The Los Angeles Angels and two-way wunderkind Shohei Ohtani have avoided what would have been a fascinating arbitration case this coming offseason. The two sides have agreed to a one-year contract worth $30 million contract for 2023, the team announced Saturday afternoon. Ohtani remains scheduled to become a free agent after next season.
Ohtani is wrapping up the two-year, $8.5 million contract he signed in Feb. 2021, just before his breakout MVP season. That contract paid him $3 million in 2021 and $5.5 million in 2022. Players are compared to similar players at the same service time level in arbitration and there is no one like Ohtani, an ace pitcher and middle of the order slugger in one.
The $30 million salary is the highest ever for an arbitration-eligible player, breaking the record held by Mookie Betts ($27 million in 2020). Also, the $24.5 million raise is the largest year-to-year salary increase for any player. Ohtani is the 17th player in baseball history to sign a contract worth $30-plus million per year.
The 28-year-old Ohtani has been even better this season than last season, when he was unanimous AL MVP and a 9.0 WAR player. Here are his numbers this year:
Ohtani the hitter
Ohtani the pitcher
Unfortunately for Ohtani, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is having a historic season of his own, tying Roger Maris' American League single-season record with 61 homers and amassing 10.5 WAR. Judge is also chasing a Triple Crown. He is the odds on favorite to win AL MVP, meaning Ohtani is likely to settle for runner-up.
The Angels are 71-86 and will go home after the regular season for the eighth straight year.. This new contract will make it easier to trade Ohtani with a set 2023 salary so the acquiring team won't have to worry about a historically unique arbitration case.
Ohtani joins Mike Trout ($35.45 million per year) and Anthony Rendon ($35 million) as $30 million per year players on Anaheim's books. Trout and Ohtani are the game's best 1-2 punch, but Rendon battled injuries this year and the rest of the roster just isn't very good. and the Angels are not guaranteed to contend in 2023.
Seeing how Ohtani has made it clear his priority is to win, it seems likely he will sign elsewhere as a free agent next offseason if he's not traded away first.