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Angels lucky Mike Trout is even thinking about an extension

Feb 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Mike Trout Reuters

At this point, the only thing standing between the Angels and being a largely irrelevant second banana in the Los Angeles market is Mike Trout.

Yeah, Mike Trout, the guy they rewarded for a historic Rookie of the Year and near-MVP campaign in 2012 by paying him $20,000 more than the major league minimum.

Even with Trout, perhaps no large-market team is more poorly positioned for 2016 and beyond than the Halos. Albert Pujols, who is due $212 million over the next eight years, looks like an albatross. Josh Hamilton might be worth only a small fraction of his $30 million salaries in 2016 and ’17. Ace Jered Weaver is now one of the game’s softest-tossing righties. The team’s Opening Day lineup this year will likely have just one player besides Trout under 30 (outfielder Kole Calhoun), and the farm system rates as one of the game’s very worst (the only Angel to make Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects this year was second baseman Taylor Lindsey at No. 93).

Now, having the game’s best player goes a long way. But the Angels have already wasted two of his bargain years. Once they have to start paying him what he’s worth, while also paying Pujols and Hamilton $55 million or so annually, they’ll find it even more difficult to surround him with quality talent. It all suggests that Trout’s best path to a championship is to exit at the first available opportunity. That is currently due to come following the 2017 season.

And it should be noted that the Angels haven’t exactly been generous with their young superstar so far. When the Angels had back-to-back picks, 24th and 25th overall, in the 2009 draft, they selected Trout second, even though he was their preferred player. The thinking was it’d improve their negotiating position a bit. That’s smart business, but Trout might not have appreciated it overly much.

The more damaging decision could have come last year, when the Angels renewed Trout for just $510,000. That’s what he was due according to their scale for non-arbitration eligible players, which was based on service time, not performance. They weren’t willing to make an exception even for the best thing that had ever happened to their franchise. Were they worried that J.B. Shuck would say, “you gave Trout $750,000, where’s my $600,000?”

That Trout is weighing a long-term deal with the Angels suggests he never took it personally, which is wonderful news for management and ownership. Pretty much any figure the Halos can come up with would be a smart deal for them, what with Trout in position to shatter every previous arbitration record and then command a deal worth $40 million-$50 million annually in free agency.

Trout, though, has less incentive to give up free agent years than anyone who has come before him. He’s a position player and he’s built like a truck, so he’s a good bet to stay relatively healthy. Furthermore, he could tell the Angels today that he’s willing to give up his arbitration years for $50 million, and the team would surely take him up on it, what with the likelihood that he could make closer to $75 million those three seasons. That would set him up quite nicely for whatever his future holds.

Maybe Trout will sign two or three additional years away anyway. After all, $150 million is tough to pass up, and that’d still put him in position to sign a huge contract at 28 or 29 (as is, he’s slated to be a free agent at age 26). Making a home of SoCal probably isn’t bad, either.

However, Trout’s quickest path to being both a World Series winner and the game’s highest-paid player would seem to be to eschew such a deal now. If the Angels find themselves in a better position, the money will still be there for Trout two or three years down the road.

  1. stex52 - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Yeah, I think he should pass on 150 MM$ because he could make so much more in his late twenties………… Is this a real conversation?? It is staggering how much cash just floats around loose in this economy, waiting for the talented or privileged few to claim it.

    • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      Let’s be clear. The reason he’s able to claim 150 million dollars is because he generates far more money than that for the billionaire that signs his checks. He should try to get every single dime he could possibly sign for.

    • ultimatecardinalwarrior - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      If you’re not happy with the amount of money in the baseball economy, stop watching baseball games.

      • stex52 - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:59 PM

        If you can’t read simple sentences, don’t respond to comments.

    • bigmeechy74 - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      He has more athletic talent than 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999% of all humans that ever lived. 150 million is a bargain

    • stex52 - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      I think we have basic comprehension problems here, guys. I am just marveling at the amount of money available. Don’t read you own issues into it.

  2. nymets4ever - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    Aww. We wouldn’t want the Angels’ draft strategy to hurt Trout’s feelings, would we?

    • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:46 AM

      It’s not hurt feelings. That was business and not personal.. Now Trout has all the leverage so no one should be coming down on him squeezing as much as he can out of this team because it’s still business.

    • echech88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      Nobody ever mentions that Clayton Kershaw’s salary was renewed at the same rate every year before arbitration but somehow the Angels are this evil, careless entity for souring their relationship with Trout.

      You know who chose to “thank” their player with an unnecessary raise? The Phillies with Ryan Howard. Good thing that got them so much goodwill and that team-friendly extension years later!

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        I wish my employer was so evil to deny me a raise and only pay me $500,000 at age 21.

