3/29/2014 10:59 P.M. ET
Trout's contract extension is a good deal
If he continues to improve, final years of pact could be bargain for Angels
By Phil Rogers / MLB.com
That free market is a beautiful thing, isn't it?
Especially if you play baseball and have talent like Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw, Robinson Cano and Masahiro Tanaka.
A healthy sport means increased attention, which results in escalating revenues. The latest jump has come with new national television contracts, which has Commissioner Bud Selig saying that Major League Baseball revenues could pass $9 billion this year, his last in office.
Those revenues are being spread around to players in a pattern that demonstrates the competitiveness of owners, who are working hard to keep their core players from exploring free agency.
Trout's six-year, $144.5 million extension with the Angels includes salaries of $33.25 million in 2018, '19 and '20 -- his potential free-agent years. His new contract follows extensions that will pay Cabrera an average of $31 million a year for eight years, and Kershaw $31.7 million for seven years.
No wonder LeBron James is wondering whether he could hit a curveball.
Before the Miami Heat's game on Friday night, James lamented the NBA's salary cap. King James signed for $109 million over six years when he left Cleveland in 2010.
Trout's extension follows the Angels' signing of Albert Pujols two seasons ago and Josh Hamilton a season ago. It is a reward to a loyal fan base that has been rabidly supportive of the franchise since Mike Scioscia's team ripped the 2002 World Series out of the hands of Barry Bonds and the Giants.
Arte Moreno purchased the team the following year, and he has steadfastly continued working to build off that success, despite a run of postseason disappointment. The Angels won the AL West five times in six years from '04-09 but won only two playoff series -- unfortunately not in the same year.
There has been no October baseball at Angel Stadium the past four years, despite having a core built around Trout and Pujols in 2012, and Trout, Pujols and Hamilton last year. But Trout's play alone captivated fans the past two seasons, making fans of 22 other teams wonder how their scouts could have missed him coming out of Millville, N.J., in 2009.
Trout, the 25th-overall Draft pick that year, was humbled when the Angels brought him to the big leagues as a 19-year-old in 2011, but he easily could have been the AL MVP Award winner in both of his first two full seasons. Cabrera topped him in voting, in part because the Tigers won their division while the Angels finished behind the Athletics and Rangers.
Trout is determined to change that this time around. On the first day he was available to reporters this spring in Arizona -- after he had spent a day doing ad shoots for Nike -- he talked about how Derek Jeter was his role model growing up.
"Seeing what he's done over the last  years, it's remarkable,'' Trout said. "I wish him the best …He's always been my favorite player to watch -- just the way he carries himself on and off the field. [The way his teams] win championships. It all comes down to winning. You can have all the best stats in the world, but if you're not winning, it really don't mean nothing.''
Moreno hasn't just been generous signing players. Scioscia received a 10-year, $50-million contract after the 2008 season. There are five years left on it, but only the money is guaranteed, not the job.
Scioscia will be under intense pressure to get the Angels out of the gate quickly next week, when they open the season against the Mariners and Astros. Pujols appears recovered from the plantar fasciitis that bedeviled him last year, and Hamilton hopes that extra weight will bring back the pop he had with the Rangers in 2010-12, when he averaged 33 homers and 107 RBIs.
It's been an encouraging Spring Training for all three, with Trout, in particular, putting up crazy numbers -- .407 average, five homers and 16 RBIs in 19 games through Friday night. The question, as usual, is whether a bounce-back season from Jered Weaver, and the addition of lefties Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, will give the Angels a playoff-worthy rotation.
Trout's contract sets him up for another shot at free agency while he's still in his 20s and gives the team assurance he'll be around for his peak years.
If the last two seasons have been only the start for Trout, and he truly will peak in his later 20s, like most players do, the Angels will just have locked up one of the greatest players in the game's history. And with the way salaries are growing, those three years at $33.25 million per year could look like a bargain.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.