To Keep Ohtani Happy, the Angels Have a Simple Directive: Win

CARLSBAD, Calif. — As autumn prolonged from leaves altering to leaves falling, Perry Minasian, the normal supervisor of the Los Angeles Angels, was besieged with questions from his youngsters. Why, the youngsters wished to know, are our grandparents visiting Uncle Zack and Uncle Calvin however not us?

The reply was simple. The Minasians are a baseball household. Zack is the professional scouting director for the San Francisco Giants, and the Giants received the National League West and have been enjoying the Los Angeles Dodgers in a division sequence. Calvin is the director of clubhouse and gear for the Atlanta Braves, and his 2021 experience went all the option to the World Series title. So the brothers’ mother and father, Zack and Barbara, spent October and early November crisscrossing the nation cheering for 2 of their 4 sons. (Another brother, Rudy, 42, has his personal legislation agency in Chicago.)

Perry, the third baseball son, chuckled as he recounted this whereas standing on the again veranda of the resort the place M.L.B.’s normal managers conferences have been held this week. He and his household have been not noted of Grandpa and Grandma’s itinerary as a result of the Angels, as standard, have been not noted of the postseason.

Now, as Minasian, 40, plans for his second 12 months of working the Angels’ baseball operations, there stay extra questions than solutions, some way more pointed than others, beginning with this: Is the group that fumbled away a lot of Mike Trout’s prime going to do the identical with Shohei Ohtani?

“I’m worried about the organization, putting the organization in the best place to succeed,” Minasian mentioned. “I wake up thinking about it and I go to bed thinking about it. That’s No. 1. It’s not about Mike Trout. It’s not about Shohei Ohtani. I may be the first person to tell you that. It’s about the team. The collective group and achieving something together. That’s what I spend my energy on.”

Ohtani is extensively anticipated to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award subsequent week. If he does, it will give the Angels 4 M.V.P.s in the previous eight years, as Trout received in 2014, 2016 and 2019.

In these eight seasons, the Angels have received zero playoff video games, made only one postseason look and, in the different seven years, completed a mixed 131 video games out of first place.

Trout turned 30 in August throughout a irritating season during which a calf tear restricted him to 36 video games, a profession low. Ohtani, after battling accidents throughout his first three seasons with the Angels, lastly was wholesome in 2021 and produced one in every of the most outstanding seasons in baseball historical past, starring each as a hitter and as a pitcher.

But he additionally appeared to place the group on discover after the Angels completed fourth in a five-team A.L. West, simply because it had in every of his first three seasons. After the dwelling finale he mentioned, through his translator: “I really like the team. I love the fans. I love the atmosphere of the team. But, more than that, I want to win. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ll leave it at that.”

The feedback instantly introduced out the speculators: Is Ohtani angling for a commerce? Is he threatening to depart through free company when he turns into eligible after the 2023 season?

Minasian and Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent, every emphasised in Carlsbad that the reply to the first query isn’t any, that Ohtani is joyful enjoying in Anaheim. (“Extremely happy,” Balelo mentioned.) The reply to the second query is unknowable this far upfront just because there may be a lot time and a lot may occur. And that begins with Minasian this winter as he works towards fixing a workforce that now has had six consecutive shedding seasons.

Minasian and Ohtani have spoken a number of instances since Ohtani made these feedback.

“We’ve had conversations about all kinds of things,” Minasian mentioned. “He’s an impressive guy on and off the field. One thing he has an eye for is talent. I call him and ask him about players. Absolutely. He’s got a good idea about what plays and what doesn’t.”

Minasian didn’t reveal which potential free brokers or commerce targets he could have mentioned with Ohtani, however it’s no secret what the Angels want: pitching. Their rotation ranked 22nd in the majors this summer time with a 4.78 E.R.A. and 29th in every of the two earlier seasons (5.52 throughout the 60-game season of 2020 and 5.64 in 2019).

Free company in all probability will probably be a better route for the Angels than trades on condition that they don’t seem like deep in prospects. Baseball America ranked the Angels’ farm system 25th in the majors in its 2021 midseason rankings.

There are just-past-their-prime potential Hall of Famers on the free agent market this winter like Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. There are pitchers who lived as much as their potential this 12 months and are in dialogue for the Cy Young Awards (Robbie Ray and Kevin Gausman) and others who’re nonetheless working towards it (Marcus Stroman, Carlos Rodon, Jon Gray). Ohtani’s Japanese countryman Yusei Kikuchi is a free agent. Top potential commerce targets for these in search of beginning pitching is likely to be Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo (Cincinnati), and Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt (Oakland).

“There’s a certain type of personality we’re looking for on the mound to fit with what we currently have to kind of set the tone,” Minasian mentioned, noting that one desired high quality is aggressiveness and that “it is not just about taking the ball and throwing 100 pitches. We want players that make other guys better around them.”

In addition to gathering 46 homers and 100 R.B.I. at the plate whereas stealing 26 bases in 2021, Ohtani was additionally the Angels’ finest starter, going 9-2 with a 3.18 E.R.A. and 156 strikeouts over 130 and a third innings pitched over 23 begins.

“I feel pretty confident that I could repeat what I did this year,” Ohtani mentioned at the World Series final month in Houston whereas receiving the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award. “I just need to get out there and play every day and leave the numbers, put up good numbers, and I think I’ll be able to at least have a similar season as this year.”

“Amen,” Minasian mentioned, smiling broadly, when these feedback have been relayed. “Let’s see it.”

Ohtani proper now could be again dwelling in Japan, Balelo mentioned, his low season exercises already underway. Neither the agent nor the normal supervisor would touch upon whether or not they had engaged in talks concerning a contract extension. Ohtani is scheduled to make $5.5 million in 2022, the second 12 months of a two-year, $8.5 million deal, after which he could be eligible for arbitration for a 12 months forward of free company.

Both Minasian and Balelo agree that, above all, Ohtani desires to win. He already has proved he’s about extra than simply cash by selecting to maneuver from Japan to M.L.B. in the winter of 2017-18 simply as new posting guidelines went into impact. He left millions on the table by not ready two extra years, till he turned 25, to come back to the United States.

The Angels haven’t been disillusioned, particularly when Ohtani, 27, is wholesome.

“As good as he is on the field, the off-the-field stuff is what really impresses me,” Minasian mentioned. “His interaction with teammates, his ability to make adjustments. His dedication to his craft.”

Now, the burden is on Minasian to place Ohtani in place to win.

“I know a lot was made about his comments,” Minasian mentioned. “I think if you ask everyone else in the clubhouse, I don’t know any major league player who doesn’t want to win. If you do, show me one and let me talk to him. I’d be surprised. I was not surprised by what he said.”

Time will inform whether or not it was the frustration of a shedding season speaking, or a veiled ultimatum. With sweeping views of the resort golf course and gently rolling hills as a backdrop as he talked in Carlsbad, Minasian mentioned his siblings teased him all fall about being the solely brother who wasn’t collaborating in the postseason. With a productive winter, he may each finish that razzing and make Ohtani joyful, the priorities, maybe, not essentially falling in that order.

James Wagner contributed reporting.

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