Angels owner explains refusal to meet Crawford's asking price; team makes 'significant' offer to Beltre
The Angels never made a formal contract offer to outfielder Carl Crawford, and owner Arte Moreno said Friday that, contrary to previous reports, he was not willing to match the seven-year, $142-million deal Crawford eventually got from the Boston Red Sox last week.
"There were rumors out there, but we never made an official offer, and no parameters were discussed," Moreno said, alluding to reports the Angels made a six-year, $108-million offer with a seventh-year vesting option that would have pushed the deal to $126 million.
"It's crazy. I paid [$183 million] for the team [in 2003], and now we're talking $142 million for one player? Seven years on a player is a huge risk financially. [Crawford's] greatest asset is speed, and he's a very skilled athlete who would have fit perfectly in left field for us. But we didn't look at him as a power hitter in our stadium."
Moreno said he has received numerous e-mails from fans who are frustrated the Angels failed to land their top free-agent target, especially after Moreno, in the wake of a disappointing 80-82 season in which the Angels failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in seven years, said he was "angry, disappointed, and would spend whatever it took to return to the playoffs."
Moreno and General Manager Tony Reagins met with Crawford and his agents in Houston in November, and they were poised to make a significant offer to the former Tampa Bay star, "but we never had the chance," Moreno said.
According to Moreno, Reagins met with Crawford's agents on Dec. 6, the first night of the winter meetings in Florida. The agents told Reagins at that meeting that "they already had a deal," Moreno said, but Reagins was not told with whom. Two nights later, Crawford agreed to terms with the Red Sox.
With his 2011 projected payroll at about $126 million before any winter additions, Moreno, who also had to spend to upgrade the bullpen and, possibly, third base, said he was unwilling to raise ticket prices to accommodate a $30-million boost in the payroll.
With an average ticket price of about $20, which ranks in the lower third of baseball's 30 teams, and season attendance of 3 million, it would take a 50% raise in the average ticket price, to $30, to generate another $30 million in ticket revenue. Most of the Angels' other revenue streams, such television rights fees, advertising, parking and concessions, are essentially fixed.
"You commit $20 million-plus for seven years to one player, you get to a place where, automatically, you're going to take the payroll to $150 million, and it just doesn't give you a lot of room," Moreno said. "We knew if we add $20 million, it was going to be red ink.
"The fans want a competitive team, a winning team, and I'm committed to doing that, but I have two choices, either take a huge [financial] loss or start raising ticket prices. You look at the economic risk and the franchise risk. The reality is, can I write a check for the player? Yes. But is it smart business in the long term? I don't think so."
The Angels are still looking to upgrade their offense, and Moreno said he made "what we believe is a significant offer" to free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is reportedly seeking a deal of at least five years and $75 million. But that offer has not been accepted.
We'll have more from our interview with Moreno later Friday at Latimes.com/sports.
-- Mike DiGiovanna