Angels general manager Perry Minasian this week has repeatedly declined to discuss whether the team will explore a potential contract extension with two-way star Shohei Ohtani, citing a personal policy about not commenting on contract-related issues.
On Wednesday morning, Ohtani’s agent at CAA sports, Nez Balelo, said the same thing.
Citing his agency’s policy against discussing negotiations, Balelo declined to say whether there have been any extension talks between the Angels and Ohtani, who is set to make $5.5 million in 2022 and will remain under team control through the end of the 2023 season.
“We just don’t talk about deals, we don’t talk about extensions,” Balelo said during the third day of the league’s GM meetings.
Balelo did say that Ohtani is “extremely happy” in Anaheim, where he became an MVP frontrunner this year after racking up 46 home runs and 100 RBIs as a hitter and a 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts in 23 starts as a pitcher.
“He likes being a part of the Angel organization,” Balelo said. “We’ll see where it shakes out.”
In what would have been his first offseason as an arbitration-eligible player last winter, Ohtani and the Angels agreed on a two-year, $8.5 million contract.
That deal made sense for both sides. Ohtani was coming off three consecutive injury-plagued seasons. And there was no precedent for a two-way player going through arbitration hearings.
In the wake of Ohtani’s historic 2021 performance, though, there has been speculation over whether the Angels will try to lock Ohtani up long-term before he becomes a free agent in 2024.
At the end of the regular season, Ohtani didn’t reveal much about his feelings on negotiating a new deal with the Angels.
Before the team’s final game, he said if the club approached him, he’d be open to the idea. But that followed other comments Ohtani made in late September, when he expressed frustration over another Angels season that ended outside of the playoffs, that seemingly raised doubts over his desire to stay with the club long-term.
On Wednesday, Balelo had nothing but good things to say about the Angels and their relationship with his star client.
He praised the way the team and Ohtani worked together this year to keep the 27-year-old healthy during a season in which he appeared in 158 games.
“It was an open communication,” Balelo said, adding: “Joe [Maddon] was wonderful, his staff was great. Perry and his staff were all on the same page. And that made Shohei feel really comfortable.”
Balelo also struck an optimistic tone when talking about the direction the Angels are headed, and how their other potential roster moves could impact Ohtani’s comfort level in Anaheim.
“I was with Perry yesterday and I know one of the things he really set out to do was put together a competitive team,” Balelo said, later noting that “they’re close to being a dynamic team, and there’s just a few things they need to do to help.”
For at least the next two years, Ohtani will remain a key part of that push to help the Angels emerge as contenders.
What his career holds after that, however, remains to be seen.