Angels OF Mike Trout forced a tense contract situation when he put up other-worldly number in his first two big-league years, his age-20 and age-21 seasons. The situation was addressed today, as multiple sources are reporting that Trout and the Angels have agreed to a 6-year/$144.5MM contract extension that runs through the 2020 season, Trout’s age-29 year.
MLB’s salary protocol is well-known, as players navigate to arbitration in two or three years, followed by free agency after six years. The best of the youngsters who perform at a higher level have sometimes been “locked in” by their clubs, who chose to buy out some combination of arb-eligible years and free agent years. Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria are two such players.
But what does a team do when a 20-year old establishes himself as arguably the best player in the game, then follows it up with an equally incredible sophomore year? The Angels found themselves in that position and took heat for not giving Trout a pay boost earlier.
The Angels have recently gone large in signing Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, while also signing LHP C.J. Wilson. That’s a lot of money tied up just in those three. Throw in the fact that previous GM Tony Reagins took on Vernon Wells’ monster contract (while seeing Mike Napoli go the other way), and that Wells was only recently unloaded, and there was a ton of financial pressure on current GM Jerry DiPoto. That along with the pressure from the fan base to keep Trout.
No matter what the Angels have committed to pay Pujols when he’s on the other side of 40 or however much production they get from Josh Hamilton over the course of his 5-year deal, this was the right move. Baseball economics are changing and the Angels operate in a major media market.
A market in which the cross-town Dodgers are apparently operating their own printing press to produce the money they are spending.
The Angels need to be competitive in the AL west as well as in the potent American League in general. Beyond that, there is the battle for the attention of the Los Angeles fan base. Mike Trout is money. He is the future. It takes this kind of contract to keep him onboard and to keep the fans coming to the games and tuning in.
Can the Angels get out from under the suspect deals of Pujols and Hamilton? That remains to be seen. Both players’ performances this season will go a long way in answering that question.
But the Angels would be unbelievably foolish to be the team that let Mike Trout leave for greener pastures when they have already shown a propensity for spending big money on established stars. It may be just two years for Trout, but they were off-the-charts years for a player of his age and that makes him an established star. Go cheap with Trout while paying the other two? The fans would never forget it.
Costly? Done under pressure? Yes and yes.
Risky? Given Trout’s popularity and his proven ability to do what he does on this level…doesn’t look risky at all.
Good move for the Angels. Let’s see how Pujols and Hamilton pan out and if there is enough money left over for the pitching they would need if the hoped-for offensive juggernaut emerges.