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Mike Trout Rumors
While the rumored long-term deal has yet to come to fruition, the Angels and Mike Trout agreed to a record-setting one-year deal, according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. Trout will earn $1MM in 2014, marking the largest payday in Major League history for a pre-arbitration player. Trout's deal surpasses the $900K guarantee achieved by Ryan Howard in 2007 and Albert Pujols in 2003 (though as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets, Howard's deal was farther north of the then-lower league minimum salary).
The $1MM salary likely makes it easier to extend Trout; as MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reported earlier in the week, once Trout's 2014 salary is agreed to, the Angels can structure a long-term deal to begin in 2015 without fear of incurring luxury tax penalties in 2014. Talks with Trout are rumored to be surrounding a six-year, $150MM extension. That mark would be historic in its own right and would buy out three years of free agency, were it to begin in the 2015 season.
Earlier this morning, our own Zach Links examined how pre-arbitration salaries are determined, noting that several teams use rigid scales that afford only minimal raises to players with 0 to 3 years of Major League service time. As that post explains, performance is often factored into the salaries of pre-arb players, but a raise of this magnitude is virtually unheard of for a player who has yet to hit arbitration.
Angels GM Jerry Dipoto called the deal a "landmark," when speaking to reporters (including Shaikin). Fletcher tweets that Dipoto feels that Trout's performance merited breaking a rule on their 0-to-3 pay scale (referring to years of service time). Indeed, Trout has been arguably the best player in baseball over the past two seasons, slashing an otherworldly .324/.416/.560 with 57 homers, 82 steals, two All-Star bids, two Silver Slugger awards, a Rookie of the Year trophy and a pair of runner-up finishes in the American League MVP voting.
The contract is a notable step up from last year's $510K renewal, which was met with some harsh criticism from agent Craig Landis, fans and the media. This coming season marks Trout's final year before arbitration eligibility, and it's fair to assume that Trout could shatter records in arbitration as well, if the two sides are ultimately unable to agree on a long-term deal.
MONDAY: MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports that the Angels don't have to wait until Opening Day to sign Trout to an extension in order to avoid luxury tax ramifications. Because Trout has already had his 2014 salary set, the Angels can structure an extension beginning with the 2015 season without undergoing penalty. In other words: they can extend Trout as soon as they want. This, Gonzalez writes, is the same rationale the Yankees used when signing Brett Gardner to a four-year extension that doesn't kick in until 2015.
SUNDAY, 2:00 pm: "No comment, but I like how a lot of people are writing it. It's pretty funny," Trout told reporters, including Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
12:46 pm: Mike Trout and the Angels are discussing a six-year deal worth about $150MM, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports. The deal would buy out two free agent seasons, and allow Trout to become a free agent at age 28. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets the Angels' desire is for a seven-year pact in the $150-160MM range. Trout is represented by LSW Baseball.
There are still details to iron out, as Passan notes that there remains a difference between the two sides in the "low eight figures." The deal will cover one pre-arbitration season, as well as three arbitration years. Fangraphs' Dave Cameron recently wrote about the possibility of a Trout extension and estimated Trout might make a total of $60MM during his arbitration seasons, so a $150MM extension over six years might essentially buy out two free agency years at a little less than $45MM apiece.
Passan suggests that, in practice, Trout might actually get $35MM and $38MM in those seasons. Those still sound like enormous figures, but they're hardly surprising given the escalation of salaries throughout baseball and given that those two free-agency years would be the age-26 and age-27 seasons for the best player in the game. The $25MM average annual value would tie teammate Josh Hamilton as the richest for an outfielder (per Cot's Baseball Contracts), but the six-year, $150MM proposal would still fall far short of the record-setting seven-year, $215MM extension Clayton Kershaw signed with the Dodgers last month.
The timing of the extension is crucial to the Angels, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. The Angels are not believed to be interested in signing Trout to a deal that includes 2014, because it would likely push them over the $189MM luxury tax threshold. Fletcher reports the Angels are approximately $15MM under the threshold now and, by reaching a deal on a 2015 contract sometime after Opening Day, could avoid going over because it would not count against this year's cap, even if Trout receives a sizeable signing bonus to be paid in 2014.
