Sale of Angels could bring welcome change for fans and MLB

By Pedro Moura
FOX Sports MLB Writer

In gloriously welcome news to the Angels’ distressed fan base, owner Arte Moreno announced Tuesday that he will explore selling the team. 

Because few franchises could stand to experience a more seismic shift from a sale, the possibilities will ripple across the industry until Moreno selects a buyer.

The franchise’s failings are plain to see. In Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Angels employ the greatest ballplayer of the past decade and the greatest ballplayer of the moment. Yet they have not seriously contended for postseason play in nearly a decade. The causes are many, but many stem from ownership. Moreno has meddled more than his peers. He has consistently spent money but just as consistently not spent enough to surpass the luxury-tax threshold. He has insisted on shooting for short-term success at the expense of building a more sustainable organization.

By now, Moreno and the Angels have already squandered Trout’s prime; at 31, he has suffered from a series of injuries that could hamper the remaining eight seasons on his contract. He also has a no-trade clause and won’t be going anywhere unless he chooses. 

The Angels are also fewer than 200 games away from losing Ohtani to free agency. A sale could change the team’s tack on Ohtani and so much else. Even the prospect of a sale could mean that Ohtani is traded sooner than later. Notably, the Washington Nationals, also for sale, elected to trade superstar Juan Soto to San Diego earlier this month after he declined a lucrative extension offer.

The Angels considered trading Ohtani at the same time but opted against it hours before the MLB trade deadline. While Ohtani won’t bring back as much as Soto, because he has less club control, an offseason trade could net the Angels the sort of young talent that could one day get them back to the playoffs.

The last time the Angels were in the playoffs was October 2014, after a rare, dominant season. They paced the AL West but ran into the World Series-bound Kansas City Royals in the first round. They scored six runs in three games and lost them all. Since then, they have cycled through three general managers (and an interim), three managers (and an interim) and a host of free-agent pitchers signed to supply immediate innings. Beyond Trout and Ohtani, whom they recruited in December 2017, the Angels have built little that has lasted.

This season’s hope was a world-class offense and enough pitching to sneak into October. The pitching has actually delivered on those dreams, but the offense has fallen far short. Trout has again been hurt. High-priced free-agent signing Anthony Rendon is again out for the year. Former top picks Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh have struggled. A losing streak cost Joe Maddon his managerial job, and interim choice Phil Nevin has been no better. Ticket sales are well below franchise norms.

Off the field, too, the Angels have been mired in controversy. They are currently the defendants in two years-long lawsuits: a wrongful-death case brought by the family of late pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died on a road trip from ingesting fentanyl that might have been provided by a club employee, and a defamation case brought by longtime clubhouse attendant Bubba Harkins, whom the franchise fired for providing foreign substances to pitchers.

Also, earlier this year, the Anaheim city council nixed the franchise’s agreement with the city to buy and renovate aging Angel Stadium and build up the surrounding area. What’s more, the FBI is investigating the city’s former mayor for allegedly sharing confidential information with the team during negotiations in exchange for an expected donation to his re-election campaign.

For Major League Baseball, this era’s Angels represent quite a quagmire. They bear the name of the country’s second-largest city and play in its television market. They employ two of the most talented players the sport has ever seen. And they are never anywhere near the playoffs. 

A sale has the potential to change all of that — and relatively fast. These transactions take many months, if not years, to finalize. But as the Nationals’ trade showed, change can manifest much sooner. An offseason Ohtani sweepstakes would make for a scorching stove.

Tuesday’s news, then, provides hope — to a fan base that has not trafficked in it at this time of year for many years and to a league that has lacked a contender where one should clearly be. Nineteen years after he purchased the Angels for $184 million, Moreno is considering selling them. He stands to make his money back at least tenfold, if not fifteenfold. 

And the organization’s dwindling fan base stands to once again dream of an October run — just perhaps not with Trout and Ohtani.

Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for three seasons for The Athletic and, before that, the Angels and Dodgers for five seasons for the Orange County Register and L.A. Times. More previously, he covered his alma mater, USC, for The son of Brazilian immigrants, he grew up in the Southern California suburbs. His first book, “How to Beat a Broken Game,” came out this spring. Follow him on Twitter @pedromoura.

Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more.

Source link