In the wake of Arte Moreno’s decision not to sell the Los Angeles Angels, the team owner has been somewhat uncharacteristically willing to discuss team matters with the media. Moreno spoke with the New York Post’s Jon Heyman in February and Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in March. And this week, the Halos boss engaged in his first open question-and-answer session with Angels beat writers — including Jeff Fletcher of the ‘Orange County Register’ and ‘The Athletic’’s Sam Blum — in over three years.
His media session covered some of the same ground as the Heyman and Verducci interviews, though Moreno did confirm that the team is willing to exceed the luxury tax in order to keep Shohei Ohtani in the fold.
The two-way superstar is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2023 season and with speculation swirling that Ohtani could command as much as $500MM in his next contract, going beyond the tax threshold would seem almost a necessity for any team serious about signing the two-way superstar.
Since Moreno bought the team almost exactly 20 years ago, the Angels have only once (in 2004) surpassed the Competitive Balance Tax limit. That said, Los Angeles has also spent big to extend or sign the likes of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero, Anthony Rendon along with several other marquee names. Moreno is no stranger to paying for premium talent and there is no talent more premium than his team’s own megastar.
The Angels are projected for roughly a $226.7M tax figure in 2023, a touch under the $233M CBT threshold. While Moreno was non-committal about the idea of exceeding the tax during the coming season, he did forward that “if we’re in it at the [All-Star] break, I want to be able to have enough cash to pick up somebody.” In a self-assessment, he believes the Angels have done a good job of remaining financially flexible and staying out from under longer contracts (for the most part).
Having Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani all on the books through the 2026 season (when Rendon’s deal is set to expire) would mean that those three players in all likelihood would take up at least half of the Angels’ room under the tax threshold. That seems to be a bridge Moreno is willing to cross, though quite a bit of work seemingly has to be done before an Ohtani extension becomes a reality.
Moreno said the team hasn’t yet spoken with Ohtani and his camp about future plans and the owner noted that “Ohtani has to want to be here, too. It’s a two-way street.”
“When we started talking to Mike [Trout], I spent a lot of time with Mike. I just said, ’You have to make a decision. This is where you want to be.’ This is where you want your family to be. We started sitting down with the agent. And Ohtani, he has to figure out if this is where he wants to be.”
Moreno indicated that the Angels were likely to spend over 60 percent of their revenues on payroll this season,and that the team’s current approximate payroll of $212.1MM is a new club record. Beyond these expenditures, Moreno said that GM Perry Minasian has essentially a blank check for building out the organization’s minor league talent pool and overall depth.
Anaheim’s busy offseason was seen as a little bit of a surprise, given how teams seemingly on the verge of being sold are sometimes in a bit of roster limbo until the ownership question is settled. This activity speaks to Moreno’s customary aggressiveness when it comes to trying to field a winning team, though it’s at this point fair to note that the Angels are in the midst of a seven-year stretch of losing seasons.
While Moreno said he did not have a successor lined up, he is continuing to keep the door open should the opportunity arise to sell a minor share of the team.
The club’s future at Angel Stadium (and perhaps in Anaheim altogether) was also a topic of discussion, given how back in May, the Anaheim city council voted against an agreement that would’ve seen the city sell the 150 acres of land surrounding the ballpark to a Moreno-owned management company.
Speaking on this topic, Moreno relayed that he will soon be meeting with newly-elected Anaheim mayor Ashleigh Aitken to see where matters stand and where common ground might be found.
The Angels’ lease at the stadium runs through the 2029 season and the team can additionally exercise an option to extend that lease through at least 2038. Moreno did not offer any comment on the idea of a potential move, offering only, “We’ll see what happens.”