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Angels owner: Negotiations with Anaheim on stadium lease 'at a stalemate'

February 14, 2014|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels owner Arte Moreno on Dec. 15, 2012.
Angels owner Arte Moreno on Dec. 15, 2012. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Angels owner Arte Moreno said Friday that negotiations with the city of Anaheim for a new stadium lease are “at a stalemate,” but he stopped short of saying he was aggressively pursuing a new home for the team.

“We haven’t crossed that line yet,” Moreno said while Angels pitchers and catchers finished their first day of spring-training workouts. “In September, we thought we had a good outline for a deal … but the reality is, we have not been able to get it done. Somewhere along the line, there has to be a partnership.”

In September, the Anaheim City Council approved the framework of a deal in which the Angels would spend $150 million to renovate 48-year-old Angel Stadium in exchange for a long-term $1-a-year lease to develop the parking lot. The team’s deadline to opt out of the stadium lease was also extended from 2016 to 2019.

But Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait objected to the deal and has been rallying opposition to it because he thinks the city should at least split profits from any parking-lot development.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to take for that land to be profitable,” Moreno said. “We have the fourth-oldest stadium in baseball. It still has the original plumbing, electrical, concrete. It’s going to cost between $125 million and $150 million just to keep it serviceable.”

Asked if he had a deadline to walk away from negotiations with the city, Moreno said, “I have one in my mind. Put it this way. We’re way past the time this should have happened.”

Moreno touched on a wide variety of other topics during a 30-minute interview, including negotiations with star outfielder Mike Trout for a long-term contract extension, which he said are ongoing, his decision to retain General Manager Jerry Dipoto and Manager Mike Scioscia after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year in 2013, and the perception that the Angels are unwilling to move their luxury-tax payroll beyond the $189-million threshold.

“The reality is we have an operating budget below the threshold, we made money last year, and we’re not interested in being in the red financially,” said Moreno, whose luxury-tax payroll currently stands around $173 million.

The Angels did not make the “big-splash” move that marked the two previous winters, when they signed Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton for a combined $365 million, but Moreno confirmed they offered free-agent pitcher Matt Garza a four-year, $52-million deal in December.

The veteran right-hander turned down the Angels, thinking he would make more money elsewhere, and signed a four-year, $50-million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in January.

“I’m not opposed to going over the threshold, but it has to be for the right guy,” Moreno said. “If we get out of the box good, we get to the All-Star break and someone becomes available who could really enhance the team, we’ll do our best to get him.”

Moreno said the Angels have been “communicating very well” with the agent for Trout, who is still a year away from reaching arbitration and, as one of the best players in the game, could command a deal approaching $300 million.

“I can’t say anything is close, but I’m optimistic by nature,” Moreno said. “It always gets down to the numbers. He likes it here, and we like him. We have four more years of control, and the farther you take someone out [in years] on a contract, the more risk the team assumes.”

There was heavy speculation last September that Scioscia, Dipoto or both would be fired as the Angels approached the end of a highly disappointing season in which they went 78-84 and finished third in the American League West.

But Scioscia, who has guided the Angels to six playoff appearances and the 2002 World Series title, had five more years on his contract, and Dipoto had been on the job only two years into a three-year deal.

“Mike has been here for 14 years, and I tried not to look at the capsule of one season,” Moreno said. “He’s been a winning coach. And I like the front-office team Jerry has assembled. They’re smart, they communicate well, and I like what our minor league staff is doing.”

Moreno also felt Dipoto needed more time to turn around a minor league system that Baseball America ranked 30th of 30 teams in 2013 and 29th this year.

“You look at our system, and there’s no pitchers coming in,” Moreno said. “You go to the cupboard, you’re hungry, and there’s nothing in the cabinet.”

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