Recently, Jeff Todd asked MLBTR readers about the parameters of a Trout extension. The consensus (as measured by the median of responses) was the Angels should be willing to give Trout a 10-year, $300MM deal, but a nine-year, $250MM contract is more likely to be reached.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Mike Trout's on-field excellence need not be repeated here, nor compared to that of other players. He is really young, and really good, and is those things combined in a manner unmatched by any other current player. Also, having not yet qualified for arbitration, he is really cheap.
Trout will remain youthful for some time, and every indication is that he'll continue to be outstanding. But he will not continue to play for a league minimum salary for much longer.
Set to hit arbitration next year with potentially unprecedented levels of performance, Trout could well shatter records if he is allowed to go year to year. Then, qualifying for free agency after the 2017 season at just 26 years of age, Trout could become the most sought-after open-market player in baseball history.
On the other hand, injury or decline could change things. And Trout's career earnings are relatively meager as things stand, in spite of his two monster years of performance, leaving him somewhat exposed entering his platform seasons.
So, both Trout and the Angels face risk, and both sides have incentives to talk about a new deal. Indeed, recent reports indicate that the parties are legitimately interested in making a serious run at reaching an extension at the start of the current year.
That makes this an opportune time to ask MLBTR's readers how they see things. The poll below comes with two questions, broken into two parts, both of which assume an extension scenario during the current offseason (or reasonably early during the 2014 campaign, when any contract is likely to be inked due to luxury tax considerations).
First, it asks you to opine as to the largest deal that the Angels should be willing to agree to with Trout (years and dollars). Second, it asks you to predict what deal Trout will ultimately land.
I have set fairly generous response parameters, designed to avoid patently absurd responses. The number of years must be between 3 and 15, while the amount (in $MMs) must fall between 50 and 500.
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.
Click below to view survey results.
The Rangers didn't really expect to re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter, yet did their due diligence by keeping in touch with Cruz's agent Adam Katz, GM Jon Daniels told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer. "We've touched base every week or so," Daniels said. "Nellie's highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with Adam. We made our moves and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we'll see where it goes. It's a unique situation for him as a free agent. When we made our decision to sign [Shin-Soo] Choo, it was with the understanding that [Cruz's] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don't know what's going on with other teams and Nellie."
Here's some more from around the AL West…
- The Rangers' view on re-signing Cruz is "unchanged," FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets, in that the team would only bring him back at a lower price and if he can't find any other suitors.
- Nick Franklin was almost traded to the Diamondbacks last offseason and had been the subject of trade rumors this winter as well since the Mariners' acquisition of Robinson Cano. Despite all of the speculation, Franklin tells Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that he's just focusing on the upcoming season. “I mean, as far as I know, I’ve been traded 20 times, and I’m still here," Franklin said. “It doesn’t really bother me at all. All I can do is control what I can and go out and play the game.”
- A 10-year, $300MM contract for Mike Trout has often been cited as a possible extension for the young superstar, though MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines that Trout's representatives might take a lesser deal given that Trout still has four years until free agency and his stock could drop in the interim. Also, a shorter deal would set Trout up for another massive contract later in his career. Gonzalez suggests a seven-year, $200MM extension could work. In my opinion, while the $200MM mark is a major threshold for any player, I'd guess the Angels would happily lock Trout up at that price.
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters, including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, that there is very little chance top prospect Addison Russell begins the season on the Major League roster. The A's are already set at shortstop wth Jed Lowrie (with Nick Punto and Eric Sogard as backup options), and as Slusser notes, there is little reason to start Russell's service time clock at this point in his young career.
MLBTR joins many others in offering its condolences to the family and friends of Jim Fregosi, who passed away today at age 71. Though he was a part of several organizations during his 53-year run in professional baseball, Fregosi will perhaps be remembered best for his important role in the Angels organization. He went to the team in the 1960 expansion draft, saw time during their first season of competition, and then spent nearly a decade as the club's shortstop. After wrapping up a stellar playing career, Fregosi got his start as a big league manager with the Halos at age 36. The club retired his number 11 in 1988.
