Yesterday, it was reported that Angels owner Arte Moreno has told GM Tony Reagins that he is not permitted to add anymore payroll this season.
Apparently this is supposed to be some kind of earth-shaking revelation. Why? I have no idea. Just because Arte allegedly handed down the ultimatum recently doesn't mean that this isn't something that has been common knowledge for quite some time.
All it takes is a little brain power and a little bit of memory jogging to see how this decision has been in the cards since this last off-season.
Allow me to present some evidence of this foregone conclusion:
- Exhibit A - The Angels entered the 2011 off-season under the general guideline that they would max out their payroll for the year at $130-135 million. As of this very moment, the team's payroll is a little bit over $140 million. Yup, they have been over-budget this entire time. I know the US government likes to take on debt at alarming rates, but Moreno isn't the sort to do that.
- Exhibit B - During that fateful off-season, the Angels twice failed to acquire top free agent targets because the contracts were too expensive and/or too lengthy. I think we all remember that series of events far too well. We all especially remember Moreno's blanket excuse for those failings was that he wasn't going to take on contracts so big that it would hinder the organization's ability to sell tickets at a reasonable price.
- Exhibit C - Panicked by the fallout from the off-season disaster, the Angels went against much of the mantra professed in the point above by trading for Vernon Wells and his onerous contract, which not so coincidentally pushed them over their projected budget ceiling. They knew they had payroll space for one big move and they used it on Wells. Just because it has worked out poorly doesn't mean that the team gets the $15 million in budget back.
- Exhibit D - When pressed on the issue of being maxed out budget-wise and potentially unable to take on more money at the trade deadline this year, the response since March has been that they would be getting Kendrys Morales back, which would be just like making a big move at the deadline. You have to admit, it was a clever way to dodge the question, but if you read between the lines, it is pretty obvious that they have been setting everyone up for a quiet trade deadline since Spring Training. Again, just because that plan worked out poorly doesn't mean the Angels get gifted additional budget wiggle room.
- Exhibit E - As you may have noticed, the Angel lineup both sucks and blows at the same time. Despite this glaring fact, have you heard one remotely legitimate trade rumor about the Angels bringing in some help? I mean, aside from the baseless speculation of bloggers (who would do that?). The best the Halos have done so far is pick up journeyman "slugger" Russ Branyan off of waiver. You've got to believe that the Angels would've at least kicked the tires on some legitimate help by now, especially after Morales had season-ending surgery, not just relying on aging retreads.
With a mountain of evidence like that, not even Johnny Cochrane could get a not guilty verdict. Sorry folks, but this isn't news. The Angels have been planning all along to never make a trade, or at least not a big one. They might be able to take on a role player or two, but only if they convince the other team in the deal to pick up most or even all of the player's remaining salary. That isn't going to happen with a superstar, that much I promise.
Oh, I forgot the one final most damning piece of evidence: the Angels currently four games under .500. The Angel front office managed to fool themselves into thinking they were real contenders despite a mediocre record at the deadline last season, but if that remains the case this year, don't expect them to make the same decision twice. Sure, they added quality players at good prices last season, but that won't happen again with the team in need of shedding payroll and possibly even rebuilding a little bit.
You may not like the verdict here, but there just isn't any way the Angels end up being legit buyers at the deadline. Legit sellers... well, now that's an entirely different conversation altogether.