1.5 million, one-year contract, a deal that allowed him to earn an additional $2.1 million in performance bonuses.
Cincinnati also announced a minor league deal with infielder Dee Strange-Gordon, who will report to big league spring training.
Doolittle, 34, had been with Washington since July 2017 and helped the Nationals win their first World Series title in 2019.
He can earn $1.6 million in bonuses for games pitched: $100,000 each for 10 and every additional four through 34, $125,000 apiece for 38, 42, 46 and 50, and $200,000 each for 55 and 60.
He also can earn $500,000 for games finished: $100,000 each for 20 and every additional five through 40.
The two-time All-Star was 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA in 7 2/3 innings over 11 relief appearances during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He earned $2,407,407 in prorated pay from a $6.5 million salary last year in the second option year of a contract that originally guaranteed $10.5 million from 2014-18.
Strange-Gordon, 32, spent the past three seasons with Seattle and hit .200 with three RBIs in 75 at-bats over 33 games last year. A three-time stolen base champion, he swiped just three in five tries.
Strange-Gordon became a free agent when Seattle chose to pay a $1 million buyout rather than exercise a $14 million option for 2021.
Angels deal for Rays RHP Slegers
The Los Angeles Angels have acquired right-hander Aaron Slegers from Tampa Bay for cash or a player to be named.
The 6-foot-10 Slegers mostly pitched in long relief for the AL champion Rays last season, going at least two innings in nine of his 11 appearances while compiling a 3.46 ERA. He allowed just five earned runs over 24 innings in his final 10 appearances, and kept up the strong work with a 1.80 ERA in three playoff outings covering five innings.
Slegers, born in Long Beach, has a solid chance to earn an important job in the Angels’ bullpen, which is undergoing a major overhaul by new general manager Perry Minasian. Los Angeles had the fifth-worst ERA in the majors last season and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
Mike Mayers, Ty Buttrey and Félix Peña were the Angels’ three most-used relievers last season, and they’re all still with the club. The next eight busiest relievers from the 2020 roster are gone, and Minasian has traded for closer Raisel Iglesias and signed left-hander Alex Claudio.
Slegers was waived or designated for assignment by Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in 2019, but he re-signed with the Rays and pitched his way back into the majors last August.
The Angels designated left-hander Dillon Peters for assignment to make room for Slegers.