Just 284 games into his major league career, Los Angeles Angles outfielder Mike Trout has firmly established himself as the most valuable commodity in baseball.
He's just 21 years old, is posting his second straight season with an OPS over .960 and, given Miguel Cabrera's liabilities on the bases and in the field, seems to be the obvious choice for the best player in baseball.
Trout is clearly great on the field, but a huge part of what makes Trout so valuable is his affordability.
He's being paid just $510,000 this year.
The Angels renewed Mike Trout's contract for $510,000, just $20,000 above the league minimum on Saturday. http://t.co/DAFBjk9dxq— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 4, 2013
To put that in perspective, Cabrera made that in the first four games of this year's season.
Of course, Cabrera is one of the highest paid players in the game, but it just goes to show how egregiously underpaid Trout is.
The Angels have control of Trout through the 2017 season, and during that time they will have exclusive negotiating rights with him to try to work out a new contract.
A newer trend has many teams buying out some of a player's arbitration years, and the Angels certainly could look to extend Trout soon and buy out a few years of free agency, too.
Trout’s agent, Craig Landis, told Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times that Trout’s salary was “well short of fair,” so you can bet he’ll try to get his client a new deal soon.
Regardless, right now, Trout is underpaid and playing better than anyone else.
I'm certainly not alone in calling Trout the most valuable commodity in Major League Baseball, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs recently said he had the most trade value of any player in the league.
The Angels won’t be trading Trout, though.
Trout's low salary should have allowed the Angels to put together a super-team, since they essentially have what amounts to a free superstar.
Unfortunately for them, they've used the money saved on Trout on free agent busts Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and CJ Wilson.
This doesn’t take value away from him, though, and if those players can get their careers back on track, the Angels will be a force to be reckoned with.
Five of those seasons were of all-star caliber (somehow he missed making the team in 1999), and he ended up playing his way into the richest contract in major league history.
Trout will end up giving the Angels similar value.
Arbitration salaries have risen since A-Rod was with the Mariners, but Trout is better than Rodriguez was at the same age and will be a bargain even at a higher salary.
Trout is in a league of his own as far as value goes, but there are other young players who are at least worth mentioning.
Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are easily the second and third most valuable commodities in baseball, but even their staunchest supporters would have difficulty arguing they are more valuable than Trout.
Each of those players has a bright future, but even if they reach their ceilings, they can’t be expect to be any better than Trout is now.
There is no doubting the fact that Trout will get a monster contract extension sometime in the future, but for now, he’s the best player in the game and he’s being paid like he’s a backup middle infielder.