In a news release, the Angels ownership group announced that it is considering selling the team, and will begin exploring a possible sale along with Galatioto Sports Partners (who have been retained as financial advisors during the process).
“It was 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 with an affordable and family-friendly stadium experience while featuring competitive lineups that include 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 finally come to the conclusion that now is the time. Throughout this process, we will continue to manage the franchise in the best interest of our fans, employees, players and business partners..”
Although any number of factors may have weighed into the Moreno family’s thought process, it was less than three months ago that the Anaheim 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 surrounding the stadium. Moreno’s group planned to develop the area into a mixed-use residential and commercial space, similar to other “pilot village” developments that have become common around both newer baseball stadiums and other venues in other sports.
However, the interim agreement between Moreno and the city fell apart, in large part due to an ongoing federal investigation regarding alleged corruption, violations of state laws, and insider information. Former Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu resigned his position, and the city council voted to cancel the Angel Stadium deal entirely after the scandal.
Although the stadium controversy has led to new questions about the future of the franchise in Anaheim, it now appears that Moreno himself will be leaving the Angels entirely. Moreno originally bought the team in April 2003 for a price of 184MM USD, taking over operations from the Walt Disney Company in the wake of the 2002 World Series championship season of the Angels.
That title (2002) still stands as the franchise’s only championship, despite Moreno’s efforts to turn the Angels back into a big-spending perennial contender. Under Moreno’s stewardship, the Halls have regularly been at least a one-tenth salary team, even if Moreno’s willingness to spend hasn’t led 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, although they won only two playoff series and did not 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 straight losing seasons, with the struggling 2022 squad on track to make it seven straight years of sub-.500 baseball.
As Moreno’s statement noted, “some of the game’s all-time greatest players” wore an Angels uniform in the last 20 seasons, including similar ones Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerreroand Shohei Ohtani. Despite these and other talents, the Angels simply could not break through due to a host of other ill-advised acquisitions. While Moreno wanted to spend, this aggressiveness manifested itself in many important investments that simply did not work out – ie Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, Vernon Wells, Gary Matthews Jr., Zack Cozartand (so far) Anthony Rendon.
Pujols’ ten-year, $240MM free agent deal is arguably the defining transaction of Moreno’s ownership, and sadly symbolic of the Angels’ last decade of struggles. While Pujols was still an elite player entering 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 some good seasons in Anaheim, but injuries and the normal aging curve made him much less productive than during his prime years with the Cardinals.
Responsibility for those signings ultimately fell to Moreno himself, who was widely known to be much more involved in baseball operations than the average owner. The Angels had five different managing directors during Moreno’s tenure, with that revolving door reflecting Moreno’s lack of patience. Also, the Angels didn’t have much of a minor league pipeline in place to build around these high-priced acquisitions, as the Angels routinely traded prospects and missed out on several draft picks.
Trout is the major exception, of course, but the Angels couldn’t capitalize on a homegrown prospect developing into a legendary player. Signing Ohtani was another huge moment for the organization, and while injuries have largely prevented Trout and Ohtani from seeing much time together in the same lineup, it still seems hard to believe that a team with two generations of players couldn’t. 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 is sure to be a major story for the next year-plus, with an ownership change now adding another interesting wrinkle.
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 some bidders for the Nats will also consider buying the Angels, and it is safe to assume that both franchises will sell for at least $2.5 billion. The Angels’ proximity within the greater Los Angeles area could mean a higher price tag, although it also remains to be seen if the organization will necessarily remain in Anaheim.
Under the team’s Angel Stadium lease, the Angels are tied to their stadium through 2029, with a club option to extend that lease through the 2038 season. While the Halls aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, at least a new owner could have designs on moving the team elsewhere. Conversely, a new owner could represent a fresh start for the Angels’ future in Anaheim, perhaps a fresh start on stadium rebuilding talks, and perhaps even another name change. It’s probably safe to say that the old “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” moniker 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.