Angels fans need to be wary of Rob Manfred’s comments on revenues

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s recent comments on the economic state of the game cast some doubts as to how the Angels will approach the offseason.

The Los Angeles Angels head into the winter with a clear need to add pitching, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. However, fans hoping for the team to make a big splash this winter may need to temper their expectations a bit.

In an interview with Sportico, commissioner Rob Manfred updated the world on the financial ramifications of COVID-19 on Major League Baseball in 2020. The discussion was multi-faceted, focusing both on the current financial picture of the game and the hurdles it may face in the future.

According to Manfred, the collective teams are expected to have accrued $8.3 billion in debt in 2020, helping to offset $2.8 to $3 billion in operating losses due to the lack of fans in the stands and the loss of games. This was also despite the added revenues generated by expanding the postseason with increased television rights.

But while Manfred was thorough in outlining the current financial picture the league is in, the more troubling comments were reserved for what may lie in the future for the game and its teams.

"“We are going to be at historic high levels of debt,” Manfred said. “And it’s going to be difficult for the industry to weather another year where we don’t have fans in the ballpark and have other limitations on how much we can’t play and how we can play.”"

For Angels fans, that is indeed the elephant in the room.

As we all know, California is one of the most heavy-handed in terms of its response to COVID-19. Aspersions aside over whether that is handled correctly or not, that doesn’t mitigate the fact that the state does not appear ready to release the reins a bit on those measures, as evidenced by recent decisions to continue and limit Disney.

While there is still a maximum of two days remaining in the 2020 MLB season, and then another four months until pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training, the question remains as to whether the state of California will relax their efforts in time for the Angels to host fans in 2021. If the Angels can host fans next season, financial worries may be moot. However, if they are restricted to zero fans or even limited attendance, there will certainly be questions about how they approach the offseason.

As we all know, the Angels were hesitant to pay their minor leaguers this past season after the cancellation of the MiLB season. They also had sizable furloughs to their scouting departments already as well, showing they were willing to start reducing costs even before full financials were known. The Angels had the fifth-highest team payroll prior to proration, and the twelfth-highest after proration, and there is little to no financial relief coming to the roster next season.

Manfred’s comments almost make it feel as though he’s setting up what is likely to be a depressed free-agent market this winter. While that may drive down some salaries for stars on the market, it may not do so enough to allow the Angels to make a play for the pitching they desperately need.

Would the Halos be in a different scenario had they opted to save the money spent on Anthony Rendon last winter instead of paying him as a consolation prize? Perhaps, but it will certainly raise into question whether that was a smart decision in the long-term. It was a knee-jerk decision to take the money allocated for pitching and spend it on a superstar just because it was there one year. They couldn’t have foreseen what would happen with COVID, but it arguably still put the team in a tough spot.

Next. Should the Angels choose Trevor Bauer or Marcus Stroman?

That isn’t to say that Arte Moreno won’t spend the money necessary to lure a Trevor Bauer or Marcus Stroman to the Angels, but if the writing is on the wall, it already reads as unlikely. Unfortunately for the Halos, that could spell another season of struggles.