Image credit: Mike Trout (Getty Images)
Mike Trout is the best player in the game. He’s now going to be paid as such.
The Angels are finalizing a 12-year contract worth nearly $430 million with the superstar center fielder that will seemingly keep him in Anaheim for the rest of his career, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Tuesday morning.
Per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, the deal will be a 10-year, $360 million extension on top of the two years and $66.5 million left on Trout’s current contract, bringing the total value of the deal to $426.5 million.
It is the largest contract in North American professional sports history, breaking the records set initially set by Manny Machado (10 years, $300 million) and then Bryce Harper (13 years, $330 million) earlier this offseason.
The deal also sets the record for highest annual average value at just over $35.5 million per year, breaking Zack Greinke’s previous record of $34.4 million.
Trout, 27, was set to become a free agent after the 2020 season. The two-time AL MVP award winner and reigning Baseball America Player of the Year is coming off a season in which he posted a 1.088 OPS, the second-highest mark of any player this decade, while also emerging as one of the top defensive center fielders in the game, which had been a previous shortcoming.
Trout’s extension ensures the Angels will not suffer the ignominy of having to trade one of the best players of all-time or lose him via free agency.
While the fact Trout has played only one playoff series in his career has led to considerable handwringing about the game’s best player not being showcased in prime time, his star is unmatched in baseball, contrary to popular belief.
Trout is the only player to appear in the top three in his league in All-Star balloting each of the last five years. No one else has done it more than twice.
He has been a constant, prominent presence in MLB’s commercial campaigns for years. He is the only baseball athlete with his own Nike signature cleat, and the first to have one since Ken Griffey Jr. Rawlings, BodyArmor and Land Rover are just some of his other endorsements that have featured him prominently.
His 2.53 million Twitter followers are the most of any active player. They are more than twice as many as Harper (1.05 million), more than seven times as many as Yankees standout Aaron Judge (342,000), more than 10 times as many as vocal social media presences Alex Bregman (236,000) and Trevor Bauer (143,000) and more than 13 times as many as reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts (193,000).
The Angels have drawn three million fans for 16 consecutive seasons, the second-longest streak in MLB behind only the Yankees. Trout is the main reason that streak remains intact with the Angels making the playoffs only once this decade.
The combination of Trout’s performance and the economic windfall he provides would have been too great a loss for the Angels to bear. With Harper publicly lobbying Trout to join him in Philadelphia after the 2020 season, the Angels struck to ensure that wouldn’t happen.
Trout’s star began to rise as soon as the Angels drafted with the No. 26 overall pick in the 2009 draft. He reported to the Rookie-level Arizona League immediately after signing and established himself as the league’s No. 1 prospect. His report:
As the only player who appeared at the MLB Network’s studios for its live coverage, Trout was in the spotlight on draft day. He continued to stand out in his pro debut, leading the league in hitting for much of the season. He demonstrated sound strike-zone judgment, good gap power and the ability to use the entire field. Interestingly, his speed and defense are better pure tools than his bat. He’s a plus-plus runner who gets out of the batter’s box quickly and gets good jumps in center field. He has average arm strength and could become a plus thrower if he improves his throwing mechanics. Trout also drew raves for his character and bulldog approach. “He goes about things like a professional,” Angels manager Tyrone Boykin said. “He’s got tremendous makeup.”
Trout’s first full season in 2010 led to more accolades. He was named the No. 1 prospect in both the low Class A Midwest League and high Class A California League, and after the season he ranked as the Angels’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 2 overall prospect in the game. His scouting report after the season read in part:
“Built like a football defensive back, Trout is a rare five-tool talent who can really hit, a product of his strong, compact stroke and impressive batting eye. He shows no fear of hitting with two strikes, an unusual trait in a teenager. He scores well above-average marks for his running speed–a present and future 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale–and center-field range. One scout saw him hit a 400-foot homer in one at-bat, then get to first base in 3.65 seconds on a bunt his next time up. Trout’s weakest present tools, his power and throwing arm, still grade as future average. His physicality and bat speed hint at more power down the road….His maturity, drive and instincts further separate him from other prospects his age.”
Trout would cruise through Double-A in 2011 and make his major league debut that July at age 19. He was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, and received one more scouting report as the Angels’ No. 1 prospect after the season:
“Strong, broad-shouldered and built like a football safety, Trout has a high baseball IQ and full-throttle approach that allow him to get the absolute most out of his tools, four of which grade as future plusses or better. He combines a rare blend of bat control, strike-zone management, blazing speed and burgeoning power. His running speed continues to garner the most initial attention. He gets down the first-base line in four seconds flat from the right side to grade as a true 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Some evaluators believe he may slow to merely a plus runner as he fills out, but others aren’t so pessimistic. A dangerous hitter because of his balanced, quick swing and discerning eye, Trout also remembers how pitchers attack him and makes adjustments on the fly. Double-A hurlers had some success pounding him on the inner half with fastballs, but he avoided slumps by looking to drive the ball line to line and using the opposite field when necessary. Trout connected for a career-high 16 home runs in 2011 while playing in unforgiving home parks, and that total only will increase as he learns to turn on more fastballs in hitter’s counts. Some scouts project Trout as an annual .300 hitter with 25-plus homers and 40-plus steals. He completes the five-tool picture with plus range in center field, where he reads the ball well off the bat, and an accurate, if only average, arm….Regardless, Trout’s offensive potential makes him a future all-star at any position.”