The best player in baseball has decided his future, a little earlier than many expected.
Los Angeles Angels Outfielder Mike Trout has put pen to paper on a mammoth 12-year deal worth US 430 million dollars to remain with his current team until (we can assume) retirement rolls around.
Since he entered the league, Trout has been widely regarded as one of, if not the best player in the MLB, despite his team’s consistent struggle of making the postseason. The Angels have hovered around the 80 win mark since he debuted in 2012, bar one season – 2014 – where they gained a league-best 98 wins. 2018 started off well, but injuries to key players (including Trout) halted any hope of playing baseball in October.
Nevertheless despite the Angels clear short-comings, they deserve a heap of credit for locking down a player who’s dominated baseball since his stellar rookie season.
Trout’s mustered two MVP awards in seven years, while finishing second four times and fourth once. As well as that he’s led the league in a host of different stats, including OPS+ five times, runs scored four times, on-base percentage three times, walks three times, OPS three times, slugging twice, and one time each in RBIs, stolen bases, strikeouts and total bases in his seven years so far. No player in recent memory has succeeded in so many separate categories in a short space of time.
Furthermore, Trout’s been the best amongst current players when it comes to WAR (Wins Above Replacement), the statistic that best measures a player’s contribution to their team. He was on pace to post a WAR of just over 14 a season ago, which would have been the highest season total by any player since Babe Ruth’s 14 in 1923. As well as that, Trout’s career WAR through seven seasons is an impressive 64.2, an average of 9.17 per year, which for the record is higher than Ruth’s yearly average (if that means anything). He’s on track to rank second all time in WAR, which would effectively make him the second most valuable player in MLB history.
Thus for the Angels, locking down such a talent for an extra decade needs to be applauded as much as possible.
Despite consistent talk a move elsewhere would be ideal over staying in Anaheim, what the Angels pitched to Trout was clearly enough to convince him staying put is the best option.
Whether money or winning was the main motivator remains to be seen. But for now, the Angels can celebrate.
The team now has a direction and future set in stone, which can be hard to come by for one of the league’s lesser established franchises. Unlike the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers or Boston Red Sox, the Angels don’t have the image or history that places them a step above the rest when it comes to building a winning team. Therefore hanging onto what they were lucky enough to snag in the first place is the biggest objective, and they’ve done just that.
In saying that there’s work to be done on the field now. 2019 won’t be a year the Angels are expected to win the AL West and make an impression in the postseason, but led by incoming manager Brad Ausmus, they’ll need to show how attractive they are as a free agent destination in order to become a contender. That means results.
The team’s weakness remains their pitching rotation, which as well as not having the quality as other American League contenders, continues to struggle with health. Starters struggled to get their pitching counts up in Spring Training as injuries have continued to hurt them, which is certainly not a good sign. Shohei Ohtani won’t take the mound in 2019 which reduces the starting quality, but Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey join Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney for four capable starters. But as a group they simply aren’t enough.
The other side of the ball is where the strength lies. Along with Trout, Ohtani will be in a position to notch 30 homers. Former MVP Albert Pujols, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons along with the arrival of veteran Jonathan Lucroy make for a handy attack.
The Angels also have a farm system that has become one of the 10 best in the league, highlighted by Outfielder Jo Adell and Pitcher Griffin Canning who both could get their fair share of game time.
For now it’s mild and nervous celebrations. Keeping Trout is a win, but the team are pressured to perform where it counts. That remains to be seen.