Here are a few notes on the current Angels ballclub:
- Team owner Arte Moreno covered a number of topics today in an interview with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Though recent reports on the team's ballpark lease negotiations have been positive, Moreno said that discussions are now "at a stalemate." That does not mean that the club is pushing for a new stadium — Moreno said "we haven't crossed that line yet" — but the owner said he has a deadline "in mind" for negotiations to conclude before he looks at other options. "We don't know how long it's going to take for that land to be profitable," he said. "We have the fourth-oldest stadium in baseball. It still has the original plumbing, electrical, concrete. It's going to cost between $125MM and $150MM just to keep it serviceable."
- The team did in fact offer free agent starter Matt Garza four years and $52MM, said Moreno, slightly more than the amount that Garza ultimately signed for with the Brewers. But Garza declined the offer, believing he could land a bigger deal.
- On the speculation that manager Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto faced the axe after a disappointing campaign, Moreno said that he remained confident in both men. "Mike has been here for 14 years, and I tried not to look at the capsule of one season," said Moreno. "He's been a winning coach. And I like the front office team Jerry has assembled. They're smart, they communicate well, and I like what our minor league staff is doing." The owner added that Dipoto deserved a chance to build out the team's talent pipeline, while offering a stark assessment of its stockpile of arms. "You look at our system, and there's no pitching coming in," he said. "You go to the cupboard, you're hungry and there's nothing in the cabinet."
- Moreno indicated that the team could cross the $189MM luxury tax line, but said "it has to be for the right guy." He continued: "If we get out of the box good, we get to the All-Star break and someone becomes available who could really enhance the team, we'll do our best to get him." With payroll currently standing at about $173MM for luxury tax purposes, Moreno indicated that the club was comfortable continuing to spend at a high rate but did have limits. "The reality is we have an operating budget below the threshold, we made money last year, and we're not interested in being in the red financially," he said.
- Of course, the contract status of star Mike Trout is an important aspect of the team's future financial standing. Extension negotiations are ongoing, said Moreno. "I can't say anything is close, but I'm optimistic by nature," he said. "It always gets down to the numbers. He likes it here, and we like him. We have four more years of control, and the farther you take someone out on a contract, the more risk the team assumes."
- Indeed, the numbers on a prospective Trout deal remain a fascinating topic to watch. ESPN.com's Buster Olney weighed in on the issue in an appearance on WEEI's Mut & Merloni (via Jerry Spar of WEEI.com). The club is feeling the pressure to sign Trout before his free agent horizon gets too close, said Olney, and baseball sources say that a 12-year, $400MM deal would not be an unfair target for the young superstar. Asking several GMs what they thought Trout could land on a one-year deal, Olney was given prices in the range of $35MM to a remarkable $50MM.
Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury). While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.
- The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum. Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
- Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen. "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere." Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
- The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything." Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
- While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market. The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
- Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades. Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
- The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension. Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today." We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.
The Angels and Mike Trout will enter negotiations about a multiyear contract this spring with the hopes that a deal will be reached shortly after Opening Day, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. Since Trout is still a year away from arbitration eligibility, the Halos could renew his contract for slightly more than the league minimum (as they did last year, with some controversy), though Trout would get a lot more money in his pocket immediately due to a signing bonus from a new extension.
Though the Angels control Trout through the 2017 season, an extension would give them some cost certainty through his three arbitration years, which seem likely to reach record levels. The Halos would surely look to cover at least a couple of Trout's free agent years in an extension, and agent Craig Landis of LSW Baseball could easily ask for at least $25MM for each of his client's free agent years.
The financial terms are mind-boggling for a 22-year-old player who has only 336 Major League games to his name, yet Trout's performance has justified such an inflated price tag. Trout hit .324/.416/.560 with 57 homers in 2012-13, and factoring in his speed (82 steals in 94 attempts) and outfield defense, Trout has accounted for a league-best 20.8 WAR in that span, according to Baseball Reference. If Trout and the Angels are looking for an extension in the range of nine or 10 seasons, such a deal could quite possibly eclipse Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275MM contract with the Yankees as the most expensive contract in baseball history.