      • senioreditor2 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        After 2 seasons Kershaw was 13-13, hardly Trout’s numbers. Kershaw didn’t win the Cy Young until his 4th season. maybe a little research before you spout off?????????????

      • moogro - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        More question marks, please. This is a very emotional topic here.

  3. jarathen - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    The Angels are overpaying for arb years while assuming the risk of injury and/or regression. Trout still has the opportunity to hit the market in his prime for what I can only assume will be something like 10/500 at that point.

    I am glad the Angels will be getting more than the guarantee for Trout’s services, and I am glad he doesn’t seem to take it too personally that they wanted a second year of what we now know to be the real Trout before throwing out a huge extension.

    I think this deal works well for both sides. The Angels pick up the risk and the tab, and Trout makes sure that he doesn’t spend the best years of his career in the shadow of terrible contracts.

    As an aside, I took over the Angels in OOTP14, and the contracts really are terrible. I dumped Hamilton first thing, but in reality you can’t do that, and the wiggle room there is non-existent. And the best Halos prospects (Cowart, Cron, and Lindsey) panned out MUCH better than expected.

  4. Carl Hancock - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:52 AM

    Mike Trout is going to make a mint if he hits Free Agency in his mid-20’s to be sure. But all this talk of him scoring $50 million per year is absurd. $30-35 million yes, anyone who thinks he will score $50 isn’t living in reality. He isn’t going to exceed the current highest yearly salaries which hover around $30 million by an additional $20 million. Even in a few years. Please, stop the absurd hype. Why is he entertaining an extension? Guaranteed money. He could get hurt tomorrow and never play again. Should he give the Halos any of his free agency years? In order to get a longterm guaranteed deal he’s pretty much going to have to give them at least a year or two. Otherwise there is no point in the Angels giving him a longterm deal at an absurdly high salary if it’s only for his arbitration years. They’d be better off going year to year with arbitration. But it doesn’t take many brain cells to see why Trout would entertain an extension. Guaranteed money.

    • Alex K - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:18 AM

      Trout should take the $150 if it is there. He’ll still hit free agency in his 20’s and make a ton more money. I don’t think this is a good deal for the Angels, however. That’s a lot of money for his arbitration years and they only get 2 free agent years? If I’m the Angels I’m looking to sign him until he’s 30, or I’m just trying to buy out only arbitration years for some cost certainty.

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:07 AM

        If the Halos can get him for a 7 year contract, that’d make me pretty happy. It would mean Trout would be hitting FA right around the end of the Pujols contract, which would give the Angels a better chance at retaining Trout’s services.

      • doctornature - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        The Angels have ZERO leverage here. Trout gave say no and hit FA at 25 with the Yanks, Sox, Dodgers et al killing each other for his signature. You think Trout and his agent don’t know that? They hold all the cards, and are NOT going to give up more than 2 yeARS OF fa.

      • Alex K - Feb 24, 2014 at 3:54 PM

        Of course Trout has all the leverage. I don’t think I implied that he didn’t. I only said what my intentions would be if I were the Angels.

    • yahmule - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      Totally agree, Carl. This bubble is going to burst way before anybody is making $50 million annually.

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      40-50 million a year was Pouliot’s estimate, and I have no problem whatsoever with setting that as the AAV of his future free agent contract if he stays healthy and productive until free agency.

      Let’s say he doesn’t agree to any extension and tests the free agent waters as soon as possible, and his numbers look similar to what they are currently. I’d say he would get something in the neighborhood of 9 years, $375 million.

      The owners aren’t spending themselves into non-profiltability here, the t.v. money is huge, and it’s guaranteed. Franchise values have been going up as well, this is not a bubble, this is a new reality.

      • stex52 - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        The cable bubble is going to burst. No way it will take ten years to burst. Guaranteed money from that source will go down. That is a long way from making things unprofitable, but it probably puts a ceiling on how teams high team incomes will go without a new revenue source.

  5. ningenito78 - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    Don’t worry Yankee fans. He’ll be coming home eventually.

    • zengreaser - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      1. Mike is from Millville, NJ. That’s down here in South Jersey. Close to Philly.
      2. He’s a Phillies fan (there’s a cool story out there about how he called his dad all excited when Halladay was acquired by the Phils and told him “We got Halladay!” even though he was already a part of the Angels organization)
      3. I sure do hope he comes home one day… and wears the red pinstripes.

    • yahmule - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:59 AM

      I thought to myself, “Well, this will shut those east coast morons up.”

      I should have known better…

      • zengreaser - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        Nothing can shut up us east coast morons.

      • yahmule - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        I may disagree with what you morons say, but I’ll defend from the comfort of my house your right to say it.

