It’s well-documented. Mike Trout had one of the greatest individual seasons ever in 2012. Mike Trout is your new favorite Angels player. He is the Phenom of all Phenoms. Naturally, Angels fans young and old want him to stick around, and to be perhaps the first player to enter the hallowed halls of Cooperstown with the Halo’d insignia gracing his plaque.
So when Trout’s agent, the intemperate Craig Landis, came out with a public statement over the weekend implying that the Phenom of all Phenoms was unhappy with how his team compensated him financially for one year of brilliance, fans everywhere freaked out. Literally, they lost their minds. And when the fanbase freaked out, the national media followed along. They righteously berated the Angels for mistreating their star outfielder. “He deserves more money, because he’s amazing!” wrote the mindless rabble. While local reporters tended to have a more level-headed perspective on things, fans everywhere continued to feel uneasy.
This piece is intended to shine some optimistic perspective on the whole situation. While it is all speculative, it is good to have a hopeful view of things. It’s spring time, after all. Hope springs eternal in spring time! And all that good stuff. Anyhow, this is just an attempt. Here are a few reasons for Angel fans to rest a little easier.
1) Mike Trout, the player, is not unhappy.
It may just be his PR-friendly training that’s doing the talking, but Trout seems to be relatively content with the whole contract situation. He told MLB.com that he thinks "My time will come. I'm concentrating on one thing, and that's getting to the postseason. My main position is obviously center field, but when you're an outfielder, you should be able to play all three. I think it's going to help me, getting [different] reads off the bat. It's going to be a fun adjustment for me."
"I'm just happy to be in the lineup."
These are not the words of a malcontent. Lost in all the winter offseason madness, magazine covers, photo shoots, Subway commercials, and fat jokes is the fact that Mike Trout has always been a great kid. Fame doesn’t seem to have phased this guy, and there’s little indication that it will in the future. He’s going to give 100% on the field, and every indication is he’ll be just fine in 2013. And no, he isn’t fat or slow.
2) There is still plenty of time...
...for a long-term relationship with this player. The Angels front office does not seem worried that this snafu will hinder any talks of a long-term contract in the coming years. Fangraphs has conducted their usual excellent analysis, noting that “this is a blip,” and little more. If anything, when one analyzes the Angels payroll situation in the not-so-distant future, things are lining up perfectly for a long, lasting marriage between the Kid Fish and the Halos for the following reasons.
3) After the 2014 season, Vernon Wells comes off the books - finally.
The great Albatross from the North will finally be set free to quietly fly towards quieter shores. Vernon Wells’ bloated contract has gotten it’s share of critics, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. Deserved or not, his $21 million/year money comes off the Angels’ payroll in 2014.
Also notable? Mike Trout enters arbitration eligibility for the first time. This means that the Angels will no longer be able to automatically renew his contract for cheap, but must negotiate a deal with his agent or go to an arbitration hearing. It also means he is in for his first real, big payday.
The good news is that the Angels will have excess money lying around by then due to their liberation from the Vernon Wells contract. So, one course of action is, the Angels could offer Mike Trout the money that would’ve gone to Wells, signing him to the big long contract he would merit.
Perhaps they buy out his arbitration years and a couple free agency years with a nice 6-year, $120 million deal. Not his final mega deal by any stretch, but a nice 6-year window of stability and comfort for the fanbase, keeping Mike Trout through the 2020 season, or through until he is 29 years old. Seems like a fair deal; the player gets to test free agency while still in his prime, if he wishes. Meanwhile, the Angels will have a deal that guarantees they get most of Mike Trout’s best physical seasons.
Or, they could play out the arbitration process one year at a time for the next three seasons (2015-2017), before Trout becomes a free agent at age 26. While this course of action might invite the huge possibility that a newly revived Yankees team or the Los Bloated Dodgers of Chavez Ravine may be able to lure him away with their mega millions, it’s good to note another important thing.
4) After this 2017 season, Josh Hamilton’s contract comes off the books
It’s too far in advance to know if Hamilton’s contract will have been worth it for the Angels, but the fact remains: Josh Hamilton’s $32 million salary in 2017 will expire, right as Mike Trout enters free agency at 26 years old.
At this point, if the Angels haven’t yet signed Mike Trout to a an expensive, 10-year type of deal, there must have been valid reasons.
--He regressed to a more solid player, not the generational, transcendant player he seemed to be in his rookie season.
--He sustained a significant injury that may have hampered his value to the team.
--The team did their do-diligence during arbitration, paying Mike Trout well and sustaining a good working relationship with the player.
But if by this point, the Angels still consider Trout to be the face of their franchise, now would be the time for them to lock him up for good. He would still be entering his physical prime, and would have to be paid handsomely, I’d imagine.
Or, however unlikely it may seem, he could’ve flamed out. If so, the Angels will have been thankful they didn’t lock him into a giant contract extension.
Either way, 2017 will be the final year the Angels have full control over Mike Trout.
Will baseball’s first $300 million, 10-year deal be what it takes to sign Mike Trout? Perhaps. But if he truly has blossomed into the next Mickey Mantle at this point, the Angels have no choice but to do it. Yes, outbid the Dodgers and the Yankees. They have to sign their franchise player. The great thing is, they won’t be handcuffed financially. With Josh Hamilton’s contract off the books, they will have the means to do so by then.
Looking into the future, the Angels have apparently lined up all the cards perfectly, allowing for enough payroll flexibility to give them options on what to do with the Phenom of all Phenoms, Michael Nelson Trout. Sure Craig Landis is sad he didn’t get his millions from the Angels for his client this year, but he can’t and won’t be able to make his client jump ship for a long time still.
Once Trout gets his millions, this one year of Landis’ discontent over a few hundred thousand dollars will be a distant memory. Don’t worry, Angel fans. Mike Trout isn’t going anywhere for awhile. And if he does, it will probably be more because he hasn’t become Mickey Mantle incarnate than because he’s pissed off at the team in 2013.
And it’s also good to remember that while all this contract stuff is far off in the future, a lot of what makes baseball great is that it is a game that is all about the moment. One pitch at a time. One game at a time. It’s 2013, and we have Mike Trout, one of the best players on the planet, wearing Halo red. That’s worth rooting for, all contracts aside.
Oh, and that one Pujols guy is pretty cool, too.