Shohei Ohtani’s Agent Says His Client “Earned the Right” to Explore Free Agency

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani in 2018
Shohei Ohtani with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. Photo by Peter Joneleit/CSM/REX/Shutterstock (9635290f)

There is no doubt that the Los Angeles Angels would like to keep two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani in their clubhouse for years to come. But doing that seems like it will be a tougher task than the franchise anticipated.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, was asked if there is a possibility that his client would sign an extension during spring training. While Balelo left the door open for that scenario, he also insisted that Ohtani “earned the right” to explore free agency.

“I’ve always been open to it,” Balelo said. “But there’s several layers to this one, and Shohei’s earned the right to play through the year, explore free agency, and we’ll see where it shakes out.”

Considered one of the best players in the game, Ohtani is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2023 season. He is expected to command the first $500 million contract in baseball history, with several teams reportedly willing to hit this mark with that kind of offer if they get the chance. The New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers will most likely be the most aggressive in their pursuit, but there are several sleeper options, including the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants.

Since coming to MLB ahead of the 2018 season, Ohtani has played on an elite level as both hitter and a pitcher. He earned two All-Star nods and four All-MLB selections while also being named AL MVP in 2021.

But despite Ohtani’s performances, the Angels failed to find success as a team. They not only missed playoffs in each of the five years Ohtani has been on the team but also failed to post a single winning season.