Deal shows how much Angels value Trout
Only 22, slugger perfectly positioned to be next face of Major League Baseball
Let's hear it for cooler heads.
A year after using their leverage to give Mike Trout a minimal raise, the Angels are giving him baseball's biggest salary for a non-arbitration salary. And the $1 million contract for 2014 is only today's news.
Soon, perhaps even very soon, the Angels will give the 22-year-old Trout -- who is on the verge of replacing Derek Jeter as the face of baseball -- a deal that makes this one look like tip money. Yahoo Sports and others have reported that agent Craig Landis and Halos general manager Jerry Dipoto are working on a deal that would be the biggest for a player not yet eligible for arbitration.
The figure being thrown around is $150 million over six years, which now appears likely to kick in for 2015, not this season. That would secure Trout throughout his three arbitration years and three potential free-agent seasons, and it would give the Angels three position players averaging more than $20 million in salary.
Few thought owner Arte Moreno would let Trout get away, but you wondered what the team was up to when it renewed his 2013 salary at $510,000, only $20,000 more than Trout had made when he challenged Miguel Cabrera for the American League MVP Award in '12.
The Halos held that right again this year, but by paying Trout a seven-figure salary, they essentially said, "OK, you called our bluff." Trout did that by repeating as the AL MVP Award runner-up to Cabrera, who has had two of the best back-to-back seasons in history.
Trout hasn't commented on the ongoing negotiations -- even saying "no comment" last week when asked if talks were ongoing -- but he has made it clear that he is focused on one thing: getting the Angels back into the playoffs.
"It all comes down to winning," Trout said when he met reporters before his first workout of Spring Training. "You can have all the best stats in the world, but if you're not winning, it really don't mean nothing."
With Jeter retiring after the season, Trout seems perfectly positioned to pick up the torch. He's the same kind of uncomplicated, baseball-first superstar as the Yankees shortstop.
While Moreno went onto the free-agent market to land Albert Pujols after 2011 and Josh Hamilton a year later -- giving them contracts worth a combined $365 million over 15 years -- it's the homegrown Trout who will be their best weapon in trying to go head-to-head with the Dodgers in the dynamic Los Angeles market. There may be no better matchup in baseball than when Clayton Kershaw pitches to Trout.
Moreno and Dipoto understand better than anyone what they have in Trout, and all they can see is a long run of strong teams built with his combination of speed and power, not to mention the defense he'll provide in center field. Trout wasn't crazy about moving to left field at the start of last season, but like the contract renewal, he made the best of it. Trout is going to be in center for the long haul now with Peter Bourjos having been traded to St. Louis.
Can Trout get better as he heads toward his third full season?
"Oh, sure, there are ways anybody can get better," Dipoto said. "Mike had a terrific defensive year in 2012, and last year we started him out in left field, which wasn't comfortable. It was a bit of a struggle. Moving back to center field once Peter Bourjos went down with injury was another transition. [But] I don't know if there's a lot that we can expect Mike to do that he hasn't already done. All we can ask for him to do is stay healthy and remain consistent. He's a great player."
Stay tuned for the contract that quantifies just how great of a player he has become.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.