Moreno: Luxury tax won't deter Angels
Owner says club will do 'whatever is needed' this offseason
ANAHEIM -- The Angels enter the offseason dangerously close to the luxury-tax threshold, but they also have a lot of holes to fill in their roster and can pick from a free-agent class that is one of the most impressive in a long time.
Asked about his willingness to exceed the luxury-tax threshold in order to pursue the top players this winter, Angels owner Arte Moreno said: "If it's the right player, in the right situation, we'll do whatever is needed."
The Angels have eight players (Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Huston Street, Erick Aybar, Joe Smith and, yes, Josh Hamilton) already accounting for nearly $130 million toward the Competitive Balance Tax payroll next season, with teams taxed if they exceed $189 million.
Then there are the big arbitration-eligible bumps for Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Kole Calhoun, and the $20 million typically allocated for bonuses, benefits and players with zero to three years of service time. That could leave the Angels roughly $25 million below the threshold.
Moreno has been reluctant to exceed the threshold in the past, though he did point out that the team went over it after the 2005 season because of the Garret Anderson contract extension.
"Economically, I can't tell you we always make the right decisions -- but we have invested," Moreno said Monday, moments after introducing Billy Eppler as the Angels' general manager. "We have no debt on the team. We're trying to find, like Billy said, the secret sauce to get to the next level."
One of the biggest drawbacks of the threshold is the escalating penalty. Teams that exceed the tax the first time are billed 17.5 percent of the overage. The second time, it jumps to 30 percent. The third time, it's 40 percent. The fourth time, it's 50 percent.
But the Angels can exceed it once this offseason and then get under it, with Weaver, Wilson, Aybar and Smith off the books, saving them $46.5 million toward their CBT payroll. There will also be a new Collective Bargaining Agreement after next season, which will no doubt increase the threshold.
The free-agent market will be flush with talent this offseason. There will be premier corner outfielders in Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes; and top-of-the-rotation arms in David Price, Johnny Cueto and Zack Greinke, just to name a few.
Moreno wouldn't comment on whether he prefers a pitcher or position player. He'll wait for his new GM to sort some of that out.
"I don't want to put a hamstring on the team," Moreno said. "If we find areas where we feel we need to make an investment, we're going to make an investment. Our goal is to win a championship. We've had some really good teams here and haven't gotten it done. We're still focused on trying to accomplish that."
• The Angels and the city of Anaheim have not restarted stadium negotiations, Moreno said. Asked about his confidence level to get something done, Moreno said: "I hate to use the 'limbo' word, but we have an out until the end of 2019. We've learned a lot. We've learned a lot about our stadium, and we've learned a lot about the process, opportunities."
• Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Monday he had "no idea" if his coaching staff would return intact, adding: "That's conversations [Eppler and I] have to have. There's going to be a lot of discussions. I think our Major League staff is incredible, but there's always going to be adjustments that are made when a new general manager comes in."