The career of the Rays' Tim Beckham, who was the first overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, hasn't gone as planned, but Beckham finally did make it to the Majors at the tail end of the 2013 season. 2014, though, may turn out to be a lost year for him, as he tore his ACL in his right knee, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times notes (on Twitter). Beckham, who turns 24 in January, hit .276/.342/.387 in 522 plate appearances at Triple-A Durham last season. Here are more notes from around the American Legaue.
- Yankees president Randy Levine's recent comments about Mike Trout and the Angels displeased Major League Baseball, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. In reference to Robinson Cano's ten-year contract with the Mariners, Levine said, "If Mike Trout was here, I’d recommend the 10-year contract. But for people over 30, I don’t believe it makes sense." That led MLB to investigate whether Levine's comments broke any rules regarding tampering with another team's players. Levine says he called Angels president John Carpino to apologize, and he considers the matter settled.
- The Orioles are still negotiating with free-agent closer Grant Balfour, but Balfour wants three years and the Orioles only want to give him two, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. The Orioles indicate that they are willing to look elsewhere to fill their closer job if they can't find common ground with Balfour.
- The Orioles discussed a big-league deal with Jason Kubel's agency, Wasserman Media Group, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko reports. Kubel ended up signing a minor-league deal with the Twins, however, and Kubatko suggests that's because Kubel is very confident he'll make the team in Minnesota (Twitter links).
- After adding Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, the Mariners still want to add a starting pitcher, a reliever and another catcher, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports. They'd like to add relief help to offset the departure of Carter Capps, who headed to the Marlins in the Morrison trade, and they're looking for a catcher because they have just two, Mike Zunino and Jesus Sucre, on their 40-man.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have narrowed their list of possible selections for the first pick in this year's Rule 5 Draft to roughly 10 players, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. One possibility on their list is Pirates right-hander Zack Thornton. The 25-year-old pitched to a 2.63 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 across three levels in 2013, topping out at Triple-A. Here's more out of the AL West in the midst of the calm before the storm that is the Winter Meetings…
- Two general managers told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that they wouldn't part with Taijuan Walker in a package to land David Price (Twitter link). Last week, it was reported that the Mariners could push for Price but that Walker would need to be included in any trade.
- The Mariners have received a lot of interest in Dustin Ackley, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. As Heyman notes, Ackley had a solid finish to his 2013 season, batting .290/.360/.412 over his final 65 contests.
- Heyman also tweets that the Mariners' targets include David Price, Nelson Cruz, Joaquin Benoit and Corey Hart. Hart was drafted by General Manager Jack Zduriencik when Zduriencik was with the Brewers.
- The record for the highest payout through the arbitration process is $10MM, but one person familiar with the process tells Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that Angels outfielder Mike Trout could get $15MM in his first go 'round through arbitration, $20MM in his second year, and $25MM in his third trip through the process. Even for a star of Trout's caliber, those numbers seem lofty.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Jerry Dipoto is plotting the Angels' future, even though, after a very disappointing 2013 season, it's unclear whether he'll still be around to see his plans bear fruit, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. "I'm not going to get into it," says Dipoto when asked about his future. "I don't want to have this conversation." DiGiovanna notes that, although there's been buzz for months about the possibility of either Dipoto or manager Mike Scioscia leaving after the season, it looks increasingly possible that both could stay. Dipoto says that he will be looking for "young, controllable starting pitching," and DiGiovanna implies that one way of acquiring it would be to trade Howie Kendrick or Mark Trumbo. Here are more notes on the Angels.
- The Angels appear unlikely to extend a qualifying offer to Jason Vargas, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The team will already be close to the luxury-tax threshold of $189MM, and Gonzalez notes that if Vargas took the qualifying offer of around $14MM, the Angels would "basically already be over budget." Vargas has posted a 4.01 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 143 2/3 innings in 2013.
- The luxury tax is an obstacle to signing Mike Trout to an extension, Gonzalez writes. The luxury tax is calculated based on the average annual value of the players on a team's 40-man roster. So, Gonzalez notes, if the Angels were to sign Trout to a ten-year, $300MM deal, $30MM per year would count toward the luxury tax, even if the contract is backloaded. Without an extension, Trout will again make near the league minimum in 2014.