Trout, Angels ended up meeting in middle on monster contract
APR 17, 2014 10:40p ET
As always, the final terms were a compromise.
Mike Trout wanted to go very long with his contract extension -- as long as 13 years -- or as short as four, according to major-league sources.
The Angels, on the other hand, preferred to be somewhere in the middle, but ideally wanted a deal longer than six years.
The final terms, of course, were six years, $144.5 million, starting in 2015.
Trout, 22, gained lifetime financial security and the chance to become a free agent at 29.
The Angels gained cost certainty in Trout's three arbitration years while buying three of his free-agent years.
The deal, reached less than three weeks ago, looks like a win-win for everyone as the Angels visit the Tigers this weekend (including Saturday's game on FOX Sports 1 at 1:05 p.m. ET).
Yet, the initial negotiating positions reflect the divergent motives on both sides.
If Trout couldn't land a near-lifetime contract, his best alternative was to reach free agency as soon as possible.
A 13-year deal likely would have been -- what, $350 million? It's difficult to know. In exchange for greater security, Trout might have accepted lower annual salaries than what he will receive from the Angels -- $5.25 million, $15.25 million and $19.25 million, then a record $33.25 million over each of the next three years.
Over time, the Angels might regret locking up Trout for less than half the number of years that he was willing to take. But the team's reluctance was understandable, given the risk of such a lengthy commitment.
First baseman Albert Pujols, who signed a 10-year, $240 million free-agent deal with the Angels at age 31, is not a comparable for Trout; the difference in their ages is too great.
If you're thinking worst-case scenario, a better comp might be outfielder Grady Sizemore, who performed brilliantly through age 26, then broke down physically and only now is starting to recover at 32.
Yes, Sizemore is an extreme example. But Trout, too, probably had Sizemore on his mind.
Sure, Trout could have earned more going year-to-year, setting records in arbitration, then getting even crazier numbers as a free agent at 26.
But this way, he received $144.5 million of protection against injury. Assuming all goes well, he likely will be worth $45 million a year by the time he hits free agency, if not more.
Not too shabby.
A four-year extension for say, $75 million, also would have been desirable to Trout, giving him ample security plus the ability to become a free agent at 27.
The Angels, though, had no interest in that short a deal. They wanted at least six years, and preferably seven or eight, sources said.
The middle ground turned out to be six, with no club options and a full no-trade clause. Could Trout have secured an even larger guarantee by giving the Angels at least one option? Probably. But he did not want to delay his potential free agency.
As it turned out, his deal was not the largest for a player with fewer than three years of service -- Giants catcher Buster Posey holds that distinction with the nine-year, $167 million contract he signed in March 2013.
Posey, though, was one service class ahead of Trout in terms of arbitration eligibility. His deal runs from ages 26 to 34, likely restricting him to one massive payday. Trout's annual salaries also are significantly higher than Posey's across the board.
For that matter, Trout's deal also dwarfs that of Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who signed a seven-year, $80 million extension in January 2011, the previous record for a player who was not yet arbitration eligible. Yes, Trout is the superior player. But at the time, Gonzalez was coming off a season in which he had finished third in the National League MVP and won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
So, where does the pay scale go from here?
The Nationals' Bryce Harper, 21, is eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, or two years before Trout. His agent, Scott Boras, prefers his clients to go year-by-year in arbitration and then hit the open market. (Gonzalez, who also is represented by Boras, was an exception.)
Harper, who would be a free agent at 26, could merit a landmark deal. But the beauty of Trout's position is that he then could top it. He would be three years older than Harper when he entered the market -- but younger than Miguel Cabrera was when he agreed to his recent eight-year, $248 million extension.
Trout didn't get everything he wanted, and neither did the Angels. But in the end, Trout wound up with the 24th largest contract in baseball history at age 22. The Angels, meanwhile, wound up with a player who will accomplish goodness knows what from his age 23 to 28 seasons.
Fair outcome. Fair compromise.