Mike Trout is going to have to wait at least one more season before he gets his payday. The Los Angeles Angels renewed the Trout’s contract on salary, but are only giving the outfielder a $510,000 salary for the 2013 season. It is a number that is just $20,000 above the league minimum, and a number that disappointed Trout’s agent, Craig Landis. A report by ESPN Los Angeles documented Landis’ response to the announcement.
“During the process, on behalf of Mike, I asked only that the Angels compensate Mike fairly for his historic 2012 season, given his service time. In my opinion, this contract falls well short of a ‘fair’ contract and I have voiced this to the Angels throughout the process. Nonetheless, the renewal of Mike’s contract will put an end [to] this discussion.”
“Mike, himself, does not wish to comment on this matter. As when he learned he would not be the team’s primary center fielder for the upcoming season, Mike will put the disappointment behind him and focus on helping the Angels reach their goal of winning the 2013 World Series.”
Trout’s 2012 season could be described as historic. The AL Rookie of the Year, who is just 21 years old, hit .326 with 30 home runs, 8 RBI, 129 runs scored and 49 stolen bases (he was only caught stealing 5 times). He won a Fielding Bible Award for center field, an award voted on by a panel of experts and given to the player chosen as MLB’s best fielder at his position. Trout had the highest Wins Above Replacement (WAR) rating in all of baseball at 10.7. That stat measures how many more wins an individual player would give a team above a replacement bench or minor league level player. Trout was the first player to notch a WAR of greater than 10 since Barry Bonds did in 2004.
Despite all of those glowing statistics, and despite the value Trout brought to the Angels and stands to bring again in 2013, his $510,000 is not as unfair as it seems on the surface.
The problem for Trout is, he’s not yet arbitration eligible. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are free to assign whatever salaries they choose to players who have between zero and three years of major league service, so long as they meet the league minimum salary of $490,000.
The Angels have a formulaic system that relies on time of service, and not performance, in assigning salaries to players between zero and three years of service. Trout has one year and 70 days of service time, and under the Halos’ system the $510,000 was the most a player with that amount of service could make. Los Angeles renewed 22 of those types of contracts on Saturday, and the highest salary assigned went to Mark Trumbo at $540,000. Trumbo has more than two years of service time.
According to a report by Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com, the Angels weren’t comfortable making an exception for Trout because of the slippery slope that setting such a precedent might create, and because they do not think this $510,000 renewal will hinder their ability to resign Trout to a long term extension at some point in the future.
Gonzalez reports the following quotes from Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto on the subject.
“Mike’s a great kid, he’s wired the right way, we have every faith in his desire to be a great player. He’s going to go out there and he’s going to bust his tail.”
“We’re trying to manage a group of 25 players, not one. We have been as aggressive with Mike as we can be.”
“Mike is a unique case, such an exceptional player at such a young age, but what we’re doing contractually with Mike is within the parameters of an agreement collective bargained between players and the league. It’s not the lowest and it’s not the highest. We’re seeing a minimum salary that has gotten bigger and bigger, and we are seeing an average salary at the Major League level that has gotten bigger and bigger, and we’re charged with managing that across the board. With the 0-3 and arbitration years and free agent years, at some point you have to manage the talent on the field and the economics of the game. That’s what we’re trying to do every day.”
Los Angeles also had to consider Trout’s youth and the state of its current budget. The team was also already committed to around $144 million in 2013 payroll obligations prior to assigning Trout and Trumbo their salaries. The Angels did not have the financial wiggle room to give Trout the type of contract his rookie numbers might warrant.
And Los Angeles is only doing its due diligence by waiting to see if Trout is capable of duplicating last year’s output in his sophomore campaign. Too often in baseball, rookies burst onto the scene as stars only to fade into mediocrity once opponents have seen them enough to develop a proper scouting report.
If he proves he can sustain his high level play, Trout’s payday will come. He is likely to become arbitration eligible in 2014, which would require the team to come up with a salary figure centered on performance. Trout will also be eligible for free agency in 2017, where if all things remain the same the center fielder stands to cash in on an 8-figure contract.