Posted December 14, 2013

Randy Levine’s Mike Trout comment a reminder of Trout’s coming payday

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mike Trout
Angels' OF Mike Trout

Mike Trout’s longterm deal, whenever it comes, is sure to shatter salary records. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball is investigating Yankees team president Randy Levine for possible tampering stemming from a comment he made at Jacoby Ellsbury’s introductory press conference on Friday regarding the 31-year-old Robinson Cano’s departure and the wisdom of giving out ten-year contracts.

“If Mike Trout was here,” Levine said, “I would recommend a 10-year contract. But for people over 30, I don’t believe it makes sense. I don’t think [principal owner] Hal [Steinbrenner] thinks it makes sense. We were very clear about that.”

The tampering charge strikes me as ludicrous, but Levine’s comment nonetheless served as a reminder that Trout’s days as a multi-millionaire will soon be upon him. The 2014 season will be Trout’s last prior to arbitration, and as a perennial MVP candidate, he could set records in arbitration if the Angels don’t try to extend him first.

Signing Trout to an extension before he hits arbitration next winter would seem like a no-brainer for the Angels, but it won’t be that easy. From Trout’s perspective, there’s very little incentive to sign now. Trout, if you can believe it, is nine years younger than Cano and will become a free agent in November 2017, just two months after his 26th birthday. A ten-year contract at that point would only take him through is age-35 season, making it a solid investment for any team akin to the ten-year, $189 million deal the Yankees signed Derek Jeter to in 2001 covering his age-27 to -36 seasons, or, even more fittingly, the ten-year, $252 million deal Alex Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers the same offseason covering his age-25 to -34 seasons.

Rodriguez’s deal was a record-setter at the time and has since been surpassed only by the subsequent ten-year deal Rodriguez signed after opting out of his first contract in 2007 (a deal covering his age-32 to -41 seasons that the Yankees clearly regret and was likely the basis for Levine’s comments about Cano and Trout). If Trout, like Cano, reaches free agency without signing an extension, he could be the most valuable free agent to hit the market since Rodriguez.

Extensions have become the industry standard for young stars because of teams’ understanding that signing players to market-price contracts that pay them peak-age salaries into their late thirties is bad business. The trade-off for the players is security against injury or performance collapse in advance of their free agent eligibility. Typically, the earlier a player is signed, the more leverage the team has to suppress his salary. The most extreme examples of that thus far have been the Rays’ initial extensions for Evan Longoria — $17.5 million over six years plus three club options — and Matt Moore — $14 million over five years plus three club options — both signed before either player had played a full month in the majors. Trout is as likely as any player to suffer a performance-altering injury, but his incentive to resist an extension is greater than any other player of the free-agent era.

If Trout’s next four seasons are roughly as good as his last two (and, given that he’s only 22, he could actually get better), what would he be worth on the open market after the 2017 season? The mind boggles. Surely, he’d surpass Rodriguez’s record $275 million post-opt-out deal, and the benchmarks of $300 million in total value (and thus a $30 million average annual value) would seem likely to fall as well, particularly given the influx of money into the game in recent years. Given that kind of potential payday, what could the Angels offer Trout in the interim that would make it worth his while to push back his free agent eligibility?

The richest extension in major league history is the ten-year, $225 million deal the Reds gave to Joey Votto, but that deal, signed in April 2012, doesn’t kick in until next season, so it was less an extension than a preemptive free agent signing given Votto would have hit free agency this winter (as a result, it covers Votto’s age-30 to -39 seasons, Levine wouldn’t approve). Joe Mauer’s $184 million extension with the Twins, which was signed in March 2010 but didn’t kick in until 2011, had identical timing and covers Mauer’s age-28 to -37 seasons (better, but when Mauer signed he was a catcher, so not really).

As far as an extension that actually covered both pre- and post-free agency seasons, the richest in the game’s history is Buster Posey’s nine-year, $167 million extension with the Giants which was signed last March and covers all three of his arbitration years plus his first six years after his scheduled free agency. Given Trout’s potential to pull down a contract worth close to twice that amount as a free agent, I can’t imagine Trout signing a similar extension.

Most likely, the Angels would have to offer Trout more than $200 million just to start the conversation about an extension. Giving Trout Cano’s $240 million over ten years now, a contract that would expire after Trout’s age-31 season, would be a masterstroke for the Angels. Unfortunately, they already gave that contract to Albert Pujols prior to his age-32 season and have eight years left on it.

