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Shohei Ohtani’s Angels stint running short, so club attacks elephant in room

Shohei Ohtani is 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA as a pitcher with the Angels.

BALTIMORE – It would be inaccurate to call this season the Los Angeles Angels’ last dance with Shohei Ohtani.

After all, the greatest two-way player in baseball history won’t solidify his 2024 destination for months. And Ohtani and the Angels have never reached the dance floor together, anyway.

Yet the snake-bitten and at times inept franchise and the sport’s most compelling global superstar – oh, and Mike Trout, too – find themselves in a familiar spot under unfamiliar circumstances: Trying to lift Ohtani and Trout to the playoffs, only this time under a deadline.

Ohtani’s impending free agency isn’t exactly adding urgency to the Angels’ season. They are professionals, after all, who respect the grind of a season and attack it with vigor on the daily. Still, it’s hard to ignore that a winning season (which hasn’t happened in Anaheim since 2014) and October glory (the Angels’ last playoff win was 2009) might somehow help the Angels retain Ohtani beyond November.

Even if reality suggests otherwise.

“We never talk about it, but everyone wants to be on a winning team,” Angels closer Carlos Estévez tells USA TODAY Sports. “Hopefully, it might attract him here and he gets to stay and it’s amazing.

“But at the same time, it is what it is. He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family.”

That decision will surely involve a contract nearing or north of $500 million. While Ohtani has never ruled out a return to Anaheim, he hasn’t suppressed his desire to play for a winner.

And should the Japanese icon prefer extending his stay on the West Coast, prosperous suitors await like so many Great White Sharks in the Pacific: The Dodgers, Giants and Padres all boast playoff track records, an ability or willingness to spend big and, in L.A.’s case, a concerted effort to save a few bucks for the Winter of Ohtani.

So where does that leave the Angels for one final, potentially cruel summer?

“We’re trying,” says Estévez, who is signed through next year. “If we get there, we get deep in the playoffs, hopefully, and he comes back, that would be amazing to play another year with him.”

First, to get there.

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Shohei Ohtani is 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA as a pitcher with the Angels.

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