Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout agreed to a $1 million contract for the 2014 season, establishing a new MLB record for a pre-arbitration deal. The Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Howard and Trout's current teammate, Albert Pujols, previously shared the record for the largest deal, as both signed for $900,000 prior to the 2007 and 2003 seasons, respectively.
Trout's one-year contract is merely a precursor to a multi-year pact with the Angels that figures to be inked before next offseason. The Angels and Trout's representatives have reportedly discussed a contact in the neighborhood of six years and $150 million, a deal that would set Trout up for perhaps an even larger payday when he would become a free agent for the first time at age 28.
For now, Trout remains baseball's best bargain, an interesting juxtaposition on an Anaheim roster that contains two of the game's more notorious contract albatrosses in Pujols (10 years, $254 million) and Josh Hamilton (five years, $125 million).
In his first two full seasons, Trout has two second-place American League MVP finishes and has accumulated 20.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per Fangraphs.com's measurement of WAR. Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder and reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen ranks a distant second with 15.0 WAR during that span.
As both the WAR metric and more traditional counting statistics would suggest (57 home runs, 82 stolen bases, .324 batting average over the last two seasons), Trout is on a career trajectory that matches up well with some of the best players in baseball history.
According to Baseball-Reference's similarity score metric comparing players through their age-21 season, eight of the 10 players most similar to Trout are Hall of Famers. Those names include such all-time luminaries as Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron and Ted Williams, to name a few.