“Today is a special day in Angels history. We’re extremely proud to say we’re keeping Mike Trout in an Angels uniform for the next 12 years.”
These were the words spoken by Angels General Manager Billy Eppler, who was at the forefront of the negotiations that led to the largest contract handed out in North American sports history. Eppler, who has been at the helm since the 2016 season, is no stranger to making monumental moves. Trout’s extension comes a mere 15 months after the club signed two-way star Shohei Ohtani.
Trout’s 10-year, $360 million extension was the result of several years of hard work and due diligence done by Eppler and several other high-ranking Angels officials. “This was something that Arte Moreno (Angels owner), John Carpino (Angels president) and I discussed a number of times over the past few seasons,” Eppler said. “Those thoughts ultimately led to discussions, that began in late February and culminated this week with an agreement.”
Following his speech at the press conference, Eppler spoke with the media and discussed some of the intricacies that went into signing a deal this large and the negotiations that led to this franchise-altering signing.
Everything started to come together in late February. “That’s when conversations really began for both sides,” Eppler said. “The internal conversations began in 2017 and I began thinking about it about a month after I was on the job (in late 2015).”
While the internal conversations were complex and lasted for years, communication between the Angels side and Trout’s side was pretty straight forward last month. Early on in the process, Eppler was approached by Trout’s agent Craig Landis, who reiterated one very important message: “Mike wants this to be his last contract.” This made the negotiations much easier for Eppler and Trout, who both had the common goal of making Trout an Angel for life.
With two years remaining on Trout’s deal before hitting free agency, Eppler said the urgency to get a deal done was more of his own urgency. “I just felt like as we got towards next winter time, it was going to be something I was asked about everyday, Craig (Landis) was going to be asked about, Mike (Trout) was going to be asked about, etc. Now was the right time.”
Coming into Spring Training, the open dialogue between both parties led to more conversation, which really heated up after a one-on-one meeting that Arte Moreno had with Trout this month. It was then that Trout and Moreno both realized the importance of getting a deal done soon and not letting this linger any longer.
A few days after that meeting, Eppler received a text from Trout, who said he wanted to meet privately with Eppler. Within a day, Eppler was sitting face-to-face with both Trout and Landis, where they hammered out some of the important details of the contract. This is where Eppler felt really confident that a deal was going to get done.
This past Monday (March 18) was when everything started to materialize. The Angels had an off day in Arizona and Eppler was back in Anaheim for an event with season ticket holders. Later that day, Eppler had a call with Moreno and Carpino, where they “took their position” and discussed their “comfort level and threshold” on a deal for Trout.
On Tuesday morning, prior to flying out to Arizona, Eppler and Carpino had a phone call with Landis, where both sides talked about “financials” and how the “cash would be outlaid”. By the time Eppler was boarding his flight at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, the two sides were essentially ready to sign off on a deal.
When Eppler was halfway through his flight to Arizona, he received the news from Landis that Trout was ready to sign. Eppler shot congratulatory texts to high-ranking Angels officials, including Moreno, and the baseball world learned that Trout would be signing his extension with the Angels just hours later.
There was never really any doubt that Trout was the perfect player that warranted a deal this large. “He checks all of the boxes,” said Eppler. “There’s never been anybody I’ve been around that checks all of the boxes.”
Eppler, when asked about determining Trout’s value, cited a thorough search of player comparisons that dated back to the 1950’s. “We did a historical look at the population of the elite players who have played the game. Roughly from the late 1950’s on because it’s a pretty elite group.”
Given that Trout is the all-time leader in Wins Above Replacement (64.9) through an age 26 season, it’s not all that surprising that finding a comparable contract for Trout wasn’t easy. Even recent contracts handed out to superstars Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado weren’t fair comparisons since they’re a tier well below Trout.
On top of trying to determine Trout’s value, one of the hardest aspect of negotiations according to Eppler, was “trying to forecast how the next 12 years were going to look.” Any deal this large was always going to provide issues, but determining how Trout could age was a crucial aspect and the organization felt comfortable with their answer.
The Angels and Trout both felt comfortable with the length of the deal and both sides felt like they didn't need any uncertainty. Landis approached the Angels with the idea of opt-outs early on in the process and Eppler said the club wasn’t interested. To him, “loyalty and commitment” were key parts of this deal and opt-outs took away from that.
Transparency, along with loyalty and commitment, were some of the key parts throughout the negotiations. “When you lay all the cards on the table and you’re both transparent and direct, then reasonable minds can usually come together,” Eppler said. This transparency is something Eppler said plays a huge role in his job running a franchise.
In the end, the Angels and Trout came to terms on a deal because it just made sense. Eppler and the Angels wanted Trout as an Angel for life. Trout wanted to be an Angel for life. That ultimate goal came to fruition. For the first time in franchise history, the organization will get to watch a player they both drafted and developed embark on a Hall of Fame career and spend his entire career in an Angels uniform.