During last week’s contentious collective bargaining sessions between MLB and the MLBPA, one of the main sticking points between the two sides was the fate of the Competitive Balance Tax—known more commonly as the luxury tax—over the next five seasons. Disillusioned by the fact that most owners have treated the luxury tax as a de facto salary cap in recent years, the players came into negotiations looking for big increases to the threshold that triggers the tax as a way to counteract this.
The owners, however, opposed raising the luxury tax much at all, claiming that doing so would be detrimental to the long-term parity of the game (as a side note: the correlation between team payroll and wins over the last decade has been proven to have been rather weak). In their “best-and-final” offer sent to the players on Tuesday, the league offered a CBT threshold starting at $220 million for the first three years and maxing out at $230 million in year five, figures that fell well short of the players’ desired starting and ending points of $238 million and $263 million respectively.
The owners’ proposal was considered to be very light by many, but as it turns out, a few of them were against even raising it to that number to begin with. A report from SNY’s Andy Martino yesterday morning stated that four owners voted against the raising the CBT threshold to the $220 million mark that made it into the league’s offer, and in a separate report by The Athletic’s Evan Drellich later in the day, it was revealed that Angels owner Arte Moreno was one of those owners.
Sources: Angels, Diamondbacks, Reds and Tigers owners opposed MLB luxury tax increase to $220 million. MLB also proposed including player meal money in calculation of luxury tax, which irked players. https://t.co/gBKrqAx9wV— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 4, 2022
In his article, Drellich would go on to explain that the existence of Moreno and the other three as dissenters could go on to complicate things for Commissioner Rob Manfred as negotiations go on, a sentiment echoed by Martino in his story when he mentioned that even more owners might join their ranks if they start to go any further than what they have already offered as far as the CBT is concerned. Any proposal that MLB makes needs the approval of at least 23 of the 30 owners around the league, so if four more of them decide to pull back their support, any movement toward the MLBPA’s number could effectively be stopped dead in its tracks.
As far as Moreno is concerned, his stance in this situation is quite puzzling, to say the least. He has kept the club’s payroll hovering just below the luxury tax for years now, so an increase to it would theoretically give the Angels more room financially to build a good team around the extraordinarily high-priced contracts of guys like Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. This becomes doubly true when you consider the monster extension that Shohei Ohtani will be due soon enough, a deal that would more than likely push the Angels well over the threshold that their owner reportedly wants to keep around.
What Moreno’s position unfortunately—but not surprisingly—tells us is that he might not be as serious about turning things around as many fans want him to be. For the owner of a team that has not won had a winning record since 2015 and has not won a playoff game since 2009 (the third longest drought in the entire sport, lest you forget), the chance to further supplement your core of superstars with talent while at the same time continuing to stay away from tax penalties should be a no-brainer, but what he has reportedly supported here accomplishes the exact opposite of that.
Maybe Moreno proves this all wrong after the lockout ends and spends the money necessary to right the ship, but as of right now, his actions paint the picture of someone who doesn’t have winning as his No. 1 priority. The CBT should be the least of his worries if he truly does care about getting the Angels back into national relevancy (for reasons other than well-publicized trials or mistreatment of minor league players, that is), but unfortunately for all of us, this does not appear to be the case currently.