By Mike DiGiovanna Los Angeles Times
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Mike Trout could have rejected the Angels’ overtures this winter, signed a series of one-year deals through arbitration, become a free agent at age 26 and inked the largest contract in baseball history in 2017.
Then the star center fielder saw the salaries in the final three years of the six-year, $144.5-million extension he ultimately signed, and he considered his age (22) and the security the deal would provide, and the prospect of hitting the open market in 2017 didn’t tug so much on his heart — or purse — strings.
“When the owner puts up these big numbers like $33 million, it’s hard to turn down,” Trout said after his deal, which starts in 2015, was officially announced Saturday before hundreds of fans and numerous teammates and coaches during a news conference in the Angel Stadium parking lot.
“You never know what could happen. You could get hurt during the season. I’m happy, man. With the security it’s given me and my family, it’s unbelievable.”
The Angels wanted to give Trout, the American League most valuable player runner-up in his first two full seasons, more money. They preferred to lock him up for eight years, “but this was a compromise,” owner Arte Moreno said.
The deal, which includes a full no-trade provision and use of a luxury suite for 20 games a year, secures Trout through three arbitration years and three free-agent years. He will receive a $5-million signing bonus, payable this year, and salaries of $5.25 million in 2015, $15.25 million in 2016, $19.25 million in 2017 and $33.25 million annually from 2018-2020.
Adding the bonus to his 2015 salary, Trout will earn more than any player in his first, second and third year of arbitration. The $33.25-million salary in the final three years is more than any current player is making annually.
Baseball is so flush with cash that some industry executives and agents wondered why Trout and his agent, Craig Landis, would pass up a chance at a record-setting deal in 2017, going so far as to label six years and $144.5 million a “team-friendly deal.” But Trout will still be in line for a monster deal at 29.
“We’re not like the other people,” Landis said. “We feel that Mike is going to do well. We like the length of this deal. We feel that this keeps our options open down the road and gives Mike lifetime security.”
One of those options, of course, is for Trout, a New Jersey native, to bolt for the New York Yankees or his hometown Philadelphia Phillies, a prospect that makes Angels fans cringe.
But it’s not so much the East Coast or the bright lights of New York that Trout craves. He wants to play in the World Series, and he remains confident that the Angels, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, will get there.
“I love it here,” Trout said. “I love the weather, my coaches, my teammates. Arte goes out and gets players. He wants to win. … Our plan is to win. If we don’t win, it’s not good.”
Having Trout, considered the best all-around player in baseball, can only help. Trout is one of four players in baseball history to bat .320 with 50 homers and 200 runs in his first two full seasons. The others: Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Albert Pujols.
“The sky is the limit for this kid,” Angels ace Jered Weaver said. “He’s becoming the face of baseball. There aren’t many guys who come into the league and battle for the MVP right out of the gate. It’s a no-brainer for the Angels to come up with something to make him comfortable.”
Trout was a unanimous choice for AL rookie of the year in 2012, when he hit .326 with a .399 on-base percentage, .564 slugging percentage, 30 homers, 83 runs batted in, 129 runs and 49 stolen bases. He followed that with a .323/.432/.557 slash line, 27 homers, 97 RBI, 109 runs and 33 stolen bases in 2013.
“When you finish your first two years with comparisons to guys like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Albert Pujols, that’s some great company,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “For us to secure Mike through 2020 is a great thrill.”
Moreno, Dipoto and Manager Mike Scioscia all praised Trout’s parents, Jeff and Debbie, who were on the dais, for raising such a well-rounded and grounded son, one who “has been able to handle so much success at such an early age and to keep things in perspective,” Scioscia said.
Said Dipoto to Jeff and Debbie Trout: “I’d like to thank you for having him.”