Moreno talks Anaheim, Trout deals as camp opens
Angels owner claims talks with City at stalemate, wants to lock up young outfielder
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels owner Arte Moreno confirmed Friday the club is in talks with Mike Trout about a long-term contract, said he isn't opposed to going over the luxury-tax threshold for the right player and expressed optimism about snapping a four-year postseason absence in 2014.
As for negotiations with the City of Anaheim regarding a new stadium lease?
"The easiest way for me to say it right now is we're at a stalemate," Moreno said Friday in an extensive interview.
Back in September, the Anaheim City Council approved a non-binding framework for a deal in which the Angels could commit $150 million to improve the infrastructure of the city's 48-year-old ballpark. To help fund those improvements, the Angels would have the rights to develop the surrounding 153 acres of land for $1 a year. The city also approved an extension of the current opt-out date from 2016 to '19. The deal would keep the Angels in Anaheim through 2036.
But Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has objected to the deal and believes the city should benefit from some of the profits the Angels make on that surrounding land.
"Somewhere along the line, there has to be a partnership," Moreno said. "Everybody thinks I'm going to make this fortune off the land. The first thing I have to do is capitalize the team, and then I have to capitalize the stadium, and then I have to go develop something, and who knows how long that takes before it becomes profitable."
Angel Stadium opened in 1966 and went under a major renovation in '98, split between the city and the Walt Disney Company that owned the Angels.
Asked about the likelihood of the Angels eventually playing somewhere else, Moreno said: "We haven't crossed that line yet."
"But it's the fourth-oldest stadium," he added later, "and there's been a lot of new stadiums built, and we're sort of looking a little bit at the footprint of what happened [with the Braves, who will move from Atlanta to Cobb County in 2017]."
Does Moreno have a deadline for agreeing to a deal or walking away from negotiations?
"I do, and it is in my mind," he said. "I can't tell you [when that is], but it's in my mind. ... We're obviously past the time when it should've happened."
The timeline for an Angels extension with Trout is a lot simpler: They'd like to sign the 22-year-old center fielder to a long-term deal shortly after Opening Day, so they don't have to go through the complex arbitration process next year and his new contract doesn't count against the team's Collective Balance Tax payroll until 2015.
Trout is still four years away from free agency, but the Angels, Moreno confirmed, are already "communicating very well" with his agent about an extension, though he declined to say if anything is close.
"The reality is it always gets down to the number," Moreno said. "I think he likes it here; we like him here."
The Angels just completed a relatively quiet offseason, their biggest signing being the three-year, $15.75 million contract for setup man Joe Smith. Moreno felt Masahiro Tanaka's asking price was too high for someone who has yet to pitch in the U.S. He also confirmed a previous report that the Angels offered Matt Garza a four-year, $52 million contract -- which he pulled off the table shortly after the Winter Meetings -- only to watch Garza sign a four-year, $50 million deal with the Brewers in late January.
"When he's good, he can be a [No. 2 starter]," Moreno said of Garza. "He can help you. And it would've really given us that layer of depth."
The Angels don't really have that now. They're basically relying on three young starters behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson -- Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs -- and they're hoping Joe Blanton and Mark Mulder can emerge as secondary options.
But they also have an additional $15 million of wiggle room before hitting the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, at which point first-time offenders are taxed 17.5-percent of the overage, and the Angels could use that flexibility to make in-season improvements.
That threshold has essentially marked the Angels' spending limit the past few years, but Moreno said it isn't necessarily because of the tax.
"The reality is we have an operating budget, and the operating budget is below the threshold," Moreno said. "What we try not to do is try to go negative. Long-term, it just doesn't work to be in the red financially."
Moreno left the door open for exceeding the threshold to bring in the right player.
"Let's just say we come out of the box good," Moreno said. "It's a long season. We come out of the box, and we get to the break and there's somebody available, then what you have to do is try to do the best you can to get somebody in here.
"People keep saying that we're bringing in players and it's crippled us in the market. It hasn't crippled us. We have no debt on our team, we aren't losing money. We made some money last year. We really would make some money if we could figure out a way to make the playoffs."
Last year, as the Angels embarked on what would be an 84-loss season, speculation swirled that Moreno would have to make a decision between keeping long-time skipper Mike Scioscia or new general manager Jerry Dipoto. Instead, both stayed and Scioscia's coaching staff was reconstructed.
Asked about keeping both, Moreno pointed to Scioscia's track record, talked about how much he likes Dipoto's front-office team -- and said there was never really a decision to be made.
"No one ever called me or asked me that question," Moreno said. "Everybody implied it."
If the Angels struggle again, particularly out of the gate, speculation over the job statuses of Dipoto and Scioscia will start up again.
Moreno, however, is typically confident this time of year.
"I really believe we can compete with this team," he said. "We like our team, and we have flexibility to make adjustments if we need to."