The Angels have announced that the Moreno family is ending the exploratory process to sell the team and will retain ownership through the 2023 season and beyond.
“During this process it became clear that we have unfinished business and feel we can have a positive impact on the future of the team and the fan experience,” says owner Arte Moreno in a statement from the club. “This off-season, we committed to a franchise turntable payroll and we still want to achieve 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 excellent efforts throughout the process, which enabled us to meet a number of highly qualified individuals and groups who showed great interest in the club. However, as the discussions progressed and began to crystallize, we realized that our hearts remain with the Angels and we are not ready to say goodbye to the fans, players and our staff.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred also released a statement on the matter, as relayed by Sam Blum of The Athletic. “Despite buyers’ strong interest in the Angels, Arte Moreno’s love of the game is what matters most to him. I am very happy that the Moreno family has decided to retain ownership of the team.”
Moreno, now 76, announced in August that he would investigate a sale of the team. Not many details about the sale process were reported in the meantime, although Manfred did say in December that the club hoped to complete the sale by Opening Day. It seems that Moreno has not found an offer to his liking or changed his mind and will keep the team for the foreseeable future.
He purchased the team from the Walt Disney Company for $184 million in April 2003. The Angels were reigning champions at the time, having won the 2002 World Series. They qualified for the postseason a few times over the next several years, but have since entered a dry spell. They’ve only made the playoffs once since 2009, were swept by the Royals in the 2014 ALDS, and haven’t come back since. That’s despite the fact that there were some superstar players on the roster during those years, including the current Angels Mike Forel and Shohei Ohtani. The club’s payroll regularly ranked in the league’s top 10 during Moreno’s tenure, but he has developed a reputation for being one of the owners more likely to meddle in baseball decisions, which has made him a divisive figure among the Angels’ fans.
This off-season, despite the potential sale hanging over the club, they’ve been quite active in the pursuit of upgrades. They traded for Gio Urshela and Hunter Renfroe while signing free agents Brandon Drury, Brett Phillips, Tyler Andersen and Carlos Estevez. That has increased the club’s payroll to $206 million, per Roster Resource, with a competitive balance tax calculation of $220 million. That payroll would indeed be a franchise record, as Moreno said, with Cot’s Baseball Contracts hitting their previous high of $189 million last year. Whether that will be enough for the club to break the post-season drought remains to be seen. They will be looking for the Astros, who have dominated the division for years and just won the World Series. The young and reviving Mariners just nabbed a Wild Card spot last year, and the Rangers have been extremely aggressive in the pursuit of upgrades in recent years.
The continuation of the Moreno regime will raise several questions to be resolved in the coming years and months. From the field, the biggest unknown is Ohtani’s future. The unprecedented two-way superstar is entering his final year of club control before he is on the verge of reaching free agency. Many have speculated as to whether a new owner would be motivated to give Ohtani a mega deal to remain an angel or would rather start over by cleaning out and rebuilding the house. Now those questions will have to be directed to Moreno and whether they can agree on a deal or whether Ohtani is determined to spend the next part of his career elsewhere.
Off the field, there will be questions about the issues that may have led Moreno to pursue a sale in the first place. A company founded by Moreno sought to purchase the 150-acre Angel Stadium site from the city of Anaheim with the goal of using the land for the development of commercial space, housing, restaurants and more. A tentative deal was reached at a price of $320 million, but the potential sale drew strong criticism from many in the area and a federal investigation was launched into alleged corruption, violations of state laws and insider information sharing as part of the deal . Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu was personally cited in the investigation and eventually resigned. The Anaheim City Council later voted against the deal in May 2022. The club’s lease for the stadium runs until the end of the 2029 season with a club option to extend that lease until 2038.
League-wide questions will also be answered, as the Angels were one of two teams to examine the sale this winter. The other is the Nationals, though that situation appears to be mired in TV rights issues and nowhere near a resolution. For all groups interested in the MLB property game, those two avenues that seemed open a few months ago now seem closed or perhaps untenable. The league has expressed interest in expanding from 30 to 32 teams, though Manfred has repeatedly said he would like each of the A’s and Rays to resolve their respective stadium situations before expansion comes on the table.