Why the Mike Trout contract ruffled feathers in MLB

Mike Trout

(Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

How is it possible that a player, even one as filled with both accomplishments and potential as Angels outfielder Mike Trout, can set himself up for life, make a deal that both his employer and his family are comfortable with, yet still find himself the subject of criticism?

Trout, the Angels’ two-time MVP runner-up, signed a six-year, $144.5-million contract just before this season He has no worries, financially, forever. The Angels, who have $373 million tied up in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, finally have what might be considered a good buy.

Baseball economics, though, don’t relate to the kitchen-table issues with which everyday Americans deal. The consensus within the industry – and never forget, it is an industry – was that Trout, just 22, could have received a longer deal worth far more money.

Don’t think so? Miguel Cabrera – at 31, closer to the downside of his prime than entering it – signed a 10-year, $292 million extension with Detroit. That deal is set to end when Cabrera is north of 40. What would a 10-year deal for Trout be worth, given he would be just 32  when it ended?

Here is Trout’s take, via his agent, Craig Landis, in the Los Angeles Times: “What Mike was trying to accomplish was some financial security, but also keeping the door open for whatever may happen down the road.”

Which makes some sense: A huge paycheck now, and regardless of what happens, he’ll be a free agent at 29, still in line for a $300 million deal.

But the reason the deal rankled is that there’s a code in baseball, and that code involves not taking an under-market-value contract. Fans might laud Trout opting for personal financial security that also insures he’ll be with his original team for a while. Players, though, cringe, because one contract affects the next, and so on.

This all, in a weird way, affects the Nationals. First, shortstop Ian Desmond is signed only through 2015 – in large part because he wasn’t going to sign a deal that undersold other shortstops, even if he left millions on the table.

The Trout contract, of course, could be directly compared to whatever deal Washington outfielder Bryce Harper might demand. Trout is, of course, more accomplished at this point. But Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, isn’t interested in quick-payoff, instant-gratification personal security. He’s interested in how Harper’s future contract fits into the overall economic structure of baseball – an element Trout and his team apparently eschewed, just as they made sure their family was set for life.

BY THE NUMBERS

35

Runs for the Marlins in their first five games. Miami finished last in the majors in runs scored in 2013.

.818

OPS in 2013 of Cleveland 2B Jason Kipnis, just signed to a six-year, $52.5-million contract. The average OPS of American League second baseman last year was .697.

 QUOTABLE

“I asked him for forgiveness, as well as my teammates. It was my mistake. I’ll be here early tomorrow.”

– Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who was benched by Manager Don Mattingly for Friday’s home opener after he showed up late

 

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