The reality of the situation is the Angels would likely have an easier time affording the free-agent Trout on the open market after the 2017 season — at which point their contracts with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton, which owe those three players a combined $70 million in 2016 and Hamilton alone $30 million in 2017, will have expired — than they would signing him to an extension prior to that. Fortunately for the Angels, a ten-year deal for Trout at that point would still make good sense. Unfortunately for the Angels, it would also make sense to the Yankees.

39 comments
johnnyjones9999
johnnyjones9999

Anyone who thinks this is tampering is clearly a Yankee hater.  They aren't my team, but seriously people.  Trout is the only current baseball player that any team should consider a 10 year deal on and if the GM of YOUR team doesn't agree with that and isn't willing to say that publicly you should start a campaign to get them fired.  Trout's age combined with his numbers make him the perfect 10 year candidate and the only reason the Angels would be upset about any GM pointing this out would be because they screwed up tremendously with Pujols and Hamilton, not to mention still paying for a chunk of Wells, who is with the Yankees.  The Angels may have completely ruined their own chances of keeping Trout because they made these salary mistakes.


Also don't say you would give any young pitcher 10 years.  Nowadays pitchers arms fall off so routinely you cannot offer 10 years to a pitcher.  Trout is literally the only 10 year man in the game at this moment in time.  Five years from now even he won't be worth 10.

GaloofvonDorkmeister
GaloofvonDorkmeister

A madman is running the asylum.


I hope everyone that thinks that these players "deserve" millions of dollars understand that this is 100% due to Player's Unions.


So the next time anyone confronts you with a story about how business owners and CEO's rightly receive the lion's share of corporate profits, make sure to refer them to sports salaries in which the workers (i.e. the one's that make the product) reap the benefits and the owners are happy to get 10% of gross revenue.







.

RichW
RichW

I hope Trout sticks it to the Angels when he is in the driver's seat just like the Angels are doing to him right now. He will remember.

bronxbomma
bronxbomma

where do u put trout? transition ells bury to right, trout center, grander right. fuggedabodit,. ichiro wells beltran will be long gone in 2017...

BrianC2
BrianC2

Why isn't anyone talking about how the Phillies are tampering? They have a special night next season when the Angel play the Phillies. They set aside 1,000 special tickets for people from Trout's home twon, Millville. Sounds like tampering more than Randy Levine saying he'd give Trot a ten year deal.


As for the Angels being able to afford Trout right now, yes they can. Arte Moreno is a billionaire. If he lets Trout get away he better sell the Angels since he'll be hated.

Cheng-hsiuTsai
Cheng-hsiuTsai

For Trout, 400millon and 15 year deals is possible

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

That's an innocent comment by Levine.  It will end up being a fact too.  This is a tempest-in-a-teapot that is making MLB offices look silly.  (and i'm not a yankees fan)

woodybrosnan
woodybrosnan

This just shows how much MLB has it in for the Yankees. Not sure whether it's Selig's jealousy or Torre's revenge. The tampering charge is ridiculous.

joe6647
joe6647

At that point a 10 year deal wont do.  Itll have to be a 15 year deal for someone in his prime.  A 10 year deal is for someone in their 30s.  The market has already been set

barrytlyons
barrytlyons

Not always a safe bet to say a player will be the same -even in his prime years- a year from now.  A sort of risk that all the teams will take, but don't put any cart before the horse.

BlackSession1
BlackSession1

In 2017, it'll be more than just the Yankees vying for his services, trust me. With baseball being as flush with cash as it is, and given that he doesn't suffer any career-altering injuries, there will be at least 5 teams after him, if not more. Yanks, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Mets, and so on. 35 million a year may not even seem like a crazy figure by that point. 

RakeshCapt
RakeshCapt

Love that last line  "Unfortunately for the Angels, it would also make sense to the Yankees."

John4
John4

I have to agree with Buzz below.  Look for Trout to sign with the Yankees when he becomes a free agent.  Figure the contract will be for 10 years and $350 Million.  Yes, 3-5-0 Million.  Why would it be any less?

BuzzFrankacott
BuzzFrankacott

May as well start fitting Trout out for his pinstripes now

John4
John4

@Cheng-hsiuTsai I think that MLB contracts are limited to 10 years maximum.  Otherwise, I agree with you.

