How much would you pay if you, a baseball team owner, knew you were getting the greatest player of his generation, and likely one of the greatest players to ever play the game?
For Angels owner Arte Moreno, the answer is $430-million over twelve years. That’s how much the Angels will be paying superstar outfielder Mike Trout, per a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Both the total value of $430-million and the average annual value of $35.8-million will be the highest ever in Major League Baseball.
If a single player making nearly half a billion dollars over the course of twelve years sounds absurd, consider this: in one season, Mike Trout’s salary will nearly match the entire payroll of the 2019 Tampa Bay Rays.
But then again, this is Mike Trout we’re talking about. Through his age-26 season, Trout has posted 64.3 bWAR, more than any other player at that age. Only eight years into his career, he has more bWAR than Hall of Famers Mike Piazza, Vladimir Guerrero, and Hank Greenberg. He’s never finished lower than fourth in MVP voting; throw out the 2017 season in which he only played 114 games, and he never finished lower than second. He averages 9.2 fWAR per season; pro-rate his injury-shortened 2017 to a full 162 games, and that number jumps to 9.6.
And what’s even scarier? He’s only getting better. From 2014, his OPS has increased every year; the last two season’s he’s posted the highest OPS in all of baseball. His OPS+ is even higher, coming in at a ridiculous 199 in 2018, the highest of any active player and the highest by a player not tainted by a steroids scandal since George Brett’s 1980 season. His walk rate is up, his strikeout rate is lower than at the start of his career, and oh, yeah, his defense is improving as well (up to a 4.0 UZR in 2018).
But he must have weaknesses, right? Let’s take a look at his heat map, courtesy of Fangraphs:
So, how do you get Mike Trout exactly?
Defense, contact, power, speed on the basepaths; Mike Trout can do it all, and he’s only getting better. But $430-million dollars, really? As Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated shows, $430-million isn’t just a fair price–it’s actually a steal for the Angels. Using WAR projections and value-per-win projections, Tayler estimates Mike Trout’s actual worth over twelve years at nearly $825-million.
Mike Trout is simply incredible. Any number you choose, any stat you want to look at, any facts you marshal to your defense, Trout defies them all. He consistently shatters our understanding of what greatness is and will be used as a benchmark for excellence for the rest of his career. The conversation about the value of his new contract isn’t the one we should be having.
The conversation we should be having is this: What next? For all his greatness, Mike Trout has only appeared in one postseason series, where his Angels were swept by the Kansas City Royals in three miserable games. The Angels have tried to go for it, building a roster last year that included former Tigers stars Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton, as well as Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. They finished one game below .500.
Mike Trout is locked in with the Angels. He’s made a commitment to playing his best baseball in Anaheim. Now, it’s time for the Angels to make a commitment to him, by building a championship team to allow baseball’s greatest player to shine on baseball’s biggest stage.
Scott is the guy you see at the ballpark with a loaded hot dog in one hand and a marked-up scorecard in the other. He’s been following baseball since 2006, when his beloved Tigers made the World Series. Scott is an expert in baseball film trivia, a connoisseur of ballpark food, and a firm believer that pitchers should have to bat (I’m looking at you, Bartolo Colon).