Shohei Ohtani will resign with the Los Angeles Angels.
The caveat to all of this is that I do not know the man personally, and I’m basing most of this on speculation and gut feeling. Source: trust me bro.
Ohtani chose the Angels for several reasons when he came to play in MLB. The proximity to his home in Japan, the lower level of media scrutiny, the chance to play with one of the objectively greatest players of all time in Mike Trout, and the willingness of the Angels to allow him the freedom to be a two-way player (something that was – and remains – a very rare thing at the major league level and something few to no other teams were willing to try at the time). These factors remain as important as ever, if not more so.
Ohtani is a creature of habit, one who values routine and comfort. The jarring changes that would come with moving to a new team would not appeal to him, as it would disrupt the comfortable groove he’s carved for himself in Anaheim. He lives a baseball-focused existence that has been made possible with the full support and endorsement of the entire Angels organization. In Anaheim he is free from the annoyances and hassles that come with playing for a “big market team.”
Those annoyances include dealing with media. Having been in MLB for five years, Ohtani understands more than ever the stress and distraction that dealing with the media can be; avoiding an intense media environment is more important than ever, and the Angels have and will continue to shield him from the press. A bright spotlight in a place like New York or some other spot in California would take him far out of his comfort zone – a zone that he loves and in which he has excelled as a baseball player. And being the best baseball player he can be is his entire focus in life.
Loyalty to the team that afforded him the opportunity to be a two-way player will factor in heavily. Ohtani is clearly loyal and is obviously emotionally invested in the organization itself; this is shown in his close relationships with teammates and coaches and in his expressive body language during games, both in wins and losses. He purchased the kabuto helmet himself that the team uses for home run celebrations. He is emotionally invested in the success of the Angels.
That loyalty has likely been accentuated by Ichiro, a veteran that Ohtani looks up to. No doubt Ichiro has given the younger player advice and guidance, and some of that advice could very likely include “stick with the team that helped bring you to where you are.” Ichiro did play for other teams during his career, but the man wears a Mariners jersey to this day. He knows the value and honor in being a lifelong player with one team.
Ohtani is not driven by money. By all accounts he lives a very low-key life that revolves entirely around baseball; playing, competing, studying, and improving his own skills at the game he obviously loves. He will not be lured away by huge money offers in the same manner many other professional athletes would be. And even if money were a factor, he makes plenty in endorsements and sponsorships, and this income would follow him to any team; a large contract with a big spending team would add no additional incentive.
What he is driven by is the desire to win at the game he has dedicated his life to. And while the Angels have struggled greatly in his time with them, constantly hovering at or below .500, he has never once placed the blame for losses on the team – only on himself for (in his own mind) not performing well enough. He has never once expressed the desire to move to a “winning” organization”; only a desire to win, and a growing distain for losing. Never once has he said he is frustrated with the Angels.
Shohei Ohtani will resign with the Angels. And really, it should come as no surprise.