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Column: Angels owner Arte Moreno talks (sort of) about failed trade for Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling

Angels owner Arte Moreno speaks with the media during a spring training practice Feb. 17.
Angels owner Arte Moreno speaks with the media Monday during spring training.
(Daron Cummings / Associated Press)

Arte Moreno has jokes.

Who knew.

Explaining why he doesn’t have a social media account, the Angels owner cracked, “You know me. I get too pissed off to be on Instagram.”

Considering the tone deafness displayed last week by Houston Astros counterpart Jim Crane, credit Moreno for demonstrating a measure of self-awareness.

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The problem is that for the Angels, this isn’t entirely a laughing matter.

Angels star Mike Trout did not hold back his opinion on the Houston Astros cheating scandal when he spoke to reporters at Angels spring training.

They staged their first full-squad spring-training workout Monday and they didn’t have an established right fielder or much of a rotation.

They had a chance to address both shortcomings, but Moreno detonated a deal to acquire outfielder Joc Pederson and right-hander Ross Stripling from the Dodgers. Moreno became impatient waiting for the Dodgers to finalize a trade with the Boston Red Sox, upon which the Angels’ deal was contingent.

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Moreno confirmed that much.

“Yes, that’s true,” he said.

He paused.

“It wasn’t all impatience,” he added. “There were other things involved too.”

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Shohei Ohtani watches a player take batting practice during a spring training practice on Feb. 7.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Moreno declined to offer details.

“No, not interested,” he said politely. “Thank you.”

Pederson hit 36 home runs last year. Stripling was an All-Star in 2018.

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Told that fans don’t think the owner’s impatience is a good reason to blow up a trade that would improve the roster, Moreno started, “Well, have you ever met …"

He didn’t go any further.

“I won’t get into it,” he said.

In exchange for Pederson and Stripling, the Angels were supposed to send the Dodgers infielder Luis Rengifo and some minor leaguers. Moreno wouldn’t say whether there were any other elements to the trade that weren’t reported.

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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons’ long-term future with the franchise remains up in the air heading into the final year of his contract.

Reminded that his customers would want an explanation for why the deal didn’t happen, Moreno replied, “I’m sure they would. There’s a lot of things people would like to know and they’re not going to know. For me, it’s water under the bridge. We’ve moved on.”

Whatever the specifics, it’s clear Moreno was the reason Pederson and Stripling aren’t in camp with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

If it turns out the Angels were hurt by Moreno’s impulses, this wouldn’t be the first time.

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Moreno pushed for the disastrous trade of Vernon Wells. He was behind the nine-figure free-agent contracts for Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

The deals for Wells, Pujols and Hamilton financially crippled the team for multiple seasons.

On the other hand, the failures didn’t stop Moreno from spending again in the offseason, signing Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245-million contract.

Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon is interviewed after a news conference Dec. 14 at Angel Stadium.
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)
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Moreno explained that Gerrit Cole was the team’s primary target, as the Angels were determined to land a front-line pitcher.

“We just spent a lot of time and effort on Cole,” Moreno said. “I had a substantial offer and pretty much walking in there, you knew no matter what I did, we were going to get outbid. We had a pretty big number out there.”

When the elite pitching options vanished from the market, the Angels pivoted. Moreno said they focused on fortifying their lineup by adding the top free-agent position player in third baseman Rendon, essentially postponing the task of acquiring a front-line starter.

“We’re looking for a pitcher that can substantially help us and not a four [or] five,” Moreno said.

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If such a pitcher becomes available leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, Moreno believes the Angels will have the financial flexibility and player capital to make a deal.

Then again, the Angels could be 10 games back of the second wild-card spot by then.

Moreno is convinced that with Trout, Rendon, Ohtani, Pujols and Justin Upton in the lineup, the Angels can simply outslug opponents. He cited the example of the 2009 World Series-champion New York Yankees, who scored 5.65 runs per game in the regular season. The rotation of that Yankees team had a combined earned-run average of 4.48.

Moreno expects the Angels to contend for a place in the postseason, their first since 2014. If they fail, the blame will almost certainly fall on general manager Billy Eppler, who is in the final year of his contract.

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Asked what Eppler would have to do to receive a new deal, Moreno replied, “I think there are a lot of pieces. It’s not just one thing. There’s just a lot of pieces. As a group, we need to win.

“I probably should fire myself.”

He was kidding, of course. His team already has sold close to 2 million tickets for the upcoming season. He has an agreement to purchase Angel Stadium and the surrounding property from Anaheim.

Moreno isn’t going anywhere.


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