Angels owner Arte Moreno, who announced in August that he was exploring a sale of the team he has owned since 2003, announced on Monday that the team is no longer for sale.
“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,” Moreno said in a statement. “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.”
Moreno declined further comment.
Commissioner Rob Manfred added, in the Angels’ statement: “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.”
The surprising development ends months of speculation about the future of the team and adds intrigue to the case of Shohei Ohtani.
It was widely believed that the Angels could not engage in negotiations with Ohtani on a contract extension while the ownership situation was in flux. Now, talks could happen any time, although it’s still likely that Ohtani would like to see how the Angels perform before committing to a team that hasn’t had a winning record in any of his five seasons.
Ohtani’s next contract is expected to surpass the record $426 million the Angels guaranteed to Mike Trout.
Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, declined to comment on the news of Moreno’s decision to keep the team.
This winter the Angels have upped their payroll from about $174 million in 2022 to $206 million in 2023, which would be the highest mark in franchise history. That includes a record $30 million, one-year deal for Ohtani, who was eligible for salary arbitration.
Since Moreno, 77, announced the team was for sale, several parties have expressed interest, including Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob.
Manfred said last month that several groups had been cleared to look at the team’s financial information in preparation for the start of the bidding process.
No individual or group had publicly emerged as a favorite to buy the franchise, which was expected to sell for $2.5 billion to $3 billion. Moreno purchased the team for $184 million.
Moreno’s ownership of the franchise included significant success early, including five division titles in a six-year stretch from 2004-2009.
The Angels also brought two of baseball’s greatest starts to the majors during Moreno’s tenure, drafting Mike Trout in 2009 and signing Ohtani as an international free agent in 2017.
However, despite the presence of those two players, the franchise has struggled for most of the past decade, reaching the playoffs only in 2014.
The Angels’ stretch of seven straight losing seasons is the longest active streak in the majors. Their eight-year playoff drought is tied with the Detroit Tigers for the longest in the majors.
One of the main reasons for the organization’s troubles has been a failure to develop talent through the farm system. Many who have been in the organization believe that issue began with Moreno’s reluctance to spend on player development.
Those in the organization more recently acknowledged that Moreno has loosened the purse strings in recent years and allowed his baseball people more latitude to spend on upgrades.
Besides the increase in major league payroll, the Angels significantly increased the salaries of minor league staffers over the past year, sources said.
General manager Perry Minasian said repeatedly throughout the winter that he had not been given any instructions from Moreno that would limit him from doing whatever he felt was best to improve the team. Minasian said each time a deal was possible, he would take that to Moreno.
The Angels signed free agent left-hander Tyler Anderson to a three-year, $39-million deal and infielder Brandon Drury to a two-year, $17-million deal. They also traded for outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who will make at least $11.25 million, and infielder Gio Urshela, who will make at least $8.4 million.
The payroll is now $220 million, for purposes of the luxury tax, which is calculated differently than a simple sum of each player’s salary for 2023. The first threshold for paying the luxury tax is $233 million.
“I’ve said since Day One that ownership is committed to putting a good team on the field,” Minasian said after the Drury signing in December. “I’m not oblivious to that fact that, in these types of situations, if you look historically, a team exploring a sale is not as active as we’ve been. There’s something to be said for that. It’s a very competitive front office and competitive ownership group and we aligned in that sense.”