Moreno: Angels will have same ballpark, more money to spend
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Owner Arte Moreno is committed to long-term improvements to both the Los Angeles Angels' roster and their venerable stadium.
The Angels will remain in Angel Stadium until at least 2029, Moreno said Saturday after their entire roster reported to Arizona for the first full workout of spring.
Moreno also believes the Angels will soon be in better financial shape to pursue baseball's top players this year and beyond, boosting their chances of building a winner around two-time AL MVP Mike Trout.
The Angels could opt out of their lease at their city-owned ballpark in 2019, and they have examined opportunities to build a new stadium nearby. Instead, Moreno confirmed the Angels will stay in the majors' fourth-oldest park for at least the next 13 seasons while making yearly additions to an estimated $40 million in improvements during his ownership, which began in 2003.
''It's going to take some time to get ourselves prepared to see which direction we're going to go,'' Moreno said of the possibility of building a new ballpark. ''We have flexibility, but acquiring land and getting a proper partner and getting prepared in California is a three-, four-year process.''
After 2029, the Angels have three three-year lease options to stay in the stadium through 2038.
Angel Stadium opened in 1966 as Anaheim Stadium, built on acres of former orange groves as the home for the Los Angeles area's AL expansion team. Only Dodger Stadium (1962), Wrigley Field (1914) and Fenway Park (1912) are older.
Angel Stadium hardly shows its age in most areas, however. In the Angels' latest round of yearly improvements this winter, they installed new lights, improved the visitors' clubhouse, added new concourse lighting and upgraded the suites.
''So that's probably a good sign,'' said Moreno, who made his fortune in outdoor advertising. ''If we were leaving, we wouldn't be spending a million and a half bucks to put new lights up.''
Speaking of fan-enticing improvements, Moreno and general manager Billy Eppler also made several additions to the roster that finished last season at 74-88, its worst record during Moreno's tenure. Moreno also believes the Halos will be more competitive simply through improved health after injuries to their pitching staff scuttled last season, but he also likes Eppler's veteran additions.
''We will have a couple new left fielders (Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere) and a second baseman (Danny Espinosa) and a new catcher (Martin Maldonado) and (starting pitcher) Jesse Chavez,'' Moreno said.
The Angels haven't won a postseason game since 2009, and they've made just one playoff appearance during the concurrent Angels careers of Trout and Albert Pujols. Moreno has the expected spring optimism for a team that couldn't catch an injury break last season.
Moreno said Eppler's refurbishment of the Angels' barren minor-league system is their top priority, but the owner also looks forward to getting past the budgetary constraints caused by his lavish contracts for Pujols and Josh Hamilton, among others. Moreno made several bold splashes earlier in this decade, but didn't land any big-ticket free agents for the past few years while those hefty contracts constricted their payroll.
C.J. Wilson made $20 million last season and didn't throw a pitch, while Hamilton is making more than $26.8 million of Moreno's money not to play for the Angels this year. Wilson is gone, and Hamilton is finally off the Angels' books this fall.
''We really looked hard at `16 and '17, and felt we would start to open up more economic flexibility in `17, `18-plus,'' Moreno said.
The Angels also have more immediate economic flexibility to fill injury holes in 2017 than they did last year, when they struggled to replace three key starting pitchers lost to season-ending elbow ligament injuries.
''If our people feel it's a player who fits, that's what we're going to do,'' Moreno said. ''We're going to try to win. We will look at what's on the market this year, and what may help us in the short term, and obviously how we're playing.''