Baseball’s best player finally got his payday. This past week, it was announced that centerfielder Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels have agreed to a contract extension. The terms? A record breaking $430 million over 12 years, the largest contract in the history of American professional sports. The announcement comes on the heels of Bryce Harper’s own record-breaking contract, overtaking his deal by $100 million. The massive deal puts Trout in his own echelon, daunting the contracts of Harper, San Diego Padres signee Manny Machado and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado.
The deal does not come as a shock to anyone that follows baseball, however, as Trout is unequivocally considered the most talented and most valuable player in the MLB. The question was not if he would get paid; instead, everybody was speculating about how much he could possibly be worth. Looking at his career stats, his value is up there with many of the Hall of Famers, and the end of his peak lies nowhere in sight.
He has already amassed a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) number of 64.2. To put that in perspective, he has already passed Hall of Famers right fielder Vladimir Guerrero (59.4), first baseman Harmon Killebrew (60.4) and second baseman Jackie Robinson (61.4). According to FanGraphs.com, Trout is projected to put up a WAR of 9.2 this year, meaning that he will pass other Hall of Famers like designated hitter Edgar Martinez, outfielder Tim Raines and first basemen Jim Thome.
It isn’t just the advanced value metrics that Trout is racking up: He is on pace with almost every record holder for the major offensive statistics. Through his first 1,000 games, which he reached this past summer, he had 52 more home runs than Barry Bonds did (224 to 172), he was only 105 hits behind all-time hit leader Pete Rose (1,231 to 1,126) and had more walks than Barry Bonds (638 to 603). He was also posting a higher career average than Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. (.308 to .303).
Trout’s ability to spray extra base hits all over the field and walk at an extremely high rate will allow him to continue to prosper. His production, barring any injury-laden seasons (knock on wood), should stay constant for the foreseeable future. He is only 27 years old with most projections indicating that his peak should last until he’s about 34. And while that may seem like a long time, it is important to note that the Angels have already wasted his first seven full seasons.
They have only made the playoffs once in the past seven years, when they were the top seed in the American League (AL) and were unceremoniously swept by the Kansas City Royals. In those three games, Trout was neutered: In 15 plate appearances, he had only one hit (a solo home run), three walks and one unsuccessful stolen base attempt. When you have arguably one of the most valuable players of all time, someone who can raise your win total from 70 to 80 wins alone, it’s important not to squander his prime.
Trout’s new mega-deal spells the beginning of the most pivotal push for the Angels franchise. After years of pouring money and significant playing time into aging superstars like first baseman Albert Pujols, centerfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson, they have shifted their roster focus toward their farm system through the amateur draft. They have a number of in-house pitchers, including their 2017 second-round pick, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) right-handed pitcher Griffin Canning, that are ready to contribute at the major league level within the next couple of years.
They also have the number two overall prospect, according to Baseball Prospectus, in the form of outfielder Jo Adell. He has been touted as the eventual replacement for Trout, showcasing a five-tool potential as an outfielder. With Trout staying, the Angels will have a solid foundation for the outfield until the mid 2020s. Their future looks bright, even without mentioning two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, a defensive wizard who is coming into his own as an offensive force.
The length of the deal affords the Angels some breathing room for their championship window. Right now, the AL West is run by the Houston Astros, who have succeeded due to the deep farm system that produced the cornerstones of their playoff runs. The Angels have been plagued by an injury-prone pitching staff; this includes Ohtani, who suffered the debilitating Tommy John injury and was prevented from pitching for the entirety of the 2019 season.
If Trout’s deal had been shorter, they would have been rushed to cash in on their stars’ primes and would have been forced to try and compete with the juggernaut that is the Astros before they were ready. However, since Trout’s deal will most likely outlive the sun, the Angels have the opportunity to push for a title at their own pace. They are building for the future, looking well-equipped to fully capitalize on having the best player in baseball for the next 10 years.