Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies just agreed upon the largest contract in North American sports history, a deal that will pay Harper $330 million over the next 13 years.
This came just days after Nolan Arenado signed an eight year, $260 million extension with the Colorado Rockies, which came a week after Manny Machado signed a 10 year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres. In a matter of nine days, three of baseball’s best young players signed lucrative long-term deals that will keep them with their current franchises for the next decade.
Unsurprisingly, the attention has now turned to Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout, who has just two years remaining on his seven year, $144.5 million deal. Both Trout and the Angels have expressed interest in discussing a new contract but no formal negotiations have begun. This has led to frantic discussion (specifically at the Angels twittersphere) about Trout’s future contract and who he may be playing with in a few years.
Trout will almost certainly break the record contract Harper just signed and it might not be by a small amount. Trout’s production through age 26 is unparalleled by anyone in baseball history, which is evidenced quite well by this graphic from Cut 4.
Trout eventually finished the 2018 season with a higher WAR than Cobb through age 26, making him the most productive player at his age in baseball’s long history. Given Trout’s insanely consistent production (five 9+ WAR seasons) and improving numbers at the plate (career-best 191 wRC+ in 2018), there’s no reason to think he’ll stop being an elite player any time soon. This means there’s very little to scare teams off from handing over millions of dollars to him.
Now that we have three comparable (relatively) young players who signed huge deals that will cover some prime years, we can examine Trout’s possible contract. The truly absurd aspect of this potential Trout contract is he’ll likely be underpaid even if he receives hundreds of millions of dollars. To further illustrate:
A mildly ridiculous exercise, but why not:— Manny Randhawa (@MannyOnMLB) March 1, 2019
Bryce Harper bWAR from 2016-18:
7.5 ($330MM contract)
Mike Trout bWAR from 2016-18:
If Trout's next contract were to be valued at just the equivalent in dollars/WAR over the last 3 years, his contract would be
Obviously, no team will hand out $1.2 billion for Trout, regardless of what the insane numbers may tell you. But this does show that Trout’s value is so high that he is more than capable and deserving of receiving a deal that approaches $400 million and possibly even $500 million. Along with the Angels, there will likely be plenty of teams willing to throw that kind of money Trout’s way.
If Trout is unable to agree to a deal with the Angels and becomes a free agent, you can pretty well imagine what the market would be like for him. The Phillies ($121.2 million), Yankees ($110.7 million) and Nationals ($107.4 million) are the only clubs with more than $100 million in guaranteed money for the 2021 season, the year Trout could potentially be playing elsewhere. The Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Mets could all be in play for Trout if they play their cards right.
As for the Angels, this type of contract could easily fit well within their budget. While the organization has had limited payroll flexibility this entire decade and is still boasting a top 10 payroll, they do have flexibility beyond 2020. Albert Pujols’ albatross contract ends after 2021 and Justin Upton is the only Angel locked up beyond 2021. Pujols ($30 million) and Upton ($23 million) have the only guaranteed deals for 2021.
Even with a possible Andrelton Simmons extension (also a free agent after 2020) and arbitration raises for players like Shohei Ohtani and Andrew Heaney, the Angels may have their best payroll situation in years when the new decade hits. Add in a potentially large influx of cheap and young impact players such as Jo Adell, Griffin Canning and Brandon Marsh and you’re looking at a roster conducive for taking on a lucrative Trout contract.
In the end, this decision is entirely up to Mike Trout, who will decide where he wants to play baseball for an entire decade. Even if the Angels back up a Brinks truck for him or hand him a blank check, he could very well decide to test the free agent market. He could also like the idea of spending his entire career with one franchise and leading the Angels back to the playoffs.
Given Mike Trout’s laid back nature and interaction with the media, we likely won’t know his actual plans until they come to fruition. What we do know is he’ll likely sign a deal that destroys the Harper, Machado and Arenado contracts. Who Trout signs a deal with remains to be seen.