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Arte Moreno exploring possible sale of Angels

In a news release, the Angels ownership group announced that it is considering selling the team and will start to explore a possible sale along with Galatioto Sports Partners (which has been retained as financial advisors during the process).

“It has been a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” owner Arte Moreno in the statement.  “As an Organization, we have worked to provide our fans an affordable and family-friendly ballpark experience while fielding competitive lineups which includes some of the game’s all-time greatest players.

“Although this difficult decision was entirely our choice and deserved a great deal of thoughtful consideration, my family and I have ultimately come to the conclusion that now is the time.  Throughout this process, we will continue to run the franchise in the best interest of our fans, employees, players, and business partners.”

While any number of factors may have weighed into the Moreno family’s thought process, it was less than three months ago that Anaheim’s city council ruled against a long-gestating deal that would have seen Moreno’s management group purchase Angel Stadium and the entire 150-acre property around the ballpark. Moreno’s group was planning to develop the area into a multi-purpose residential and commercial space, similar to other “ballpark village” developments that have become common around both newer baseball stadiums and other venues in other sports.

However, the tentative agreement between Moreno and the city fell apart, in large part due to an ongoing federal investigation concerning alleged corruption, violations of state laws and insider information. Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned his position, and the city council voted to overturn the Angel Stadium deal entirely in the wake of the scandal.

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Though the stadium controversy led to fresh questions about the franchise’s future in Anaheim, it now seems like Moreno himself will be walking away from the Angels entirely. Moreno originally bought the team in April 2003 for a price of $184M, taking over operations from the Walt Disney Co. in the wake of the Angels’ 2002 World Series championship season.

That 2002 title still stands as the franchise’s lone championship, despite Moreno’s efforts to remake the Angels into a big-spending perpetual contender. Under Moreno’s stewardship, the Halos have regularly been at least a top-10 payroll team, even if Moreno’s willingness to spend didn’t lead to a willingness to cross the luxury tax threshold. (2004 was the only season the Angels ever made a luxury tax payment.)

The Angels reached the postseason five times between 2004-09, though they won only two playoff series and didn’t advance beyond the ALCS. The regular trips to October soon stopped, as an AL West title in 2014 (and a three-game sweep at the hands of the Royals in the ALDS) marked the Angels’ most recent postseason appearance. After winning 85 games in 2015, Los Angeles has had six consecutive losing seasons, with the struggling 2022 squad on its way to making it seven straight years of sub-.500 baseball.

As Moreno’s statement noted, “some of the game’s all-time greatest players” have worn an Angels uniform in the last 20 seasons, including the likes of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero and Shohei Ohtani. Despite these and other talents, the Angels simply haven’t been able to break through due to a host of other ill-advised acquisitions. While Moreno was willing to spend, this aggressiveness manifested itself in many major investments that simply didn’t pan out — i.e. Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, Vernon Wells, Gary Matthews Jr., Zack Cozart and (to date) Anthony Rendon.

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Pujols’ 10-year, $240M free agent deal is probably the defining transaction of Moreno’s ownership and unfortunately symbolic of the Angels’ last decade of struggles. While Pujols was still an elite player heading into the 2012 season, giving such a major contract to a first baseman entering his age-32 season was seen as a risk, and those fears ended up being warranted. Pujols had a few good seasons in Anaheim, but injuries and the normal aging curve made him far less productive than during his prime years with the Cardinals.

Responsibility for these signings ultimately fell to Moreno himself, who was widely known to be far more involved in baseball operations than the average owner. The Angels have had five different general managers during Moreno’s tenure, with this revolving door reflective of Moreno’s lack of patience. As well, the Angels haven’t had much of a minor league pipeline in place to build around these high-priced acquisitions, as the Angels have routinely traded prospects and missed on several draft picks.

Trout is the major exception, of course, but the Angels haven’t been able to capitalize on having a homegrown prospect develop into a legendary player. Signing Ohtani was another huge moment for the organization, and while injuries have largely kept Trout and Ohtani from seeing a lot of time together in the same lineup, it still seems hard to believe that a team with two generational players hasn’t been able to even crack the .500 mark, let alone contend in October. Ohtani is a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future with the Angels will certainly be a major story over the next year-plus, with an ownership change now added another intriguing wrinkle.

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Major League Baseball now has two franchises known to be for sale, as the Lerner family is also widely expected to sell the Nationals. It is possible that any bidders for the Nats might also look into buying the Angels, and it’s safe to assume that either franchise will sell for at least $2.5 billion. The Angels’ proximity within the greater Los Angeles area could mean a higher price tag, though it also remains to be seen if the organization will necessarily remain in Anaheim.

As per the team’s Angel Stadium lease, the Angels are bound to their ballpark through 2029, with a club option to extend that lease through the 2038 season. While the Halos aren’t going anywhere in the short term, at least, a new owner might have designs on moving the team elsewhere. Conversely, a new owner might represent a new beginning for the Angels’ future in Anaheim, potentially a fresh start on talks about ballpark redevelopment, and perhaps even another name change. It’s probably safe to say that the old “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” mouthful will remain a thing of the past, but the club could also return to the “Anaheim Angels” moniker rather than being tied to Los Angeles.


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