At this point in the proceedings, it seems like a good time to admit there likely will never be a ceiling, an unassailable point, when it comes to salaries in Major League Baseball.
If you thought the $330 million the Philadelphia Phillies gave Bryce Harper constituted the maximum, you’re not going to believe what the Los Angles Angels are about to give Mike Trout.
Just 27 years old, considered the best player in the game, Trout will sign a 10-year extension to his existing contract that will pay him more than $430 million, the richest contract in the history of professional sports. And multiple reports say there is no opt-out clause. Trout was operating with a six-year, $144.5 deal, which will now be torn up.
In the wake of the signings of Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado and Harper, the Angels were anxious to keep Trout away from free agency after the 2020 season and went to extraordinary lengths to make it happen.
It’s impossible, really, to justify that type of salary other than saying the Angels felt it was reasonable for a talent such as Trout and believe his presence on the team will generate enough revenue to help them pay for it considering he will be on their payroll until 2030.
Paying big money has never been a problem for Angels owner Arte Moreno. His team has drawn over three million fans for the last 16 seasons to one of the game’s oldest ballparks.
He gave Albert Pujols a 10-year, $240 million deal, Josh Hamilton five years and $125 million and pitcher C.J. Wilson five years and $77.5 million. Each of those deals can charitably be described as busts. But Moreno believes he can easily bank roll these contracts because of a cable television deal that brings him approximately $3 billion through the 2031 season.
In MLB’s new world work of measure by metrics, Trout’s skill level stands out even greater than it might appear. The game is now obsessed with one particular way of quantifying ability and that’s WAR (wins above replacement).
In 2018, Trout’s 10.2 WAR in 140 games blew past an assembly line of Hall of Famers everyone would love on their Stat-O-Matic team – Yogi Berra, Dennis Eckersley, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Hank Greenberg, Harmon Killebrew, Juan Marichal, Mike Piazza, Mariano Rivera, Jackie Robinson, Willie Stargell and Dave Winfield.
In just eight years of service, Trout’s WAR (64.3) is a record for position player just past their 26th birthday and 99th all-time. Only Ted Williams surpasses him in terms of those through their first eight seasons, regardless of age.
Only five active players are ahead of Trout in career WAR – Albert Pujols (100.0), Clayton Kershaw (64.6), Zack Greinke (65.7), Robinson Cano (69.2) and Miguel Cabrera (69.4).
There are now three players making at least $300 million – Machado ($300), Giancarlo Stanton ($325), Harper and Trout. Trout will make an average of $35.83 million, blowing past Greinke’s deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Trout was the 25th overall pick by the Angels in 2009. He broke in after being recalled in July 2011 when he was just 19 years old. In 40 games that season he hit just .220 with an OBP of .281.
He then won the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year. He has finished first or second for Most Valuable Player in six of his seven seasons and won it twice (2014 and 2016). He is a seven-time All-Star, a two-time All-Star Game MVP and has won six Silver Slugger Awards.
Trout has played 1,065 games in his career with 240 home runs, 648 RBIs, 793 runs scored and 189 stolen bases. His slash line is .307/.416/.573.
Interestingly, those statistics have not greatly helped the Angels improve. They have been the postseason only once in his eight seasons. They were swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals in 2014.
The Angels have not won a postseason game since the 2009 ALCS against the Yankees and have finished each of the last two seasons at 80-82.