Angels look to maximize Ohtani in possible final season with team

Angels look to maximize Ohtani in possible final season with team
It could be Ohtani's last season at the Angels
It could be Ohtani's last season at the Angels
Time could be running out for the Los Angeles Angels to make the most of hitting and pitching sensation Shohei Ohtani (28), who has never made a playoff appearance in his five years with the team and will be a free agent after this season.

It had to sting for Angels fans when Ohtani described striking out his Angels team mate Mike Trout as he won the World Baseball Classic (WBC) with Team Japan last week as "the best moment" of his life.

And it will hurt even more if the Angels once again fail to make the post-season despite the heroics of a player who draws comparisons to baseball legend Babe Ruth.

Rosy pre-season predictions of the Halos finally making the post-season after a near decade-long absence have almost become a running joke.

"The butt of a lot of the jokes are the Angels," David Cone, a five-time World Series champion turned analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, told reporters on a call.

"They have Mike Trout. They have Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani did something last year that hasn't been done since Babe Ruth. Mike Trout has more WAR (wins above replacement) than Mickey Mantle at his age, and the Angels lose 10-2.

"How many time did we see that last year? That's sort of a joke that gets told with about the Angels, that they're going to be better than people think."

The team's success will likely hinge on the health of Ohtani, three-time AL MVP Trout and third baseman Anthony Rendon, whose wrist and hip surgeries limited his playing time the last two seasons.

In an effort to boost run production, the team added infielders Brandon Drury and Gio Urshela and outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Brett Phillips during the off-season.

Improving the Angels' chances of playing on the October stage is MLB's expanded playoff format, in which 12 teams will make the playoffs.

The Angels finished third in the AL West last season with a 73-89 record and have not finished a season above .500 since 2015.

"We saw the Philadelphia Phillies get in the playoffs last year with 86 wins," Cone said.

"That's something to bear in mind as we get into the second year of the expanded playoffs."

Ohtani has said he is focused on the upcoming season but is aware that he will receive massive offers from teams when he becomes a free agent.

It remains to be seen whether the Angels will offer the possible $500 million long-term contract he could command.

Team owner Arte Moreno was exploring selling the team last year before making an abrupt about-turn in January, saying the team had "unfinished business."

"We really take it day by day, one day at a time," Ohtani's agent Nez Balelo said last month.

"I've always wanted him to enjoy the ride that he's on. I've wanted him to embrace it. That's what he's done. We're going to continue that," he said.

"Shohei's earned the right to play through the year, explore free agency, and we will see where that shakes out."

Trout, who signed an MLB record 12-year, $426.5 million contract with the Angels in 2019, said he will do everything he can to keep Ohtani in Anaheim.

"I'm always in his ear, for sure," Trout said when asked about "recruitment efforts" to convince Ohtani to re-sign with the Angels, according to

"I'm always going to try to keep him here."

The Angels take on the Athletics in Oakland on Thursday, MLB's Opening Day.