2/26/2014 5:56 P.M. ET
Trout gets pre-arbitration-record $1M
Notable contract for 22-year-old superstar could be precursor to long-term deal
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Trout and the Angels agreed to terms on a one-year, $1 million contract for 2014 Wednesday morning, a record deal for a pre-arbitration player. The agreement sets the stage for ongoing conversations about a long-term contract.
For now, the 22-year-old center fielder will happily settle for being compensated in a way nobody in his service-time range has.
"It makes you feel good inside," Trout said, smiling after Wednesday's workout. "It makes you feel like they want you here, and that means a lot to me."
The previous high for a pre-arbitration player who was going year to year with his club was $900,000, attained by Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard in 2007 and then-Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in 2003.
"It's a landmark," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said of Trout's new contract. "It's fitting. I think Mike's earned that, and we're glad to provide that for him. He's certainly been an extraordinary player, and we have no doubt that he'll continue to be that player."
For most players with fewer than three years of Major League service time -- Trout has a little more than two -- clubs are free to determine salaries as long as they're above the Major League minimum, which is set at $500,000 this year. Last spring, the Angels gave Trout only a $20,000 raise from the previous campaign, paying him $510,000 in 2013 and drawing the ire of his agent.
This spring, they nearly doubled it.
"That's cool," Trout said. "I just go out there, play the game, and if the money's where it's at, that's where it's going to be. It's always special when the Angels go out of their way. They could've easily given me [$550,000] or whatever this year, and they stepped up this year. It makes you feel good."
The Angels don't want the average annual value of a potential Trout extension to count toward their Competitive Balance Tax payroll until 2015, in order to avoid blowing past the $189 million luxury-tax threshold and being subject to the 17.5-percent overage tax. The Angels currently have roughly $15 million of wiggle room below the tax, funds they hope to use for potential in-season upgrades to the roster.
Now that his compensation for 2014 is set, Trout can sign an extension at any time without it counting towards their CBT payroll until 2015. But nothing is imminent, a source told MLB.com on Wednesday afternoon.
A good baseline for a potential deal is a six-year contract worth $150 million, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports on Sunday. That deal would buy out three of Trout's free-agent years -- likely escalating to more than $30 million annually for those seasons -- and allow Trout to be a free agent again before age 30, with the hopes of garnering another large contract.
Talks, however, remain fluid.
Dipoto declined comment, as has been his custom, when asked how close the two sides are to a long-term deal. Trout's agent, Craig Landis, declined a request for comment.
Trout won't turn 23 until Aug. 7, but he's already a two-time All-Star who has finished second to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera for the American League Most Valuable Player Award each of the last two years. During that time, Trout has ranked second in the Majors in batting average (.324), second in OPS (.976), 14th in homers (57), second in steals (82) and easily first in Wins Above Replacement, with a cumulative score of 20.4 as calculated by FanGraphs.com.
To determine pre-arbitration salaries, the Angels use an objective system that gives a lot more weight to service time than performance. Looking to avoid setting a financial precedent so early, the Angels stuck to that system last year, which is why Trout was given less than a five percent raise despite being the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year in 2012.
Landis responded to that with a statement in which he said the compensation was "not the result of a negotiated compromise" and that it "falls well short of a 'fair' contract."
The Angels went away from their system this time around, prompting his representative to agree on the salary instead of simply taking a contract renewal -- a good sign that both sides are on the same page.
Asked why they made an exception with Trout this year, Dipoto said: "Honestly, because I think we felt like his performance was exceptional. There are players that force you to break a rule, and what Trout just did for two consecutive years forced us to break our own rule. There's nothing in the game that's hard and fast. We felt like his performance certainly merited treating him differently than the others."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.