Yesterday Clayton Kershaw, the 25-year-old 2-time Cy Young Award Winner, reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a 7-year $215 million dollar deal. As we wrote about on LA Sports Hub, the Dodgers would have spent almost anything to keep Kershaw and, although the contract is the largest in the history of Major League Baseball on an annual basis, it still feels like the lefty is underpaid. Or at least he’s properly paid now.
Kershaw’s contract has had major ramifications around the baseball world. There will be questions about whether the current revenue sharing system is fair and about how small market teams can compete with teams like the Dodgers who can spend money at will. However, the team the Kershaw contract affects the most is the Dodgers crosstown rival: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Kershaw contract has now set the market for the Angels star player, Mike Trout. With Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher, receiving an annual contract of $30.7 million, the highest in baseball history, at age 25 it seems likely that Mike Trout and the Angels will agree to the largest contract in the history of baseball at some point in the next two years.
The Angels, who still control Trout for another four years, aren’t in a rush to sign their star to a contract any time soon. Why would they be? Trout isn’t even eligible for arbitration until NEXT season. In the meantime, Trout will earn the league minimum of $500,000 for the 2014 season, making him the most criminally underpaid player in the history of baseball for the second season in a row.
At the end of the 2014 season Trout will become eligible for salary arbitration and will, without question, break the record for highest first-year arbitration payout, which was set by Ryan Howard in 2008 at $10 million. Trout will likely earn somewhere between $12 million and $15 million in his first arbitration season. At that point it would make sense for the Angels to begin exploring a contract extension with Trout and his agents.
The real question is how much is Mike Trout worth and how much can the Angels afford to spend on him? Remember, the Angels aren’t the Dodgers. They don’t have an $8.5 billion dollar television deal. While they are one of the richer teams in the big leagues, they aren’t the Dodgers, Yankees or Red Sox.
Mike Trout is the best position player in baseball not named Miguel Cabrera, and even that is up for debate. Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012 and probably didn’t deserve the MVP. Nope, that one should have gone to the 20-year-old rookie. Let’s not forget, Mike Trout is only 22-years-old and has finished 2nd in the MVP race twice. He’s the modern day Mickey Mantle without a drinking problem.
Let’s take a look at Trout’s career stats so far just in case you’ve forgot how good this kid is.
The kid is insane! So, again, what can we expect from a Trout contract extension? The answer is everything. The largest total contract in the history of baseball belongs to Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees when they agreed to a 10-year, $275 million dollar deal in 2007. That didn’t work out so well; however, A-Rod did carry the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009.
The largest per year contract in the history was just signed by Kershaw; however, Trout’s extension will probably comfortably pass that deal. Position players are unquestionably more valuable than pitchers. Kershaw may be the exception to the rule; however, Trout is the most valuable commodity in baseball. That’s not up for debate.
If 1.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is worth $5 million dollars, which is the going rate for free agents, then Mike Trout could be worth as much as $50 million dollars per season. Yes, that is 5-0 million PER season. Trout’s WAR in the past two seasons has been 10.9 and 9.2 which averages out to 10.05. Now, there is no way Trout is going to be paid $50 million a year; however, it goes to show just how valuable Trout is.
Assuming that Trout gets a contract sometime between his age 24 and age 25 seasons, which would be in 2016 and 2017, the Angels would get the majority of his “prime” years, as if he’s not already in his prime. That makes Trout even more valuable. This is getting out of control. The Angels are going to want to lock up Trout for most of his prime years, which means the contract will probably be somewhere between 8 and 11 years in length.
But how much will Trout earn per season? If I had to take a stab at it I would venture to guess that Trout will get somewhere between $34 and $37 million dollars per season. That means that if the Angels and Trout agree to a 10-year deal we are looking at a contract that could be worth up to $370 million dollars. Clayton Kershaw may have the highest annual salary in the history of baseball, but it’s not going to last long.