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Trout takes contract-extension buzz in stride

Angels eager to lock up 22-year-old phenom with reported six-year deal @TracyRingolsby

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Trout is 22 years old. He has slightly more than two years of big league service time.

He is the player that most feel will become the face of baseball in light of the retirement plans of Derek Jeter.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Trout is 22 years old. He has slightly more than two years of big league service time.

He is the player that most feel will become the face of baseball in light of the retirement plans of Derek Jeter.

So when the reports surfaced during the weekend that the Angels were working on a multiyear deal with Trout's agent, there was a bit of the buzz in the media -- but not much conversation at all among the folks in the Angels' Spring Training clubhouse.

His teammates get it.

Trout is what baseball needs.

He is the best player in the game.

And he enjoys that.

"I think it is cool," he said. "As a kid, growing up, watching Major League Baseball games, I always wanted to be in those guys' shoes."

Trout paused and smiled.

"If people are not recognizing you," he explained, "you are not doing something right."

Trout has definitely made himself recognizable in the world of Major League Baseball.

That's why figures like $150 million for a six-year contract -- which would only cover his first two years of free agency and would allow him to become a free agent at the age of 28 -- seem so logical.

The Angels have never shied away from signing free agents, dating back to their original class in 1977, when they brought in the trio of Don Baylor, Bobby Grich and Joe Rudi, to the more recent signings of Albert Pujols two years ago and Josh Hamilton prior to last season.

It only makes sense for the Angels to make sure they don't run the risk of seeing Trout, in his prime, walk away.

"He is the best all-round player I have seen play baseball," Angels catcher Chris Iannetta said. "There might be some who are better in one area or another, like [Miguel] Cabrera as a hitter, but Mike has all the components in one package.

"He combines speed and power and defense, and a feel for the game. I know on the East Coast there's a lot of hype for [Nationals outfielder Bryce] Harper, and no offense to him, but nobody can do all the things that [Trout] does."

Check out that resume. He was a unanimous choice as the American League Rookie of the Year in 2012, despite spending the first month of the season in the Minor Leagues, and he finished second to Cabrera in AL MVP voting the past two years. He's been an All-Star in both of his full big league seasons.

In 336 big league games -- including a 40-game cameo in 2011 -- Trout has hit .314 with 62 home runs, 196 RBIs, 86 stolen bases and a .948 OPS. He led the AL in WAR both seasons and has won back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards.

He already is arguably the most valuable homegrown asset in the history of a franchise born out of baseball's first expansion in 1961.

The two most prominent names in Angels history are Jim Fregosi and Nolan Ryan. Neither started nor ended their career with the Angels, however. Fregosi was an expansion draftee from the Red Sox in December 1960. Ryan was acquired from the Mets in a multiplayer trade in December 1971 that was built around Fregosi going to the Mets.

Trout? He was an Angels first-round Draft choice when he came out of Millville (N.J.) Senior High School, the 25th player taken in 2009. Yes, the Angels also had the 24th pick, and used it on another high school outfielder, Randal Grichuk, but that, explained former Angels scouting director Eddie Bane, was a bargaining ploy.

"We had Mike as the best player in the Draft, bar none," said Bane, now a special assistant with the Red Sox. lists players who have had similar success at the age of 21. Of the top nine comparisons for Trout, only two aren't in the Hall of Fame -- Vada Pinson and Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey hasn't become eligible for enshrinement yet.

The list? In order? Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Orlando Cepeda, Al Kaline, Jimmie Foxx, Pinson, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Griffey.

"I know how tough it is, to not only get to the big leagues but to make a footprint," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who caught 13 seasons in the big leagues. "The footprint he has made is pretty big. There has been no drop-off at all."

The biggest impression Trout has made is with how well he has handled the attention.

"There's no doubt about potential distraction, but that's not happening with him," Scioscia said. "He has not fluctuated."

And he doesn't plan to.

This, after all, is what Trout has been focused on doing with his life as long as he can remember.

"I was always confident I'd be able to do it," he said. "As far as playing the game of baseball, I have always come ready to compete. I get an adrenaline rush. I'm in the big leagues. It's one step at a time. I can't look ahead. I have to take care of business today."

For the Angels' ownership and front-office members, however, they always have to look ahead, and when they look into the future, they want to see Trout in the lineup and the outfield for the Angels.

It's why they are willing to make a major commitment at such an early stage in Trout's career.

He's not only their present. He is the Angels' future.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mike Trout