Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani has already agreed to a $30 million contract for 2023, his final campaign before free agency, and the club believes it has a shot to keep the two-way talent long term.
"I think it's step one," general manager Perry Minasian said of Ohtani's new deal. "Hopefully, there's more steps down the road. ... We love the player, and nothing would make me more happy than bringing him back for a long time."
The Angels announced the one-year deal with Ohtani last week, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.
Ohtani's deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The deal is the largest one-year contract ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ohtani batted .273 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs this season. On the mound, he was 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts. Ohtani is the first player since Jack Stivetts in 1890 to finish top-five in a league in home runs and pitching strikeouts in a season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Owner Arte Moreno put a "For Sale" sign on his franchise six weeks ago, saying he is strongly thinking about giving up after nearly two decades of mostly underwhelming stewardship. Until Moreno decides whether to move on, nobody who works for the Angels knows exactly what's looming in the team's future, which hasn't felt bright for years despite Ohtani and teammate Mike Trout.
Although Minasian declined to say Thursday whether he knows what his budget will be next season with well over $120 million already committed to just seven returning players and no clear idea who will be writing those checks, he remains indefatigably optimistic about this beleaguered ballclub.
"For me, it's business as usual," Minasian said. "Nothing changes. I know ownership still wants to put a good team on the field, and I expect us to improve significantly. Nobody is happy with how this year went, where we ended up in the standings. But for me at least, my day-to-day is the same. It's obsessing about how we make this club better."
The Angels are mired in the majors' longest playoff drought (eight years, shared with Detroit) and the longest streak of losing seasons (seven) after going 73-89 and finishing third in the AL West, 13 games out of a playoff spot. The Halos were 24-13 in mid-May, but soon entered a franchise-record 14-game losing streak during which Minasian fired manager Joe Maddon.
After that, the Angels spent another summer failing to capitalize on the transcendent talents of Ohtani and Trout, who have won two AL MVP awards and no postseason games during their five years together.
"We've got two of the greatest players ever to put on uniforms, but we need more," Minasian said. "It's not a 2-on-2 game. If it was, I would love our chances."
Minasian knows it's his responsibility to surround Ohtani and Trout with the supporting cast to succeed. He is determined to do it right this winter, even if he can't say exactly how he'll do that with an owner who's thinking about leaving, and a newly permanent manager -- Phil Nevin -- who's on a one-year contract in a nod to the Angels' unsettled future.
"I'm very confident we'll be able to make this team better," Minasian said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.