Angels won't be trading Shohei Ohtani this season

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Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani throws to an Atlanta Braves.
Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers against the Atlanta Braves on July 22. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

Shohei Ohtani is not leaving Anaheim. At least not yet.

The Angels are mired in another losing season and Ohtani is eligible to become a free agent after the 2023 campaign. But the team has decided not to trade arguably the game's biggest star, a person familiar with the team’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about it said Monday.

The trade deadline for this season is Tuesday at 3 p.m. PDT.

Ohtani has been with the Angels since 2018, winning American League rookie-of-the-year honors that season. His most recent contract was for two years and a total of $8.5 million. He becomes arbitration eligible again before next season.

The 28-year-old two-way player has been nothing short of stellar, particularly over the last season and a half. But the Angels' struggles — their 43-59 record as of Monday has them 11 games out of a wild-card spot — and Ohtani's desire to play in the postseason leaves the team in a bind since he could leave after next season with the Angels getting nothing in return.

“I like the fans," Ohtani said in Japanese at the end of last season. "I like the atmosphere in the organization. But my feelings to wanting to win are stronger.”

After his start last week against the Texas Rangers, he was asked whether he wanted to stay with the Angels in the short term and the long term.

“The question isn’t whether I want to stay. I have to do what I’m supposed to do,” he said in Japanese. “Regardless of where I am, what I do doesn’t change. Of course, there’s the part of me that feels grateful of how the team has taken care of me. I like the fans too, of course.

“Right now, as long as I’m with the Angels — and it was like that today too — I want to do my best to win each and every game. There’s tomorrow to think about too and I have to turn the page.”

Ohtani capped the 2021 season with an AL most-valuable-player award, a Silver Slugger Award and was named to his first All-Star Game — in which he also became the first player in history to bat leadoff and be the starting pitcher.

They were fitting accolades considering he filled his stat sheet with 46 home runs, 100 RBIs, 138 hits, 103 runs, eight triples (tied for the most in the majors), 26 doubles and was intentionally walked 20 times (most in the AL) in 155 games. On the mound, he went 9-2, finishing the season with a 3.18 earned-run average and 156 strikeouts in 23 starts.

This season, he’s elevated to look more like the ace of the Angels staff, going 9-6, a record that dulls what he’s been able to accomplish. He has a 2.81 ERA with 145 strikeouts in 99.1 innings. He has struck out 10 or more in his last six games and a major league best nine times overall. June was particularly exciting for the history books, when Ohtani had eight RBIs in a home game against the Kansas City Royals, then struck out 13 batters in his start the next day.

He is batting .255 with 22 home runs and 62 RBIs. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .847 ranks 13th in the American League.

He was voted into the All-Star Game as the starting designated hitter and also chosen as a pitcher, though he did not pitch because he wanted to be rested for his next start after the All-Star break, against the Atlanta Braves.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.