By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani has agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.
The Angels announced the deal Saturday, 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’s $24.5 million raise from his 2022 salary is by far the largest for an arbitration-eligible player in major league history. He shattered the previous record of $9.6 million set by Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets when his pay was bumped from $7.4 million to $17 million before the 2019 season.
Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing and surpassing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.
Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS. The designated hitter is fourth in the AL in homers and seventh in RBIs, and he is on a 15-game hitting streak heading into the Angels’ home game against Texas on Saturday night after racking up four multi-hit games in his last five outings.
Ohtani is even more impressive on the mound, going 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts. Opponents are batting only .207 against the Angels ace, who got within four outs of a no-hitter against the Athletics in his most recent start Thursday.
The 28-year-old Ohtani is slated to make his final mound start of the season Wednesday in Oakland, and he needs to pitch just one inning to reach 162 for the season, which would allow him to qualify for the season-ending AL leaders in pitching statistics. He is currently fourth in the league in victories, third in strikeouts and fourth in ERA.
Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.
Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.
Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.
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