The Angels announced that the Moreno family is ending the exploratory process to sell the team and will continue ownership throughout the 2023 season and beyond.
“During this process, it became clear that we have unfinished business and feel we can make a positive impact on the future of the team and the fan experience,” owner Arte Moreno says in a statement released by the club. “This offseason we committed to a franchise record player payroll and still want to accomplish our goal of bringing a World Series Championship back to our fans. We are excited about this next chapter of Angels Baseball. We are grateful to Galatioto Sports Partners for their outstanding efforts throughout the process that allowed us to meet with a number of highly qualified individuals and groups who expressed strong interest in the Club. However, as discussions advanced and began to crystallize, we realized our hearts remain with the Angels, and we are not ready to part ways with the fans, players and our employees.”
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred also released a statement on the matter, as relayed by Sam Blum of The Athletic. “Despite strong buyer interest in the Angels, Arte Moreno’s love of the game is most important to him. I am very pleased that the Moreno Family has decided to continue owning the team.”
Moreno, now 76, announced in August that he would explore a sale of the team. There weren’t many details of the sales process reported in the interim, though Manfred did say in December that the club was hoping to have the sale completed by Opening Day. It appears that Moreno either didn’t find an offer to his liking or had a change of heart and will keep hold of the team for the foreseeable future.
He purchased the team from the Walt Disney Company for $184MM in April of 2003. The Angels were reigning champions at that time, having won the 2002 World Series. They qualified for the postseason a few times in the next few years but have since gone into a dry spell. They have made the playoffs just once since 2009, getting swept by the Royals in the 2014 ALDS and not making it back since. That’s come despite having some superstar players on the roster in those years, include current Angels Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. The club’s payroll has regularly been in the top 10 in the league in Moreno’s tenure but he’s garnered a reputation as being one of the owners more likely to meddle in baseball decisions, which has made him a divisive figure among the Angels’ fans.
This offseason, despite the potential sale hanging over the club, they have been quite active in pursuing upgrades. They traded for Gio Urshela and Hunter Renfroe while signing free agents Brandon Drury, Brett Phillips, Tyler Anderson and Carlos Estevez. That’s bumped the club’s payroll up to $206MM, per Roster Resource, with a competitive balance tax calculation of $220MM. That payroll would indeed be a franchise record as Moreno stated, with Cot’s Baseball Contracts having their previous high as last year’s $189MM figure. Whether that’s enough for the club to break its postseason drought remains to be seen. They will be looking to chase the Astros, who have dominated the division for years and just won the World Series. The young and resurgent Mariners just grabbed a Wild Card spot last year and the Rangers have been extremely aggressive in pursuing upgrades over the past couple of years.
The continuation of the Moreno regime will lead to various questions that will need to be resolved in the years and months to come. From on-field perspective, the biggest unknown is the future of Ohtani. The unprecedented two-way superstar is entering his final year of club control before he’s slated to reach free agency. Many have been speculating about whether a new owner would be motivated to give Ohtani a mega deal to stay an Angel or would prefer to start fresh by clearing house and beginning a rebuild. Now those questions will have to be directed towards Moreno and whether they can find common ground on a deal or if Ohtani is determined to spend the next part of his career elsewhere.
Off the field, there will be questions about the issues that perhaps led to Moreno pursuing a sale in the first place. A company created by Moreno was attempting to purchase the 150-acre Angel Stadium site from the city of Anaheim with a goal of using the land to develop commercial space, housing, restaurants and more. A tentative agreement was reached at a $320MM price point but the potential sale drew heavy criticism from many in the area and a federal investigation was launched into alleged corruption, violations of state laws, and insider information being shared as part of the deal. Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu was personally cited in the investigation and ultimately resigned. Anaheim City Council later voted against the deal in May of 2022. The club’s lease on the stadium runs through the end of the 2029 season with a club option to extend that lease through 2038.
There will also be league-wide questions to be answered, as the Angels were one of two teams exploring sales this winter. The other is the Nationals, though that situation appears to be mired in TV rights issues and nowhere near a resolution. For any groups interested in getting into the MLB ownership game, those two paths that appeared open a few months ago now appear to be closed or perhaps untenable. The league has expressed interest in expanding from 30 to 32 teams though Manfred has repeatedly said that he would like each of the A’s and Rays to resolve their respective stadium situations before expansion will be on the table.