ANAHEIM -- As Mike Trout took the podium between the two jumbo-sized red Angels hats outside Angel Stadium and under a perfect 70-degree Southern California sky, hundreds of elated Angels fans chanted in unison, "MVP, MVP," celebrating the fact that the consensus best player in baseball is remaining with the organization for the next 12 years upon signing his record extension worth $426.5 million.
Trout, joined at the stage Sunday by his wife, Jessica, Angels owner Arte Moreno, general manager Billy Eppler, club president John Carpino, agent Craig Landis and manager Brad Ausmus, told the media, his teammates and the large contingent of fans in attendance at the press conference that he believes the franchise is heading in the right direction and it played a major role in his decision to sign the extension, which became official Wednesday night.
“This is my home,” Trout said. “A lot of things went into it and I think the direction of the franchise was big for me. If it was going the other way, I’d have to consider going. That never crossed my mind and I wanted to be an Angel for life.”
The negotiations began in earnest in late February with both sides resolved to get an extension done before the start of the season despite the fact Trout was under contract through the 2020 season. Eppler characterized it as a long but smooth process, as it became clear that Trout was comfortable with the organization and had no desire to leave in the coming years, which is why the deal has no opt-outs and a full no-trade clause. Trout told the front office he wanted the deal done before this season, as he didn’t want the distractions that would’ve come with waiting closer to his potential free agency.
"We’ve been through some ups and downs but I’m really looking forward to the future," Trout said. "I really see us winning a championship here. I think if I waited two years, it wouldn’t have felt right moving to another team, going straight to a winning team. Teams go through ups and down. I want to be a part of everything. Obviously, I want to win."
While Trout, a two-time American League MVP and a seven-time All-Star, has been largely considered the best player in the Majors since debuting in 2011, the Angels have only made the playoffs once during his eight-year career and haven’t won a postseason game. But Eppler has made it a priority to build around Trout with a rapidly improving farm system, and it wasn’t unnoticed by Trout, who has a strong personal relationship with the GM that proved fruitful for both sides.
"He was born an Angel, he remains an Angel, and he represents this organization better than anybody," Eppler said. "But we have a lot of boxes to check. We have a farm system going in the right direction. We’re going to try to build something sustainable and something healthy here and we expect to perennially be one of the top teams in baseball year in and year out. That’s our standard.”
Trout, 27, was active in the negotiations and even met privately with both Eppler and Moreno as part of the process. Trout met one-on-one with Moreno in Ausmus’ office at Tempe Diablo Stadium after a game roughly two weeks ago, and shortly before Trout agreed to the deal last week, he hunkered down with Eppler and Landis at a nearby hotel so that both sides could candidly discuss the situation. The contract was finally agreed to Monday while Eppler was flying from Orange County and roughly 100 miles from Phoenix, receiving a text from Landis that simply read, "I guess I won't make you wait. Mike Trout's going to be an Angel for the rest of his life."
"That happens and I text Arte, and I said, 'Congratulations, Mike Trout will be an Angel for the rest of his career. He'll be going into the Hall of Fame wearing our hat, and he's the first player born and raised here that will do that,'” Eppler said. “I thought that was pretty special."
Eppler believed that Moreno’s private hour-long meeting with Trout proved to be important, and Moreno said he wanted to be able to look Trout in the eyes while discussing the future of both Trout and the organization. He said he ultimately felt comfortable with the length of the contract, especially because the organization only has Albert Pujols (three years, $87 million remaining) and Justin Upton (four years, $90 million) under contract beyond the 2020 season, which sets them up well for the future.
“We have ourselves in a financial situation that we’re going to have all kinds of financial flexibility,” Moreno said. “There’s no economic restraints of where we are right now.”