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The Daily News of Los Angeles


TEMPE, ARIZ. >> Before he spoke to his team on the first day of spring training they were all in the same room, Angels owner Arte Moreno told reporters on Saturday that he's committed to improvements on two fronts.

To the team, and to the ballpark they will call home through at least 2029.

That is the next time they have a feasible option to get out of their lease with the city of Anaheim. After that, they have a series of three-year options until 2038.

Moreno said leaving sooner than that - they have an option they must exercise by October 2018 - is unrealistic because it takes three or four years to arrange for a new site, including financing and California's environmental impact requirements.

Instead, they will keep working with the city of Anaheim on improving Angel Stadium, which is the fourth-oldest park in the majors, opened in 1966. This year, he said the club spent about $1.5 million on installing new lights.

Asked what other improvements fans could expect to see, Moreno mentioned things like paint, concession stands, bathrooms and then ...

"We will have a couple new left fielders and a second baseman and a new catcher and Jesse Chavez," Moreno said, referring to the offseason acquisitions he hopes will help get the Angels back to the playoffs.

The Angels have made the playoffs once in the past seven seasons. They were swept by the Kansas City Royals in 2014, so they haven't won a postseason game since 2009.

In recent seasons, they have stayed out of the bidding for the top free agents in baseball also, feeding the notion that the club was languishing along, wasting the prime years of superstar Mike Trout.

Moreno, however, said they will have more financial flexibility going forward to supplement the roster.

"We really sort of looked hard at '16 and '17 and felt we'd start to open up more economic flexibility in '17-18 plus," Moreno said.

The Angels have about $68 million worth of payroll on the books for 2017 that could be wiped off for 2018, most notably the final year of Josh Hamilton's contract.

Asked if the Angels will be in the bidding for the "marquee" free agents next winter, Moreno said: "If our people feel it's a player who fits, that's what we're going to do. We're going to try to win."

Moreno added that the Angels still have some flexibility to add players later this season. They are currently about $10 million to $12 million below the threshold for the luxury tax for 2017.

Of course, Moreno's willingness to spend more later in the season - presumably taking on a contract in a trade - depends on how competitive the team is.

Moreno said he believes the team, as currently constituted, has a chance.

"We feel we're going to be competitive," he said. "We need to stay healthy. We have to play well in our division."

In the longer term, Moreno sounded optimistic about improving both the farm system and supplementing through free agency.

"We continue to invest in the minor league system," he said, "and have enough economic flexibility to be able to go out and, if we do have holes, try to fill those holes."

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February 20, 2017


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