On January 23, Angels owner Arte Moreno — who had been looking for a sale for the franchise in recent months — announced that the team would be coming off the market. Moreno is set to retain the franchise, a move that certainly did not sit well with Angels fans on social media given the team’s success — or lack therof — over the past decade. But, does this change the landscape of pending free agent Shohei Ohtani? If history is any indication, it’s complicted.
A Look at the Angels
First, it is important to note that the Angels have spent a fair amount this winter. Over the past few weeks, Anaheim added Tyler Anderson ($13 million owed for 2023), infielder Brandon Drury ($8 million), Carlos Estevez ($6 million), and Brett Phillips ($1.5 million). Plus, the Angels also brought in Gio Urshela and Hunter Renfroe — both of whom are arbitration-eligible and need deals prior to Opening Day — via trade.
Per Spotrac, Anaheim is set spend about $204 million on player payroll in 2023, a figure that sits in the upper half of MLB but not past the luxury tax threshold. Sure, it might not be as high as the cross-town Dodgers or the Yankees, but it’s still a solid figure and one that can build a contender.
Moreno has not been afraid to spend in the past. Since 2011, Anaheim signed stars Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Anthony Rendon to lavish deals. However, each has come with problems, whether it be regression or injuries. Not to mention, neither helped pushed Anaheim deep into the postseason. From 2012-22, the Angels have made the postseason just once.
A combination of free agents signings that have blown up in Anaheim’s face, coupled with an inability to cultivate homegrown pitchers, are just a part of the problem. Still, the Angels still have talent and still possess the ability to make the playoffs this season. If Anaheim wants to keep Ohtani past this season, winning this season can be a deciding factor.
Ohtani and 2023
Look, there are several reasons for pessimism, as far as Angels fans are concerned. Inability to succeed in the regular season over the past decade, a less-than-stellar farm system, and a stacked AL West division are just a few reasons as to why it can be hard to see a generational talent like Ohtani to stick in Anaheim past 2023.
The Angels, quite frankly, have not been in a good place for the better part of a decade. If Ohtani desires playoff success, that past — of which Ohtani has been a part of for five years — doesn’t help make the case for the Angels to keep him.
Nor do we know whether Moreno is willing to spend the money necessary in order to keep the 28-year-old in town. Given Ohtani’s prowess, there’s not much precedent for someone like him on the market. But if past contracts are any indication, it’s extremely likely that Ohtani surpasses the $400 million plateau.
Anaheim has already handed one $400+ million contract — to Mike Trout. Trout is in the middle of a 12-year, $426 million contract that the New Jersey inked to stay with the Angels. Moreno did it once, but signing Ohtani to a deal either at or greater than Trout’s will put the Angels past the luxury tax threshold. Anaheim has never passed that marker in Moreno’s tenure, not exactly a positive sign going forward.
New ownership — given Moreno’s past — could have made this situation better, but that’s not the reality of today. The threat of the Dodgers and Giants, as well as wild cards like the Mets and Blue Jays loom come the winter. Even with a new owner, keeping Ohtani was never a guarantee. While we won’t know for sure until the end of the calendar year, the focus now has to be on the 2023 Angels team. If Anaheim can crack the playoffs and Moreno is willing to invest in the 28-year-old star, perhaps Angels fans will feel a bit better. But based upon precedent, it’s understandable as to why there’s a lot of angst.