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Agent says Shohei Ohtani has right to explore free agency

Nez Balelo, the agent of Los Angeles Angels’ two-way star Shohei Ohtani, has hinted that his client may explore free agency this offseason. Balelo, who works for CAA Sports, was asked on Monday if he would be willing to negotiate an extension for Ohtani during spring training. “I’ve always been open to it,” said Balelo. “But this is layered, and Shohei has earned the right to play year-round, exploring the free hand, and we’ll see where it comes out.”

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Ohtani, 28, has played as both an elite hitter and an elite pitcher for the past two seasons and could land a near $500 million free agent deal if he does so again. The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets are widely regarded as his most aggressive suitors, but a few others — namely the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners — might have the payroll flexibility to enter the sweepstakes. And the Angels, who decided against trading him last summer and the following winter, would certainly be interested in bringing him back.

Balelo expressed optimism about the Angels’ maneuvers this offseason, which have included the addition of several veteran players in an effort to deepen the 40-man squad. Showing Ohtani that they can win around him could be crucial in the Angels’ efforts to keep him.

The agent also said that Ohtani is comfortable with the Angels organization and that the team’s owner, Arte Moreno, making the decision to remain the owner made it “business as usual.” However, the Angels have only made the playoffs once in the past 13 years and have not had a winning season since 2015, three years before Ohtani’s rookie season.

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Balelo said that while Ohtani wants to see the postseason, it is unclear if it will be a deciding factor in his free agency decision. “We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.

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