Moreno: Angels, Anaheim 'nowhere' on ballpark talks
Payroll, budget also among topics Halos owner discusses at camp
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels and the City of Anaheim "are nowhere" with regard to lease negotiations, Angels owner Arte Moreno said Friday morning.
"We've had zero conversations with them," Moreno added, "and we have no planned conversations with them."
Back in late September, the Angels, more than a year after both sides ratified a framework agreement, ended lease negotiations with the city. The two sides haven't spoken "since a long time before that," even though they were expected to restart talks on a new deal at some point, Moreno said.
Moreno wouldn't comment on other potential sites, but said the Angels -- previously in talks with Tustin, Calif., among other cities -- are "still looking at opportunities" elsewhere.
The Angels, who feel their 50-year-old ballpark is in need of a significant foundational overhaul, can walk away from their stadium lease as early as 2016 and as late as 2019. If not, they stay until 2029. Moreno, speaking to reporters Friday for about 45 minutes during his team's first workout of Spring Training, feels the Angels are "not in a pressure situation to do anything."
He recently had a message for his team of executives.
"I really felt it was important for us to focus on getting prepared for Spring Training, for us to focus on getting prepared for the season," Moreno said. "There's enough commotion without us causing it."
The Angels stayed away from the big free-agent splurge for a second straight offseason, but Moreno revealed that he and the Angels "had a peek" on James Shields, the ace right-hander who remained on the market until signing a four-year, $75 million contract with the Padres on Feb. 11.
A three-year deal would've been "ideal" for the Angels, but the Angels never submitted a formal final offer.
"Let's put it this way -- we were just watching what was happening there," Moreno said. "We were not negotiating with the player. We were watching the process, as we watched a lot of the processes."
The Angels' Opening Day payroll is projected at about $145 million -- third-highest in team history, but about $10 million less than last year -- and leaves them with about $10 million to $15 million for potential in-season upgrades, Moreno said.
The luxury-tax threshold of $189 million has basically acted as the Angels' spending limit the last few years, but Moreno said their operating budget is actually somewhere between $160 million to $165 million.
The Angels' owner said he isn't necessarily against exceeding the threshold and paying the 17.5-percent overage, but is cautious about putting himself in a situation where he's exceeding the threshold multiple years and paying an escalating tax. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at the end of the 2016 season, presenting the possibility for even higher penalties and making Moreno even more leery of exceeding the threshold.
"I don't want to be in a situation where we start losing money, and then compounding losses with taxes," Moreno said.
The Angels' TV deal with Fox Sports -- a reported 20-year, $3 billion extension signed in 2011 -- doesn't kick in until 2016, but it isn't expected to impact the Angels' payroll. Instead, the team spread an initial signing bonus over the course of multiple years, allowing them to increase their payroll the winter they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
Moreno said he takes the difference between total revenues and operating costs and throws it all into the baseball budget.
"We don't make a lot of money," Moreno said, "but we don't lose money."
A lot of that money -- $125 million from 2013-17 -- is tied to Josh Hamilton, who posted a .255/.316/.426 slash line in 240 games in his first two years with the Angels and is now in Houston recovering from surgery to his right A.C. joint.
"Interesting," Moreno said, smiling, when asked to describe the five-time All-Star's tenure with the Angels so far.
Still, the 13th-year owner is upbeat about the Angels' chances this season. He hated to see Howie Kendrick go, but he likes the pitching depth they've built and is merely banking on good health.
Asked how he feels about the team, Moreno reiterated what he says at the start of every year: "Ask me in October."
"Our goal every year is to win the World Series," Moreno added. "We have extremely high expectations. We had a good season. We're relatively healthy. I think we're deeper in our pitching; the whole organization is deeper. Everybody is very optimistic. A little luck and some good health would be good."