Angels GM on Ohtani: 'The relationship is outstanding'
GM spoke to media about team's ownership, offseason moves and more
ANAHEIM -- Angels general manager Perry Minasian said on Saturday he’s excited that owner Arte Moreno isn’t selling the club and that he’s still exploring improving the club, with the start of Spring Training just a little more than a week away.
The Halos have had a busy offseason, improving their depth, as well as signing left-hander Tyler Anderson and potential closer Carlos Estévez to multiyear deals, while also trading for infielder Gio Urshela and outfielder Hunter Renfroe. Their payroll is at roughly $206 million, which is a step up from last year’s $180 million payroll. But Minasian said that doesn’t mean he’s done adding to the roster.
"We’re just trying to put a quality team on the field, nothing has changed," Minasian said. "Obviously we were really aggressive early in the offseason and we've spent more money than we ever have. And I'm appreciative of that. The decision not to sell, I'm not surprised [by it], because I know how much he loves baseball. He loves this team. He loves this organization. And I’m excited."
Minasian added that he hasn’t been told he can’t go above the luxury tax level, as the Angels are approaching that mark. For Competitive Balance Tax purposes, the Angels' 40-man payroll sits at roughly $221 million, and the first tax threshold is $233 million.
The Angels have remained active in monitoring the free-agent market, and recently they were linked to veteran free agents such as right-hander Michael Wacha, catcher Gary Sánchez, shortstop Elvis Andrus and relievers Zack Britton and Andrew Chafin.
"The payroll is at a record number, but with that being said, there's still opportunities out there to improve that we’re examining, and that's exciting," Minasian said. "Last year in Spring Training, we signed two players. So, that's something that we'll continue to look at, how to improve the club. We want this to be a great place to be."
But Minasian wouldn’t say whether Moreno’s decision not to sell has had any effect on negotiations with superstar Shohei Ohtani, who is set to be a free agent after the season. He did say, however, that Ohtani will make one Cactus League start with the Angels before heading to Japan on March 1 for the World Baseball Classic.
And Minasian believes Moreno will do whatever he can to try to sign Ohtani to a long-term deal.
"He's obviously invested in this club throughout his whole ownership," Minasian said. "We've been Top 10 in payroll for a long time. So I don't see that changing. Knowing the individual and knowing how much he wants to win, I don’t believe anything is out of the realm of possibility."
It’ll ultimately be up to Ohtani whether he wants to remain with the Angels, but Minasian did say he has a strong relationship with the former American League MVP and his agent, Nez Balelo. The two sides were able to avoid arbitration twice, as the club signed Ohtani to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million before the 2021 season and a one-year deal worth $30 million in '23.
"I think there's a respect level here," Minasian said. "He chose to play here. I think that was one of the reasons why he chose to play here. We’ve been able to agree on two deals over the last two years, which is not easy to do. That’s not something that happens too often, especially with a player of his caliber. So, there's a respect and trust level there that I don't think will change. And I think the relationship is outstanding."
Minasian last week FaceTimed with Ohtani, who is already training in Arizona to get ready for the World Baseball Classic and the upcoming season, according to the GM. He also said Ohtani has no limitations playing for Team Japan and there are no worries about his preparation for the start of the season.
"There’s no restrictions," Minasian said. "We expect him to play and hit and pitch and do what he does and show the world how good of a player he is."