The Angels have taken quite a bit of flak for a seeming unwillingness to exceed the luxury tax threshold, but owner Arte Moreno strongly denied to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez that he is firmly against exceeding that $189MM threshold. “It has never been about that,” Moreno told Gonzalez. “It has never been with the threshold. …We have a budget, and every year, I’ve overspent our budget.” Moreno says that his operating budget has typically been in the $140-150MM range, but he’s consistently exceeded that mark to the point where he suggested to Gonzalez that the team is barely avoiding debt. Moreno, though, seemingly conceded to the fact that the possibility of exceeding the tax barrier played some role in the club’s offseason, as Gonzalez goes on to mention that the owner “wasn’t confident that the Angels would be able to comfortably get back under the threshold given their potential holes,” which prompted them to pass on high-profile free agents. It would seem, then, that his assertion is that while he wasn’t entirely resistant to the notion of exceeding, the proper situation didn’t present itself this winter. The Angels do have a record payroll for the 2016 season, Gonzalez points out, even with a Craig Gentry/Daniel Nava platoon in left field and Johnny Giavotella/Cliff Pennington in line for most of the second base at-bats. Just as importantly, though, he adds that the Angels are about $2MM shy of the luxury tax threshold at present. Notably, Moreno denied an interview to the Los Angeles Times, as Pedro Moura writes.
A bit more from Gonzalez’s column and several more Angels notes on an evening with plenty of news coming out of Anaheim…
- Regarding the possibility of eventually looking to trade Mike Trout — a notion that stemmed from a fairly innocuous comment in Keith Law’s farm system rankings at ESPN — Moreno shot down the possibility in definitive fashion. “One hundred percent we are not trading Mike Trout,” Moreno told Gonzalez. “…It’s not even in the thought process.” Honestly, it’s fairly surprising to me that this even reached the point where the owner felt the need to comment, but Moreno’s firm denial merits a brief mention.
- While the Angels didn’t make the big deadline splash that many fans were hoping for this past July, it wasn’t for lack of trying, Gonzalez tweets. According to Gonzalez, the Halos “tried hard” to pry Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers, but Detroit wouldn’t budge on its asking price of Sean Newcomb. Eventually, the two sides scrapped the talks and, of course, Cespedes was traded to the Mets for right-handers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. Newcomb was later traded alongside right-hander Chris Ellis and shortstop Erick Aybar to bring Andrelton Simmons to the Halos. For those wondering why the Angels didn’t make a run at Cespedes this winter, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register got the sense that Cespedes preferred the East Coast and didn’t want to sign with the Angels, who would’ve had to drastically overpay in order to sign him (links to Twitter).
- Another interesting note from Fletcher, who writes in a full column that left-hander Hector Santiago said his agent called him in November to inform him that he was on the verge of being traded to the Orioles. A deal (clearly) never came to fruition. The Orioles are known to have been seeking rotation help all winter, and Santiago was an oft-speculated trade candidate when the Angels were seeking ways in which to bolster their outfield situation. Specific parameters of the apparent near-deal aren’t known, though if the agent and player are being informed that something is close, that would signify rather advanced discussions.
- Also within that piece, Fletcher writes that setup man Joe Smith would like to remain with the Halos beyond the expiration of his contract at season’s end, although there have been no extension talks between the two sides. “I would love to (re-sign) but there were a few more important things this winter to be keeping our eye on,” said Smith.
- Former Angels GM and current Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto discussed his relationship with Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia candidly in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link). Dipoto praised Moreno’s willingness to spend and called Scioscia a likely Hall of Famer, but he admitted that there were challenges. “There were times where it was very difficult to the job that I was asked to do, but that was because I was caught in between, perhaps, two different dynamics,” said Dipoto. “And I would say the same of them. I had some different ideas that maybe they weren’t as comfortable with…” Dipoto went on to say that Mariners ownership has been more receptive to his ideas. “…And, as importantly, I have a manager now in Scott Servais who I do see eye-to-eye with,” Dipoto continued. “We have discussed every move, we have disagreed on many ideas as we’ve gone through this offseason, but in a really productive way. And, fair or unfair, that was not always the case with Mike. … Healthy disagreement is a good thing, and sometimes in Anaheim as you saw played out nationally multiple times over the four years, it wasn’t quite as healthy.”
- Scioscia was made aware of Dipoto’s comments, Moura notes in his aforementioned column, though the longtime Halos skipper didn’t seem to take much umbrage with anything that was said. “I think there were certainly times that you are not going to agree on everything,” Scioscia explained. “I think there were times when the communication was there, maybe times where it wasn’t what it could have been. But I’m not looking back.” Scioscia said he operated similarly under former GMs Bill Stoneman and Tony Reagins. “I think you have to have that free-flowing of ideas,” he continued. “I think at times, we did.”