PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- From the New York perspective, add Mike Trout to the ones that got away this offseason.
Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and even Nolan Arenado, who was a year from free agency, all signed mega-deals in the past month to secure long-term, lucrative futures someplace other than the Big Apple. Now it’s the New Jersey native Trout -- universally considered the sport’s best player -- as the two-time American League MVP reportedly was nearing agreement Tuesday on a record 12-year, $432 million contract with the Angels. The deal has a no-trade clause, and no opt-outs.
ESPN was first to break the news, and word circulated quickly through the Mets’ clubhouse Tuesday morning, like a locker-to-locker brushfire. Players first scrolled through phones, then looked up with incredulous grins.
“That’s $100 million more than Bryce!” one yelled.
Indeed. Harper’s record for the biggest contract in a team sport lasted 17 days, counting from the date the Phillies officially announced his 13-year, $330 million deal. Some might go as far as to say that Harper was indirectly responsible for Trout’s windfall, as one of the first things he did in a Phillies uniform was suggest he’d recruit the seven-time All-Star to come back east to play for his hometown team.
The Angels were furious with Harper’s tampering, and they didn’t wait very long to squash any further covert recruiting efforts. Trout, who hails from Millville, New Jersey, about 45 miles from Philly, wasn’t set to hit free agency until after the 2020 season. But the speculation about his future already had begun in earnest, and Trout was on the radar of a number of deep-pocketed clubs, with the Yankees believed to be among them.
The singular guarantee about Trout’s future was that he definitely would surpass any previous contracts. The only question was by how much.
The answer arrived Tuesday. When completed, Trout’s $432 million extension would give him the record for both total payout and average annual value (AAV) at $36 million. The Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke had owned the top AAV ($34.4M) since signing his six-year, $206.5 million deal before the 2016 season. Last month, Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million extension with the Rockies, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2009.
“It’s been kind of a strange offseason in that regard where everybody is just signing early extensions,” the Cubs’ Kris Bryant told the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Trout] deserves every penny of it and more. The guy has been the best player in baseball, is probably one of the best baseball players ever, so I don’t even think there’s anything to question about him signing that deal. He obviously likes it in L.A. and now he’s there forever, so that’s pretty cool.”
Trout, only 27, narrowly missed earning both Rookie of the Year honors and the MVP in 2012 when he finished second in voting to the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera. Since then, Trout has won twice (2014, ’16) and placed second three times. His worst finish was fourth, after playing only 114 games in ’17 because of a torn thumb ligament.
Still, Trout has yet to win a playoff game with the Angels, who have just three over-.500 seasons during his eight-year tenure. They won 98 games in 2014, then were swept by the Royals in the Division Series.
None of that has been Trout’s fault, obviously. Trout is a career .309 hitter who has averaged 30 homers, 81 RBIs and 24 stolen bases with a .990 OPS. His 64.3 WAR has eclipsed any player in history through age 26.
By any statistical measure, Trout deserves to be baseball’s highest-paid player, and yet he’s not considered to be one of the game’s most bankable stars, like an Aaron Judge or Mookie Betts. A big part of that has to do with the Angels, who are second to the Dodgers in the SoCal market and often can’t been seen on TV on the East Coast until 10 p.m. or later.
In addition, Trout is widely regarded as a player who doesn’t seek the spotlight, a low-key, game-first guy who actually was criticized by commissioner Rob Manfred in 2017 for not doing enough to promote the game. Trout shrugged off the slight, saying he and Manfred were “cool.”
Trout’s financial profile, however, is a different story, as he’s further changed the offseason narrative about owners shutting off the cash spigot in baseball. Trout follows Harper, Arenado and Machado (10 years, $300M) as this offseason’s biggest winners with a week still to go in spring training.
Source: Extension for Bregman. Third baseman Alex Bregman has agreed to a six-year, $100 million extension with the Astros, a source confirmed to ESPN.
BREAKING THE BANK
Baseball owners have written some ginormous checks in the past three weeks. The big deals:
Date Player, Team Total Payout Length (Years) AAV
3/19 Mike Trout, Angels $432M 12 $36M
3/2 Bryce Harper, Phillies $330M 13 $25.3M
2/20 Manny Machado, Padres $300M 10 $30M
2/26 Nolan Arenado, Rockies $260M 8 $32.5M