Trout, Angels 'met in the middle' in reaching mega-deal
Superstar will stay with the club for seven more years, then can still test free agency
ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout is indeed human, even though his game has often suggested otherwise. So when asked why he accepted a six-year, $144.5 million extension from the Angels, rather than going year-by-year in arbitration with the expectation of signing the largest contract ever in three years, the 22-year-old center fielder shrugged his shoulders, smiled wide and responded the way you probably would.
"When the owner comes out and puts up these big numbers, like $33 million, it's hard to turn that down," Trout said. "For security as well, obviously. You never know what can happen."
Trout's deal, which includes a full no-trade clause, basic incentives and no additional options or opt-outs, will make him the highest-paid player relative to service time at every juncture. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto emphasized that point from the podium of Saturday's news conference, shortly after turning to Trout's parents and saying, "Thank you for having him."
Trout will make $10.25 million in 2015, though $5 million of that will be paid to him as part of a signing bonus this year, $15.25 million in 2016 and $19.25 million in 2017, topping Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard for the highest salary for a first-, second- and third-year arbitration-eligible player. Trout will then make $33.25 million in each of his three free-agent years, beating out Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera -- $31 million per season on a just-completed eight-year deal -- in overall average annual value.
A deal like this, for a player who has had unprecedented success to start his career, put the Angels "in uncharted waters," owner Arte Moreno said.
"I really believe it's a fair deal for both sides," Moreno added. "They were very, very happy. We met in the middle."
The Angels held a pep rally, of sorts, for Trout.
On a giant stage in the parking lot adjacent to Angel Stadium, as part of "Fiesta Angels," Trout sat on one side of the podium, with his parents, Jeff and Debbie, and his agent, Craig Landis, to his left. On the other side were Moreno and his wife, Carole, Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia. In front of him were several of his teammates making up the first three rows of chairs, including Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. And behind some makeshift fencing were roughly 4,000 fans chanting Trout's name and hanging on every word.
"When a player comes along of that caliber, you can't help but want to put a tag on him and keep him here for as long as possible, not only from an organizational standpoint but looking at Trout's standpoint," Weaver said. "To be 22 years old, have a six-year deal, no-trade clause, more money than he'll ever spend -- that's quite a security blanket for a kid like that."
The Angels first approached Landis about a potential deal a week before Christmas, but didn't talk dollars until the end of January. In late February, they compensated Trout for 2014 -- with a pre-arbitration-record $1 million -- so that a potential extension wouldn't count against the luxury tax until the following season. On Wednesday night, while dining in Newport Beach, Calif., both sides basically shook on a six-year extension. On Thursday, the Angels received a signed contract from Trout's camp. And on Friday, Trout wasn't at Dodger Stadium because of what the team deemed a "stomach virus."
"Yeah I was real sick, throwing up," Trout said with a sly grin. "Nah, I was doing a physical."
A big sticking point in the deal was length, and how many of Trout's free-agent years the Angels could buy out. They wanted seven or eight but, as Moreno said, "we really sort of compromised there."
For Trout's camp, potentially entering free agency before age 30, and being able to parlay his career into two major contracts, was a critical part of the process.
As Trout said: "Six years is perfect for me."
Landis threw out the possibility of a lifetime contract, but it never really got anywhere.
"And if we weren't going to do that, then we had to think a little bit about where this leaves Mike at the end," Landis said. "So from our perspective, a couple of our goals were for Mike to get enough money for financial security of his family and for his own peace of mind. He likes it here and was willing to commit here. He thinks that the Angels can win, he thinks they're a quality organization and he likes the people here."
Trout said he was "very involved" in the contractual process, even though he let on otherwise, and said the negotiations made him "a little nervous at times."
"I'm glad it's over," he added. "I'm relieved. It's awesome."
The next phase is either the easy part or the hard part, depending on your perspective. Trout's third full season will begin on Monday, the home opener against the Mariners. At that point he'll try to live up to the expectations of the gaudy numbers he's posted the last two years -- a .324/.416/.560 slash line, 57 homers, 238 runs, 82 steals, 20.4 Wins Above Replacement -- while being one of the best-compensated players in the game.
"Nah," Trout said, smiling from ear-to-ear. "I'm relieved, man. I'm going to play loose. It's going to be fun."