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Owner Arte Moreno says Angels not in play for big bats on free-agent market

Owner Arte Moreno says Angels not in play for big bats on free-agent market
Angels owner Arte Moreno takes in spring training at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., in March. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Owner Arte Moreno threw a wet blanket over fans clamoring for the Angels to make a big splash in the free-agent market, saying the team is not seriously pursuing the four big-name outfielders—Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Chris Davis and Alex Gordon—who are still available.

"We're probably going to be out," Moreno said before serving as grand marshal of Wednesday night's Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. "We're talking to them. The numbers are big. Right now, we haven't been able to … it really gets down to economics."

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Moreno said that with Wednesday's signing of outfielder/first baseman Daniel Nava to a one-year, $1.375-million contract, the Angels have pushed their 2016 luxury-tax payroll to within $4 million of the $189-million tax threshold.

Moreno has incurred a luxury tax only once, in 2004, and he has been reluctant to cross the threshold ever since.

"If we had a player that we felt was the right guy, we would probably go through it," Moreno said. "Right now, economically, it doesn't fit. … You really have to look at 2017 and 2018 and beyond.

"When you start looking at seven-year deals, they're tough. You really stretch the franchise out. If there's a mistake or injury and it doesn't work out, it really hinders what you're trying to accomplish."

The ill-fated five-year, $125-million contract the Angels gave to left fielder Josh Hamilton before 2013 is a case in point. The underachieving Hamilton suffered a substance-abuse relapse last winter, the Angels traded him to Texas and will pay Hamilton another $40 million over the next two seasons.

That put enough of a drag on the 2016 payroll that the Angels did not make an offer to outfielder Jason Heyward, who would have been a perfect fit in Anaheim but signed an eight-year, $184-million deal with the Chicago Cubs, or pursue top free-agent pitchers Zack Greinke and David Price. And they do not appear inclined to make offers to Cespedes, Upton, Gordon or Davis.

They could still pursue less-costly free-agent outfielders such as Gerardo Parra or Denard Span or trade for outfielders such as Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce or the Dodgers’ Andre Either. Or, they could go with a platoon of Nava and Craig Gentry in left field.

"There are players all the way through the outfield market, not just where your eyes might fixate," General Manager Billy Eppler said. "There are candidates out there that might not be the ones you guys are chatting about, players in both the trade and free-agent markets who can help this club."

Angels fans were hoping for more. Asked what he would say to fans who are frustrated by the team's inability to land a high-impact player this winter, Moreno said, "You know, we're doing the best we can. We really like Greinke and Price … Any of those [outfielders], you'd like to have … but it's the economics."

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