BrianC2
BrianC2

@PhillyPennYou don't really know if it was innocent or maybe the Yankees planned it. Let it slip out we'd give Trout a ten year deal. Make it look like a mistake. It's out there now either way. The Yankees should be fined for it. I say they can pay what Vernon Wells is owed. Instead of the Angels paying $18 million of his salary next season the Yankees can pay all of it.

Rico1
Rico1

@woodybrosnan You could have fooled me. With the whole A-Rod mess all I heard from Yankee haters is Selig was trying to help the Yankees by instilling that huge 200 games suspension. Either way, trust me, they definitely do not have it in for the Yankees. MLB needs the Yankees cause it's money, NY, and plenty of drama...

BrianC2
BrianC2

@woodybrosnanThey haven't done anything yet but Levine did break the rule. Teams aren't allowed to do anything to try to bribe players on other teams or even tell them they want them. Until Trout is a free agent only the Angels can talk to him. Or even about him.

joe6647
joe6647

If a team like Seattle will dole out 10 years, 240 million for someone in their 30s, im sure the Yankees will go 15 years, 350 million for Trout

Michael10
Michael10

@barrytlyonsEspecially a player whose value depends heavily on his speed on the bases and in centerfield...

BrianC2
BrianC2

@BlackSession1None of them will even talk to him since the Angels will have already locked him up. They are the team that gave him the chance. He should sign a long term contract. Now Arte Moreno needs to wake up and do it. He can pay for it out of his own pocket if he has to. Fox Sports is already paying him $150 million a year. That covers most of the rest of the payroll.

BrianC2
BrianC2

@John4Don't swear like that. Trout and pinstripes is bad. Wash your mouth out.

Michael10
Michael10

@John4@Cheng-hsiuTsaiPretty sure there's no cap on what you can pay a ballplayer or for how long. A dollar cap would make much more sense than a longevity cap...

Michael10
Michael10

@BrianC2@PhillyPennAny team would offer Trout a ten-year deal, Levine simply stated the obvious. It's not like Trout said "What? You mean someone might actually give me a ten-year contract? That certainly never crossed my mind (or my agent's) before Randy Levine made it clear..."

John4
John4

@joe6647 You should work on your math a little.  350 over 15 is a lower annual average than 240 over 10.  Also, I think that 10 year contracts are the maximum length in MLB.  (If 15 year contracts were acceptable, Trout would get over 420 Million for those 15 years).  

BrianC2
BrianC2

@Michael10@barrytlyonsSpeed isn't Trout's only value. This year he hardly was given the green light to steal bases even. I guess when you hit in front of Albert Pujols you aren't supposed to mess up his at-bats. The Angels are wasting Trout's speed now. Trying to shove him into left field was a waste too. I guess that problem is over now though.

Michael10
Michael10

@BrianC2@BlackSession1He was a first round draft pick -- I'm sure he'd have gotten his "chance" anywhere. I doubt he feels any great sense of indebtedness to the Angels (not does his agent). If he owed anything to the organization, I think it's fair to mark it "repaid in full -- and then some."

GaloofvonDorkmeister
GaloofvonDorkmeister

@Michael10


What would make the most sense is if sports figures were paid in Old Turkish Lira.


Maybe then, when someone reads that a guy batting .244 with 7 HRs (OPS .771) is making... get this...


57.1 TRILLION LIRA*


we'll wake up and smell the absurdity.


















* A-rod's stats for 2013 for a salary of $28M


BrianC2
BrianC2

@Michael10@BrianC2@PhillyPennIt's still against the rules. It's for sure tampering. Something has to be done about it or everyone will do it. They can say what they want as long as they make it sound innocent. All 29 teams outside the Angels will say it and make it impossible for the Angels to even re-sign him. That must be stopped. Major League Baseball needs to set an example to stop all of that.

BrianC2
BrianC2

@Michael10@BrianC2@woodybrosnanNo other team can talk about Trout. That's the rule. He belongs to the Angels for four more years. There's a reason they have the tampering rule.

BrianC2
BrianC2

@John4@joe6647I've never seen anything about the longest contracts allowed in baseball. Lately the experts have been saying Trout will get 12 years and maybe $400 million.

Michael10
Michael10

@John4@joe6647Why is the math off? Are you assuming the last five years of such a deal would be as productive as the first ten? I can't think of any 36-year-old that would turn down another five-year guarantee at $110MM...

BrianC2
BrianC2

@Michael10@BrianC2@BlackSession1Not really. Nobody else picked him because scouts didn't see much of him his senior year. He might have been picked by the Yankees but that's just what they say now. They might not have picked him in the first round.