The Angels are working on an extension for star center fielder Mike Trout in the $150-$160 million range and the final few years of that contract could top $30 million, reaching as high as $36 million in the last year, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
The 22-year-old Trout is still one year away from arbitration, which limits his leverage in negotiating a contract, but his historic levels of production are likely to result in record-setting arbitration awards and the Angels don't want to risk seeing his potential price tag get any higher. Rosenthal guesses that the deal the Angels are seeking breaks down to $1 million for 2014 -- his last pre-arbitration season -- then $12 million, $15 million and $20 million for his three arbitration-eligible seasons and $32 million, $34 million and $36 million for what would be his first three seasons as a free agent, totaling the $160 million at the top of the Angels' current reported price range.
Though $160 million would be an exceptional contract for a pre-arbitration player, Trout has been one of the most exceptional players in the history of the game in his first two seasons as a major leaguer. In 2012, Trout won the American League Rookie of the Year award and finished second to triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera in the AL MVP voting. Even though Cabrera won the first Triple Crown since 1967, the MVP voting was hotly debated, with the majority of the more statistically-inclined analysts pulling for Trout.
As a rookie, Trout posted 10.9 wins above replacement (WAR) to lead all of baseball and set a record for the highest WAR total ever for a 20-year old player, topping Alex Rodriguez's stellar 1996 season. In 2013, he once again finished second in the AL MVP vote behind Cabrera, while again beating the Tigers slugger in WAR. His 9.2 WAR total from 2013 is the second highest total in history for a player's age-21 season, trailing only Rogers Hornsby's 1917 season. In just under 1500 plate appearances, Trout has hit .314/.404/.544 with 72 doubles, 17 triples, 62 home runs and 86 stolen bases.
Though $160 million is an unbelievable sum for a player under team control to command, and this contract would give Trout the largest single-season salary in history if Rosenthal's estimates of the breakdown are correct, some analysts have pointed out that this deal might still be a significant bargain. At Sports Illustrated, Jay Jaffe estimates Trout's free agent value at approximately $320 million and suggests that adjusting for the typical discount rates that apply to players under team control only scales that down to around $230 million.
Since Trout is only guaranteed to make the league minimum next season, it is hard to see the Angels going to those extremes to wrap him up. By not signing an extension at this point, Trout risks losing millions if he falls to injury or underperforms radically this coming season. This deal would give Trout an average annual salary of $26.6 million and he would still become a free agent at the age of 28, making another earth-shaking deal a strong possibility for the five-tool star.