ANAHEIM — Perry Minasian acknowledged the elephant in the room without acknowledging that it’s in his way.
The Angels’ general manager opened his hour-long postseason press conference on Thursday by answering a question about how he’s supposed to build a roster when the ownership situation is so unsettled.
“For me, it’s business as usual,” Minasian said. “Nothing changes. I know ownership still wants to put a good team on the field. And I expect us to improve significantly.”
The problem, of course, is that owner Arte Moreno is in the process of selling the team. Minasian said he has not been involved in that process and doesn’t feel it’s his place to ask about a new owner or even the timeline for a transition.
Without a new owner in place, it’s certainly difficult for Minasian to know what type of financial restraints he has on building the roster.
“It’s what opportunities are out there,” Minasian said. “What we feel are the right moves, we’ll present those opportunities to ownership. Again, I know for a fact that this ownership is really competitive. They are committed to putting a winning team on the field, just like they’ve always been. The problem isn’t financial. It isn’t. A lot of money has been invested here over the years. I’ve got to do a better job of building a roster.”
Minasian was hired 22 months ago, so this is his third winter of building the roster. The Angels won 77 and 73 games with the two teams he’s assembled, running the franchise’s postseason drought to eight years.
Last winter, he focused almost all of his resources on upgrading the pitching, and the Angels improved from 22nd to ninth in the majors in ERA.
“If you told any of us that watched last year that we’d be in the top 10 in pitching, you’d think we’d be at least in the mix (for the postseason),” Minasian said. “But that’s baseball. You have to be good at everything. There’s no secret formula. You have to be able to compete on a daily basis in every area: bullpen rotation, lineup, bench depth. All those things. And we did not do that. That falls directly on me. We need more players, not specific areas. That’s something I learned last year. I have to do a better job of improving every area.”
Depth was a critical issue for the Angels, whose often used a lineup that dropped off significantly after the third or fourth spots.
“Very few teams have offensive-type players in the eight and nine holes,” Minasian said. “But the middle, four, five, six, seven, we have to be stacked. We have to be able to score runs every inning.”
The Angels were 25th in the majors in runs.
If the Angels are going to attempt to fix all that with money, they’ll be adding to a roster that is already bursting with high-salaried players at the top.
The Angels already have $104 million committed to center fielder Mike Trout, third baseman Anthony Rendon and two-way player Shohei Ohtani. Another $27.5 million is owed to left-hander Aaron Loup, right-hander Ryan Tepera, catcher Max Stassi and infielder David Fletcher.
They also have six players due to be arbitration-eligible for the first time: first baseman Jared Walsh, outfielder Taylor Ward, infielder Luis Rengifo, left-hander Patrick Sandoval and right-handers Jaime Barria and Griffin Canning. Those players should earn something around $12 million to $14 million.
Perry Minasian wants to keep Shohei Ohtani with Angels ‘for a long time’
Hoornstra: Closing arguments in Shohei Ohtani vs. Aaron Judge, and other MLB awards races
Shohei Ohtani turns page toward helping Angels reach playoffs in 2023
Angels keeping Phil Nevin as manager with 1-year deal for 2023
Game Day: Ohtani vs. Judge for MVP – Modesti’s verdict
The pre-arbitration players will make around $13 million to $15 million. All of that adds up to around $160 million for the current roster. Typically, the Angels’ payroll has been around $180 million. It remains to be seen what Moreno will want to spend this winter.
For purposes of the luxury tax, which includes benefits and bonuses, the Angels have about $175 million committed. The first threshold is $233 million.
Minasian, however, is quick to point out that this is not just about throwing money at the problem. Free agents are tricky because they are, by nature, older players. The Angels will need to make shrewd trades and waiver pickups to get as much value as they can.
“There’s not a certain payroll number that will make you win or lose,” Minasian said. “It’s decision- making, and I’ve got to make better decisions. I’m well aware of that. That’s what we plan to do.”