Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Plight of Mike Trout

Mike Trout's salary for the 2013 season is $510,000. That's 20 grand above the league minimum, considerably less than what Alex Rodriguez, Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano, and a bunch of other players will take in this year.

Thing is, Trout was more valuable than all of them last year. He may not have the American League MVP award to prove it, but he has the numbers. In baseball, numbers are everything (well, almost everything).

Here's one: 10.7--that's how many wins above replacement Trout was last year, most in the major leagues by a wide margin.

Here's another: 0--that's how many players scored at least 125 runs, swatted 30 homers and stole more than 45 bases in the same season before Trout came along.

Here's one more: 21--that, of course, is Mike Trout's age in human years.

In a fair, just world, Trout is rewarded handsomely after committing his historic season to memory. His income skyrockets into the same stratosphere as A-Rod, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton. The Angels hand him a blank check, build a statue of him outside their stadium, and give him the moon while they're at it.

Unfortunately, the world we live in is neither a fair one nor a just one. The 2012 AL Rookie of the Year doesn't yet have enough service time under his belt to command more money via arbitration. He has the ability to do anything he wants on the baseball diamond, but when it comes to contract negotiations he is powerless. Hamstrung by his youth and inexperience, Trout has no leverage at the bargaining table.

He is at the mercy of his team, a team that went 6-14 while Trout languished in Triple-A last spring but posted the best record in baseball after promoting him to the Show.

But the Angels have already committed more than $147 million to this year's roster, of which Trout's cut accounts for less than half a percent--a drop in the bucket. Trout deserves a bigger slice of the pie, and he is mad. So is his agent, Craig Landis. More importantly, they want us to be mad, too.

I am not. Trout is getting shafted, yes, but that's just a function of how baseball contracts are structured. Players are vastly underpaid during their early years but eventually become drastically overpaid in the second half of their careers. In the end, everything evens out.

Trout can't complain. While most kids his age are surviving college on a shoestring budget, he'll make more than half a million dollars playing major league baseball this year and is only going to get richer. He'll have to settle for being baseball's best bargain today, but he can sleep easy knowing that he's in line for a windfall tomorrow. Barring an unforeseen career-ending injury, he's slated to become a free agent at 26 and could score the biggest sports contract in history if he keeps playing like he did last year.

Sorry I'm not sorry that you got screwed over, Mike Trout. Just be patient--your day will come.

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