Will Moreno's decision affect Ohtani's plans?

January 31st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- Angels owner Arte Moreno surprised many when he announced last week that he decided he wouldn’t sell the club after exploring a possible sale since late August.

Moreno was widely expected to sell the Angels and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred even said at the Winter Meetings that the process was going well and that he was hopeful a sale would happen before the start of the season. But Moreno ultimately decided he wanted to remain owner and announced on Jan. 24 that the club is not for sale.

It has ripple effects throughout the organization, including the front office and coaching staff. A new owner could’ve come in and started with a clean slate across the organization, but now, that’s much less likely with Moreno still in charge. General manager Perry Minasian’s contract runs through 2024, and manager Phil Nevin signed a one-year deal after serving as the interim skipper for 106 games last season after Joe Maddon was dismissed.

Minasian and Nevin have something to prove this season, but at least they know who the owner will be going forward and won’t have to worry about new ownership coming in and changing things up.

But the big question is how it’ll affect two-way superstar , who is set to be a free agent after the season. Ohtani signed a one-year deal worth $30 million on Oct. 1 to avoid arbitration, but wasn’t expected to explore an extension until the new ownership was in place.

With Moreno remaining as owner, Ohtani and his representative, Nez Balelo, could explore an extension at any time. But Ohtani is more likely to see if the Halos can finally build a winner around him and fellow superstar Mike Trout.

The Angels have yet to finish above .500 since Ohtani signed with the club before the 2018 season. He’s stated in the past that winning is the most important thing to him, and he’s going to have to believe they can build a winning franchise going forward.

It makes this upcoming season even more important for the Angels, who are aiming for their first postseason berth since 2014. It doesn’t figure to be easy, however, as the division remains tough with the Astros, Mariners and Rangers all postseason contenders as well.

The Halos have been willing to spend this offseason and have addressed the depth issues that plagued them last year. Most recently, they signed outfielder Brett Phillips to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million and have also signed left-hander Tyler Anderson, infielder Brandon Drury and reliever Carlos Estévez to multiyear deals, while also trading for outfielder Hunter Renfroe and infielder Gio Urshela.

The club's payroll is now at roughly $206 million, a step up from the final payroll of $180 million in 2022. For Competitive Balance Tax purposes, the Angels' 40-man payroll sits at roughly $221 million, and the first tax threshold is $233 million.

So, the Halos are trying to build a competitive roster, but now, we’ll have to see how it plays out and if it’s enough for Ohtani to want to re-sign with the club. It’s simply still too early to know what Ohtani will decide and whether Moreno’s decision not to sell will have any impact on that decision.

Ohtani’s potential free agency will be the talk of baseball going forward -- he’s expected to command more than the $426.5 million contract that Trout signed before the 2019 season. Moreno’s decision not to sell is just the latest twist in the Ohtani saga, which will be worth monitoring throughout 2023.