Angels’ Moreno exploring possible sale of team
1: 19 PM ET
Alden GonzalezESPN Staff Writer
- ESPN baseball reporter. Covered the L.A. Rams for ESPN from 2016 to 2018 and the L.A. Angels for MLB.com from 2012 to 2016.
The Los Angeles Angels could undergo a change in ownership.
Arte Moreno, who has presided over the franchise for the better part of two decades, has “initiated a formal process to evaluate strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the team,” it was announced Tuesday.
The expectation is that the Angels eventually will be sold, though Moreno and his team will keep their options open with regard to the potential new ownership structure and whether it could be a single person, a group or in some other form, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
“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,” Moreno, 76, wrote in his statement. “Throughout this process, we will continue to run the franchise in the best interest of our fans, employees, players and business partners.”
Moreno and his group have retained Galatioto Sports Partners as a financial adviser in the process. GSP president Sal Galatioto and managing director Brad Katcher were part of the group that represented The Walt Disney Co. in its sale of the Angels to Moreno in 2003.
The Angels were coming off a World Series championship then, and Moreno, the first Mexican-American to become majority owner of a major league team, was a popular figure initially. He lowered beer prices, splurged on high-priced free agents such as Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, and helped spearhead the most successful sustained run in franchise history, a time that saw the Angels claim five division titles in a six-year stretch from 2004 to ’09.
The Angels had stability up top, with Bill Stoneman presiding as their general manager and Mike Scioscia navigating a long stint as their manager. The farm system continued to churn out elite talent such as Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and Jered Weaver, a robust payroll decorated the team with stars, and at least 3 million fans attended the Angels’ ballpark annually.
But the Angels have made the playoffs only once since 2009, and at 52-71, are fading toward their seventh consecutive losing season. They have employed a generational talent in Mike Trout for over a decade and have enjoyed historic performances from two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani over the past two seasons, but the combination of bloated contracts — Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton previously, Anthony Rendon currently — and an inferior farm system have kept them out of contention in recent years.
As their postseason absences mounted, Moreno has absorbed rampant criticism for meddling in baseball-operations decisions, refusing to exceed Major League Baseball’s luxury-tax threshold and for not committing enough resources to the Angels’ player-development efforts. The team’s payroll ranked within the top third in the industry during every year of Moreno’s ownership, but many of the team’s signings have backfired in recent years.
The Angels have also navigated an uncommon amount of turnover in recent years. In the 15 years since Stoneman stepped down, they have employed four GMs — Tony Reagins, Jerry Dipoto, Billy Eppler and, currently, Perry Minasian. Brad Ausmus replaced Scioscia as manager in 2019, and he was replaced one year later by Joe Maddon, who was fired near the end of a prolonged losing streak in early June.
The team is expected to conduct a full managerial search this offseason.
The potential sale of the franchise during that time makes Ohtani’s future seem even murkier. The reigning American League MVP is a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, and there was already heavy speculation that the Angels could trade him this coming offseason. Ohtani’s presence provides the Angels with a substantial sum of money because of his marketability in his native Japan, a factor that might motivate the Angels to keep him. But the industry perception that he will undoubtedly sign elsewhere as a free agent could also serve as strong motivation to trade him before a new owner steps in, similar to how the Washington Nationals handled the Juan Soto situation.
Trout, meanwhile, is signed through 2030 and has a no-trade clause.
“It has been a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” Moreno said in his statement. “As an organization, we have worked to provide our fans an affordable and family-friendly ballpark experience while fielding competitive lineups which included some of the game’s all-time greatest players.”
Lately, Moreno and the Angels have dealt with an assortment of off-field issues, most notably the sudden death of young pitcher Tyler Skaggs in July 2019. Eric Kay, the Angels’ longtime communications director, was later convicted in connection with Skaggs’ overdose.
The Angels were also at the center of MLB’s efforts to corral the use of illegal foreign substances on baseballs by its pitchers in the wake of the firing of longtime clubhouse attendant Brian Harkins, who made a blend of rosin and pine tar and distributed it to players on both teams. Harkins has pursued litigation against the Angels and MLB for defamation while stating that the distribution of such substances has been a long-accepted practice.
Moreno also has been unable to purchase the land surrounding Angel Stadium, which he has long desired. The latest deal was killed by the Anaheim City Council in May in the wake of allegations in an FBI investigation that then-mayor Harry Sidhu, who later stepped down, provided confidential information to the Angels during the negotiations.
The Angels are still bound to their stadium — the fourth-oldest in the majors — through 2029 and have the option of staying as late as 2038. They play out of Anaheim, California, which is in Orange County, but Moreno controversially added “Los Angeles” to the team name in 2005 to help make the Angels a bigger brand. That decision might have played a role in the Angels landing a major TV deal in 2011, which is worth about $150 million a year and runs through 2032.
The team in March was estimated to be worth $2.2 billion by Forbes.
Reaching the 20th year of his ownership tenure prompted Moreno to take a macro look at the franchise, which led to the decision to pursue selling the team after lots of deliberation with his family, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
In a statement, Mike Lyster, a spokesperson for the City of Anaheim, wrote: “We have seen three Angels owners since the team moved here in 1966. While team sales do not happen every day, they are a fact of life in sports. This is a potential decision for Arte Moreno based on his investment and family considerations. Should we see new ownership, we look forward to continuing a great tradition of baseball in Anaheim.”
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.