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Shohei Ohtani’s agent says he’s focused on 2023 season with Angels

Shohei Ohtani and his agent, Nez Balelo, are focused on 2023. Anything beyond next season with the Angels continues to be just wait and see.

“We haven’t really given that a lot of thought because we are just focused on the one year, which we accomplished and that’s what we did,” Balelo of CAA said after being asked during the general manager meetings Tuesday whether they would be open to having extension discussions during spring training or in the middle of the season. “So to be honest with you, that’s our main focus.

“Now that we have that over and behind us, we’re comfortable with the one-year deal and we’re just going to kind of focus on that right now.”

Balelo declined to elaborate whether extension discussions have occurred.

Asked about comments Ohtani made in an article recently published in Numbers, a Japanese sports magazine, that not every team can afford a lucrative salary for one player, Balelo said: “In general, I think it’s whatever he decides to do at the end of the year. I think it’s going to be an exciting time. Not knowing exactly what you’re referencing on the Numbers’ article and what teams can afford him, what teams can’t. I think all 30 teams in their own way want to compete. … So I wouldn’t rule out anybody whether they can afford a salary or not.

“But look, that’s ways down the road. We don’t know. We can think about free agency, we can not think about free agency, but we know this: That he’s going to be an Angel in ’23. We’re going to play it out. We’re going to enjoy it. And take one year at a time. And that’s always been our philosophy.”

Ohtani signed a one-year deal worth $30 million before the end of the 2022 season.

Balelo said that it was a mutual decision with the Angels to get that deal done, which allowed Ohtani to avoid arbitration — something other players in the Angels clubhouse said would have been interesting to see play out if Ohtani went into arbitration. Balelo said it would have been unprecedented if Ohtani reached arbitration.

There were rumors early this offseason that although he signed that deal, Ohtani still could be dealt. Angels general manager Perry Minasian said Monday that Ohtani would not be traded and would start the season with the Angels.

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the second inning in Oakland on Oct. 5.

(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

He doubled down on that Tuesday, stating that Ohtani is an Angel; that “we want him to wear this uniform for a long time”; and again that “we don’t like, we love the player.”

Ohtani will be eligible to become a free agent after the 2023 season unless he signs an extension with the Angels. The Angels also could sign him in free agency.

The Angels are facing several questions after another losing season and a potential change in ownership. Chief among them has been Ohtani’s future beyond 2023.

“I guess we’ll just have to wait to see who the new ownership group is,” Balelo said. “It’s been very quiet so we don’t know what’s going on. But it’s not our business. It’s Arte [Moreno] and his wife and the rest of the organization’s business. Not ours.”

As far as Ohtani’s offseason, he flew back to Japan at the end of October. He still has not made a decision whether he will play for his home country in the World Baseball Classic, though the Angels have given him their blessing.

Minasian on Trout

Mike Trout has committed most, if not likely all, of his career to the Angels — after signing a 12-year extension in 2019. Yet, the three-time American League most valuable player has played in just one postseason and that was in 2014.

Asked whether Minasian thinks he needs to convince Trout of the team’s direction, the GM said: “I know there’s a narrative: Shohei and Trout to the playoffs, but it’s an organization. It’s everybody. We want to be competitive, we want to make the playoffs. We want to play postseason games. I want our players to experience that in our stadium.”

Trout endorsed the GM at the end of this past season, saying he trusts Minasian and the front office to build a winning team.

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