In talking about an extension for Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout, the money does matter. But it's the years that really matter, and that's also the tricky part. Picking out a number that's 100 percent fair for both sides isn't easy.
However, it sounds like Trout and the Angels are close to settling on a number that's fair enough for everyone, and that number is six.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the two sides are discussing an extension, and said discussions have been focused on a six-year deal. The dollar amount would be "in the range of $150 million," though nothing is set in stone just yet.
Passan says the Angels are offering something around $140 million, but that there's a gap between the two sides "in the low eight figures." Since that's hardly an impossible gap to bridge, the odds of something being finished before Opening Day likely belong on the "good" side of the spectrum.
The situation would be different if there was a disagreement over the number of years, but it sounds like the two sides are on the same page there. If so, well, that's not surprising. Regardless of the final price, a deal like that would work nicely for both Trout and the Angels.
The appeal of a six-year extension is definitely more obvious where Trout is concerned. Such a deal would bar him from hitting free agency after his age-25 season in 2017, but that's OK for two reasons:
- As Passan noted, Trout would be set for life at the age of 22. Huzzah.
- Though Trout would be hitting free agency two years later than originally scheduled, he'd still be hitting the market at a prime age that the market doesn't see all that often with star players.
A six-year extension for Trout would lock him up through his age-27 season in 2019. He'd hit the market at the age of 28. While not quite as appealing as the 26 he'd hit the market as after 2017, 28 is still plenty appealing for a star free agent.
This year's market, for example, didn't feature any star hitters as young as 28. And beyond Masahiro Tanaka, the closest thing the market had to a young star pitcher was Phil Hughes (27). That's par for the course, as even the most appealing stars tend to be in the 29-32 range when free agency comes.
Assuming Trout does hit the market at 28, he'll most definitely be in line for a very long deal. Alex Rodriguez got his second 10-year contract after his age-31 season. Albert Pujols got his after his own age-31 season. Robinson Cano got his after his age-30 season. If they could get 10-year contracts in their early 30s, one wonders if Trout could get something as long as 11 or 12 years.
And the worth of such a contract could indeed be huge. I've already explained why Trout might have a legit shot at a $400 million contract after 2017. If he hits the market after 2019, he'll have two additional years of inflation to exploit. At the least, $400 million would be an even more legit possibility.
So, in a nutshell: A six-year contract extension would set Trout up for life, but it would also ensure that he'd still have a shot at another monster payday in free agency.
As for the Angels, the appeal of a six-year extension for Trout is less of a slam dunk. They'd no doubt prefer something much longer, as well they should. At the least, it's no wonder that Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com says it's the Angels' "desire" to get Trout up to seven years.
But would a six-year deal still have its advantages for Los Angeles? Of course it would.
To a certain extent, getting something done with Trout now would allow the Angels to have some semblance of cost control in his arbitration years. Rather than run the risk of watching his salaries spiral out of control via arbitration from 2015 to 2017, the Angels would be setting them at fixed prices. In doing so, maybe they'd be saving themselves some money.
But it's the two free-agent years the Angels would be buying that would justify the extension for them. That would mean not only two more of baseball's best all-around player's prime years—a big enough victory in itself, to be sure—but likely at relatively cheap rates to boot.
We don't know how much the Angels would be paying for those two free-agent years just yet. But under a $150 million structure, Passan mentioned a solid guess of $35 million for 2018 and $38 million for 2019. If Trout's still the player he is now in those two years, that's a steal.
To this end, FanGraphs' WAR-based value system can offer some perspective:
Trout is worth easily more than a $35-$38 million salary now. And since the cost of WAR tends to go up rather than down, a typical 10-WAR Trout season will be worth at least $70 million in 2018 and 2019. The Angels, therefore, could be paying Trout half what he's really worth in those two free-agent years.
Knowing that, the Angels will still be getting a good deal, even if Passan's best guess is off and/or Trout's extension ends up being worth more than $150 million. Even if they're paying Trout something like $45-$50 million in 2018 and 2019, they'd still stand to get their money's worth and then some.
So as much as the Angels would probably prefer to lock Trout up for life, six years would do fine for a compromise. They'd be signing up for two more prime years of Trout, which is no small gift on his part. That the Angels would very likely get both of those years at bargain rates is icing on the cake.
We'll see what the final dollar figure ends up being. But since six years has advantages for both sides, don't be surprised if we get an announcement in the near future.
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