The Angels signed Josh Hamilton for $125 million over two years ago seemingly to spite the Texas Rangers. Yesterday, the Angels traded Josh Hamilton back to the Rangers in order to functionally cut off their nose to spite their faces. All they got from the Hamilton experience was a lot of frustration and embarrassment on and off the field, and hopefully, a lesson learned regarding the way they go about spending their money.
But did they actually learn that lesson? The signing of Hamilton was made on the strength of owner Arte Moreno’s hubris. He wanted to show off his spending power and stick it to the rival Rangers at the same time. When the Hamilton signing went bad, that hubris reemerged with Moreno obviously orchestrating Hamilton’s exit from Anaheim for the crime of making Moreno look stupid for signing him in the first place.
The Halos should be glad that the saga is over and that they recovered $15 million in the process. They should be looking to move forward and ensure that they don’t make the same mistake again.
On one hand, the Angels do look like they have embraced the benefits of austerity. Despite their big spending reputation, the Angels signed just one major league free agent this offseason in Jeremy McBryde, who signed for the league minimum. Granted, part of the reason they didn’t spend was that all the massive long-term deals they handed out in previous offseasons had pressed them up against the luxury tax line, a line they don’t want to cross.
By moving Hamilton, they now have a lot of breathing room before they hit the luxury tax at about $20 million compared to the approximately $12 million they had before. That $12 million should’ve been enough for most major trade deadline acquisitions, but the $20 million guarantees that they have enough room.
One would think that they definitely will use the room, otherwise all this drama was done just to put a few extra million bucks back in Arte Moreno’s pockets. Say what you will about Moreno’s behavior during this saga, but he’s never been a “profit first” owner. That space was cleared for a reason, most likely to add a bat to help their flagging offense. Ironically, the Angels find themselves in dire need of a slugging left-handed outfielder right now. But to use that space would fly in the face of the lesson of frugality that they should’ve just learned by dealing Hamilton. To pay Hamilton $68 million to get the hell out of town and then trade a package of prospects for the rights to pay too much money to someone like Carlos Gonzalez is the very definition of throwing good money after bad money. But if that is what Arte Moreno wants his front office to do, that is probably what they will do.
Spending smarter is just one takeaway from the Hamilton disaster. The other is that Arte Moreno should probably keep his nose out of baseball operations. It is commonly accepted that he forced general manager Jerry Dipoto to sign Hamilton in the first place and it is painfully obvious to anyone paying attention to the Angels the last two months that Moreno was entirely responsible for the trashing of Josh in the media and deciding to sell him back to Texas for pennies on the dollar.
This should be the point where Moreno takes the hint and backs off. He should realize that when he meddles, big mistakes get made. He should look back at the series of trades and lower-tier signings that Jerry Dipoto made over the last two offseasons to get the Angels back to the playoffs in 2014. Thanks to Moreno’s poor spending habits and the neglect of the farm system under the previous GM, Jerry Dipoto’s front office was forced to get creative with limited resources and did so deftly. If Moreno recognizes all of those things, he’d take his nose out of their business and let them do their thing.
Given how tone deaf the Angels organization appeared to be after each of their insensitive remarks about Hamilton were criticized in the media, that is a pretty big “if.”