Sudden financial restraint by Angels, Dodgers welcome development

Angels owner Arte Moreno seems more thrifty this offseason.

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The biggest story this winter is that two National League West teams have signed top-notch starting pitchers … and neither of those teams was the Los Angeles Dodgers. But here’s an under-the-radar story: The Los Angeles Angels haven’t spent any money, either.

Last season the Angels got essentially zero production from their left fielders or their bench, and yet as Bill Shaikin reports, the Angels seem to have little interest in any of the big free-agent bats:

 

It is no secret that Moreno is reluctant to pay a luxury tax. The Angels have crept within $4 million of the payroll figure that would trigger a tax payment, according to Moreno.

"Right now, we’re $20 million higher than we’ve ever been," he said.

I can’t help wondering if Arte Moreno’s finally gotten religion, like so many deep-pocketed owners before him. You try to buy a World Series for a couple of years, and when it doesn’t work … you just give up? Really?

We’ll see. Maybe another non-playoffs year or two might loosen Moreno’s purse strings some. I’m just amused by the notion that throwing around dollars like a battleship’s complement of drunken sailors would make sense for a couple of years, and then suddenly stop making sense.

But what’s happening in Los Angeles and Orange counties this winter is yet another fine object lesson in the unpredictability of the enterprise. Just one year ago, the Angels topped the majors with 98 wins; the Dodgers weren’t far behind with 94 wins. It sure seemed like those teams were primed to dominate the baseball world for the foreseeable future, considering the talent at hand and both franchises’ demonstrated willingness to outspend everybody else. How (you might have wondered) could anyone stop these behemoths?

Yes, I know: Just as we once wondered how anyone could stop the Yankees and the Red Sox, and yet somehow stopped they were. It’s a lesson that we (or at least I) seem to learn over and over again, having somehow forgotten even the recent past.

HOT STOVE LEAGUE

Because somehow, here we are. The Angels (supposedly) can’t afford a left fielder, and are set to enter 2016 with exactly one premier hitter on the roster. The Dodgers, who probably earn a million dollars every time an angel gets its wings, have been outbid for Zack Greinke, and now they’ve reportedly backed out of a deal with consolation prize Hisashi Iwakuma.

Now, it would be terribly silly for anyone to panic about the Dodgers. For one thing, there’s probably enough talent on hand right now for 90 wins, especially considering the likelihood of a midseason trade. For another, there’s plenty of time between now and Opening Day. My only real point is that every time we think some team or another is just going to buy all the best players, we’re wrong. Sometimes it’s because there isn’t space on the roster, sometimes it’s because other teams just want the player even more, and sometimes it’s because an owner becomes disillusioned after his team somehow isn’t the one out of 30 that winds up as the last team standing. Also, some owners really hate paying taxes! Arte Moreno, it seems, might be one of these.

If so, I’m thankful. The best thing about sports is its unpredictability. From 1921 through 1964, the Yankees won the American League almost every year. This was great for the Yankees and their fans, but not so great for just about everyone else. I respect and admire the current Dodgers for various reasons, and I find baseball more enjoyable when the Dodgers are good than when they’re not. But I find baseball less enjoyable when certain teams threaten to simply purchase all the best available players.

Fortunately, it seems that my fears were unfounded. Again.