Mike Trout’s 2012 season was nothing short of astounding as the 21 year old was the unanimous winner of the American League Rookie of the Year award and finished runner-up in the AL MVP race to Miguel Cabrera. The 25th pick in the 2009 MLB Draft has left the Angels in a highly complex situation moving forward with his unprecedented performance this past season.
Already this offseason we have seen centerfielders such as Angel Pagan secure a 4 year $40 million dollar deal to remain a Giant and Shane Victorino receiving a $39 million dollar deal to patrol center in Fenway for the next 3 years. Both Pagan and Victorino are nice players but if you take Pagan’s best season back in 2010 with the Mets where he produced a WAR of 5.1, combine that with Victorino’s top year in 2011 with the Phillies with a WAR of 5.2 and their grand total WAR in each of their best season’s totals 10.3 which is still less than Trout’s 2012 output of 10.7 WAR by himself. This alone tells me that if you take the average annual value of each of the Pagan and Victorino deals at $10 million and $13 million respectively, put them together you are looking at $23 million per year which is still less than what Trout’s market value would be considering his young age, higher performance value, and marquee value.
Now the Angels do have one large factor still on their side which is that Trout will remain under team control for the next 5 seasons until 2017. They could use the Pirates contract with Andrew McCutchen as a blueprint as the Pirates opted to buy out his remaining arbitration eligible years along with two free agency seasons and an option for another year. Obviously the money would have to be a great deal more than the $51.5 million the Pirates guaranteed McCutchen in the deal. The monkey wrench in this comparison is clearly Trout has much more upside than McCutchen and Trout is still just 21 while McCutchen was 25 when he signed the extension. In addition, from Trout’s side I highly doubt his representation would sacrifice a few free agency years when they can most definitely fasten a megadeal for their client entering free agency at age 26 rather than the 28 this deal would have him hit free agency.
The only real way the Angels can logistically extend Trout at this point is with a deal way beyond his arbitration years and going all in. Something along the lines of at least 12 years in length which sounds crazy since he only has 682 plate appearances at the Major League level to his name. This sort of deal would keep Trout an Angel through his most productive years and would require a huge financial commitment from the team somewhere in the neighborhood of $200+ million in conjunction with the risk of Trout not getting seriously injured and remaining highly productive. Given Trout’s small sample size of MLB experience this option is exceedingly dicey.
It is quite evident that it is dreadfully difficult to find another deal from a past player to use as a baseline for Mike Trout at this point in time. He is not arbitration eligible until the 2015 season which means you have two more seasons of Trout at a vast discount before it gets complicated. Waiting it out will give you more of a sample size to value the player while negotiating now is unnecessary as you are more than likely at his absolute peak. Just looking at his stats from last season he seemed to tail off in the final two months of the season as his OPS went from .941 in May to .950 in June to a staggering 1.259 in July then started to dip to .866 in August and then dropping a bit further to .836 in September. I recommend the Angels give it another year and hold off on the long term deal. Either way the Angels will be paying big money down the line they might as well wait another year or two.