It is going to be an annual debate until it happens. Either the Angels are going to do what they must to get Mike Trout signed long-term or he will walk into free agency at 26 (!), potentially staring at the richest contract in the game’s history.
Last August, Kevin Goldstein (then of Baseball Prospectus, now of the Houston Astros) polled the baseball industry and asked what kind of deal front office types would offer Mike Trout at that time. Getting Blanked opened the discussion on our hallowed pages and the consensus was “whatever” he wants”, also a pull-quote from Goldstein’s piece.
Now 11 months have passed and the question is no less terrifying than it was at that time: what kind of deal does Mike Trout deserve?
When Goldstein’s piece went live last year, Trout owned a .345/.409/.597 line with 20 home runs. In the 525-odd plate appearances since, all he’s done is put up a .306/.389/.533 line with 25 home runs – though he increased his walk rate, cut his strikeouts, improved his contact rate while swinging a far fewer pitches outside the strike zone. He also stole 33 bases and hit 9 triples as a center fielder.
Worth noting: Goldstein’s piece went up one day after Trout’s 21st birthday – meaning he is yet to celebrate his 22nd.
With another full year of data supporting the claim that Mike Trout is all but the best player in the game, what kind of contract would you offer him? More insane to think about: what kind of contract might Trout actually turn down?
This post pivots off a series of tweets from a few Red Sox fans watching Trout more closely than usual with the Sox visiting Anaheim over the weekend. One, astute Sox fan and recovered blogger Patrick Sullivan, said he would slide a 10 year/$150 million contract across the table with no hesitation. On twitter, many responded that Trout would be crazy…to accept it.
Mike Trout is sitting on a winning lottery ticket, though one he cannot cash in for years. He doesn’t hit free agency until after the 2017 season. He is earning just $510 000 this season. Literally anything can happen over the next four years – how could he turn down a nine-figure contract?
Even allowing for the typical arbitration accounting (40/60/80 percent of market value is the working shorthand), can Mike Trout afford to take just $15 mil per annum (AAV) for his free agent years? That figure might represent HALF what he’ll get if he becomes a free agent in 2018. It’s crazy but it’s true – there is almost no figure that won’t see too low for a player who, even after signing a ten-year deal today, would hit free agency at age 32.
A few of the aforementioned Sox fans discussed Trout’s lack of options as it relates to his own equity or “reinsurance”, a concept with which I am in no way familiar. That has to factor into his decision to get paid now versus rolling the incredibly valuable dice.
So you tell me: less than one year later, what would YOU offer Mike Trout with the hope that he accepts? There is no number too big, is there? If you don’t want to pay him or he’s determined to hit free agency, can you trade Mike Trout?