Arte Moreno discusses Ohtani, luxury tax, Angels Stadium, property

In the wake of Arte Moreno’s decision to abandon plans to sell the Angels, the owner was somewhat unusually willing to discuss team matters with the media. Moreno has already spoken to Jon Heyman of the New York Post in February and Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated last month, and today the Halos owner held his first open Q-and-A with Angels beat writers (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and The Athletic’s Sam Blum) in over three years.

Today’s media session was about the same topic as the interviews with Heyman and Verducci, although Moreno confirmed that the team is willing to go over the luxury tax to get the Shohei Ohtani in the fold. The mutual superstar is slated to be a free agent after the 2023 season, and with speculation swirling that Ohtani could command as much as $500 million in his next contract, it seems almost a necessity for any serious team to cross the tax threshold. . about retaining his services.

Since Moreno purchased the team almost exactly 20 years ago, the Angels have only exceeded the Competitive Balance Tax limit once (in 2004). That said, Anaheim has also spent a lot on things like Mike Forel, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero, Anthony Rendonand several other big names, so Moreno is no stranger to paying for premium talent.

The Angels are expected to pay approximately $226.7 million in taxes in 2023, below the $233 million CBT threshold. Moreno was non-committal about the idea of ​​crossing the line this season, but said that “when we are there [All-Star] pause, I want enough money to pick someone up.” In terms of future CBT commitments, Moreno felt “we positioned ourselves really wellto possibly preserve Ohtani, and Moreno noted that “after four [remaining] years before Rendon, we really don’t have long-term contracts. So we need to position ourselves and work on enabling ourselves to have that financial flexibility.”

If Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani are all on the books through the 2026 season (when Rendon’s deal expires), that would mean those three players will most likely take at least half of the Angels room below the tax threshold. That appears to be a bridge that Moreno is willing to cross, though apparently there’s quite a bit of work to be done before an Ohtani expansion becomes a reality. Moreno said the team has not yet spoken to Ohtani and his camp about future plans, and the owner noted that “Ohtani must want to be here too. It’s two-way traffic.”

When we started talking to Mike [Trout], I spent a lot of time with Mike. I just said, ‘You have to make a decision. You want to be here.’ This is where you want your family to be. We sat down with the agent. And Ohtani, he needs to figure out if he wants to be here.

Moreno said the Angels will likely spend more than 60 percent of their earnings on payroll this season, and the team’s current payroll of about $212.1 million is a new club record. In addition to these expenses, Moreno said GM Perry Minasian “basically an unlimited budget to try and build our minor league system. So those guys are getting cut and we’re trying to make minor league deals with them. Continue to build up the depth.”

Anaheim’s busy off-season has been seen as a bit of a surprise, given that teams on the brink of sale are sometimes on an uncertain roster until the ownership issue is resolved. That said, Moreno took the opposite route, saying that “we never stopped doing anything” despite the talks with potential buyers. “I communicated with [Minasian] almost every day….I told him, come what may, I want this team to be prepared to play and win. We have invested a lot of money. I wanted to make sure that if I changed my mind that we were, ‘OK, go.’

This attitude speaks to Moreno’s usual aggressiveness in trying to assemble a winning team, though those efforts have clearly been in vain over seven consecutive losing seasons. Moreno denied the common perception that he is too hands-on with his front office’s movements, saying that “every player we’ve ever signed has been talking to the general manager all along… If there’s a decision that Perry wants to sign someone, if we’re going to negotiate and we want to make a deal, I’ve got to be there because I have to call or [else] he runs back and forth. He and I talk about the money before we make a decision.”

The fact that Moreno approached the off-season thinking he would ultimately choose to keep the Angels probably speaks to his reticence about a sale and his eventual decision to take the team off the market. Moreno left the door open to potentially selling a minority stake in the club at some point, but “I have no successorin mind as the next owner of the Halos.

The club’s future at Angel Stadium (and perhaps Anaheim at all) was also a matter of debate, given that the Anaheim City Council voted against an agreement in May that would have led the city to sell the 150 acres of land around the ballpark. to sell. to a management company owned by Moreno. Moreno said he will soon meet with newly elected Anaheim mayor Ashleigh Aitken.and we’re going to work with that administrationregarding the next steps that may come with the margin and development situation.

The Angels’ lease on the stadium runs through the 2029 season, and the team can also exercise an option to extend that at least through 2038. Moreno did not comment on the idea of ​​a possible move, saying: “We’ve been here a long time, and we’ll see what happens.”

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