      • byjiminy - Feb 25, 2014 at 12:11 AM

        rampant coastism!

  6. icanspeel - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Nothing is guaranteed, except a guaranteed contract. 1 bad injury can derail even the best of players, so it’d be nice to be set for life, even if gambling and not taking a deal could pay out more.

  7. echech88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    “He is crazy to take $150M guaranteed before his 23rd birthday” – Guy who makes $50K a year (maybe?) and never has to worry about a freak injury prematurely ending his earning years.

  8. denseflea - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    Biased much?

    I dunno about this article lol. The whole thing is written and spun as if the Angels are idiots for drafting him with their 2nd pick even though 24 other teams passed up on Trout before we landed him.

    We drafted him, he came up through our farm system and grew into the superstar that he is. I’m sure he understand that the Angels weren’t going to change policy on salary/compensation for 1 way above average rookie.

    That being said, I don’t think Trout holds malice or discontent towards the Angels and I think he wants to give us his best years before he starts the great decline… IF he declines.

    Who knows. What if the Angels put it together and actually win the Division or beyond while he’s still here? Is that not more incentive to stay if the organization builds a team around him?

    • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      “Who knows. What if the Angels put it together and actually win the Division or beyond while he’s still here?”

      I hope so. Pujols is not worth nearly his contract, but he’s still putting up decent numbers. If Hamilton can rebound to have a halfway competent season, our offense will be pretty good all around. I also happen to think that Skaggs and Santiago were solid pickups for Trumbo. The pitching could be better.

      If it all goes right, the Angels could contend for the division. Like I said, it will take a lot going right, but what is spring about if not optimism?

    • jarathen - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      It is my hope and belief that Arte Moreno has seen what happens when he meddles, and that Jerry DiPoto, while not the best GM ever, is a pretty good one who turned Mark Trumbo into two left handed starters and actually has some salary room this year, with more coming off the books next year.

      • brianc6234 - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        I agree. Arte needs to stay out of the decisions on who to sign. If he wants to make a splash this year just get Trout locked up. Dipoto was never really given a chance to be a GM but now he finally has been. He just didn’t have the money he could have used. I guess they decided to save some of that to give to Trout though.

      • johnmr12 - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:25 PM

        You must be related to DiPoto. He is the worse GM in baseball, and it isn’t even close.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      I dunno about this article lol. The whole thing is written and spun as if the Angels are idiots for drafting him with their 2nd pick even though 24 other teams passed up on Trout before we landed him.

      [this'll be fun, I'm going to agree and then disagree with the same sentence, and somehow make sense]

      Matthew is arguing that maybe it was disrespectful of the Angels to draft Trout with their second of their first round picks. He’s not making the argument that other teams were dumb for passing him,but that if the Angels really wanted Trout, they would have drafted him with their first pick.

      [now the disagreement] Now this sentiment is absurd because it’s a well known “secret” that using the second pick was a practical joke played on Trout by the Angels. The Area Scout for NJ was a friend of Trout’s father and played with Trout’s Father in the minor leagues. The scout told the organization, a la the Pujols backstory, that Trout could be the best player in the draft. After numerous other fact checkers went to see Trout, they agreed and put him #2 on their board behind Strasburg. They told Trout they were going to take him in the first round, and as a joke they took him with second pick (joke on Trout and the scout). Multiple stories were written about this last year.

      • denseflea - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:40 PM

        I did not know about that whole thing with the Trout pick being a joke. If anything, that adds weight to the fact that maybe Trout has animosity towards the Angels and genuinely wants to stay long term.

        My personal thinking is that Trout is super down-to-earth and his parents raised him the right way. His focus isn’t all about money but it’s about winning and playing the game the right way. I honestly don’t think it would be all about money for Trout when it comes down to contract talks but also about where HE feels more comfortable. And his family genuinely seems to like the Angels organization.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 24, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        Here’s the main article that most sourced:

        http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/how-los-angeles-angels-hooked-rookie-phenom-mike-trout-in-mlb-draft-051212

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:16 PM

        “My personal thinking is that Trout is super down-to-earth”

        He seems like a genuinely good guy. He’s very involved in the community, from what I glean from Angels PR stories at least.

  9. tonyz6060chevy - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    They also messed up royally by trading Marc Trumbo away. The Angel’s glory days are way behind them ! the only good thing about them is that they’ll be the only team to watch,this season on T.V. in Southern California !

    • denseflea - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      Trumbo was an inconsistent hitter who was striking out way too much…. He was always swinging for the fences, which is nice when he connects but it’s not worth the out.

      Trading him for 2 young left handed starters is a huge win for the Angels. Don’t be short-sighted.

    • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      I believe you’re referring to “Mark” Trumbo. And considering that offense was not the issue for them, I think they can afford to trade a player with such a low OBP for two starting pitchers, which happened to be EXACTLY the issue for them last year.

    • brianc6234 - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      Whose Marc Trumbo? I know of a Mark Trumbo but I never heard of Marc Trumbo. Weird.

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:16 PM

        It’s his French-Canadian cousin.

  10. mahdiali27 - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    You guys messed up. The Angels had the 24th and 25th picks in the 2009 draft not the 26th and 27th.

    • 18thstreet - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      If Comic Book Guy were a baseball fan, he’d post stuff like this.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 24, 2014 at 4:01 PM

      Thanks! Fixed.

  11. strat321 - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    I really resent it when someone who is clearly a dodger fan writes rubbish like this..
    The dodgers have only been relevant for a year…did you forget about all the years the Mccourts owned the team??
    I guess the 140% increase in ticket prices won’t detour you from being a fan maybe your safety at the Ravine will.
    Instead of writing about teams you don’t like go write about your beloved Doyers!

    • brianc6234 - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      And don’t forget what a load of crap the NL West is. If the AL West was that weak the Angels would have been in the playoffs last year too.

  12. moogro - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    Matthew’s article is correct. Trout is being paid guaranteed money to put off aspirations of the post-season for a while. (Unless he can get the Angels to get rid of their silly marketing name as part of the contract.) The best he can hope for is the post-season with his next contract. But he may face a strange dilemma for much of his career, one that Cano points to: a lifetime of being the best paid player in baseball that no team will surround with enough talent to win. Not that some teams can’t with the TV money they have, but they won’t by setting artificial limits.

    • brianc6234 - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:24 PM

      The Angels could easily be in the playoffs this year. The offense just needs to do what they’re capable of. Maybe they don’t have the best pitching but sometimes a mediocre pitching staff can have a good season. The Angels better win a lot more games in the AL West though. And sweep the lowly Lastros.

    • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:18 PM

      There are two wild card spots now. It is not entirely inconceivable the Angels could grab the second wild card spot at some point in the next few years. The talent may be old, and it may be overpaid, but it’s still talent. If the team can improve the pitching it will be a fair shot at the wild card.

  13. brianc6234 - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Yawn. What a load of crap. Trout is smart. He knows taking a deal right now at least means he’ll never have to worry about money the rest of his life. Easy decision. As for the Angels, they could be in the playoffs this year. They could have last year if the offense was better. They lost way too many close games they could have won with better situational hitting. Now at least they have a real hitting coach.

  14. johnmr12 - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:23 PM

    I’m an angel fan, but a bigger Trout fan. The way they treated him last year by paying him 20 grand over the minimum was a disgrace. I can’t say I was surprised by it though. DiPoto is a moron. I hope his agent makes the angels pay for the last two seasons as part of a long term deal. I’m torn as a fan, because I know the angels will never make the playoffs as long as DiPoto is the GM, and I would rather see Trout go to a contender so he can show the whole country how great he is.

  15. sawxalicious - Feb 25, 2014 at 2:26 AM

    For the guys saying that a $40-50 million annual salary is out if the question once (if) Trout reaches free agency, look back at A-Rod’s salary in 2001…he made $22 million, the next highest was Kevin Brown at $15.7 million, the next highest position player was Carlos Delgado at $13.6 million. A-Rod’s salary was crazy back then and before he signed the contract there were people saying a player would never get that much. Popular and productive players are a commodity, which puts butts in the seats, sells merchandise, etc. If there was a bidding war for Trout’s services, and he maintains his current production (or even exceeds it), I could see a huge annual value for him. It doesn’t make sense in the “real-world” sense of things, but that’s how these entertainers salaries are going.

    Trout has enormous potential. He is essentially the second coming of Mickey Mantle, minus the boozing, carousing, partying and other things that hurt Mantle’s production and career. He is young, marketable, very productive, and seems to have his head on straight.

    If he were to sign a long-term contract now, he would get paid well and pass the risk of injury or regression on to the Angels. Trout seems unlikely to fall prey to injury, but there have been so many players that started their careers on track to punch an easy ticket to Cooperatown but had unforeseen circumstances set them back. Tony Conigularo got beaned in the head and was never the same, Grady Sizemore’s inability to stay healthy with numerous injuries, even Mantle had an injury that severely cut into his career health and production. If I were in Trout’s position, I would take the sure thing and give the Angels a couple of free agent years. Balancing the Angel’s risk of Trout becoming injured or ineffective, vs. Trout’s risk of being underpaid for his performance while still handsomely compensated, you take the money. If he’s still awesome at the end of the contract, he STILL gets to go for another huge pay day.

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