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OC Register: Alexander: Mike Trout’s Angels deal rewards baseball’s best, and most humble, star

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The biggest takeaway from the news of Mike Trout’s impending mega-contract: Humility pays.

And maybe there’s a certain amount of karma involved in the idea that the guy who doesn’t try to sell himself, doesn’t make headlines off the field, and doesn’t try to get managers fired or set himself above his teammates just got the richest current contract in pro sports.

Those commentators along the Eastern Seaboard who salivated over the idea of Trout becoming a Phillie or a Yankee after his contract ran out in 2020 can now see themselves out. The 10-year extension that was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan Tuesday morning will turn Trout’s deal into a 12-year, $426.5 million commitment that has no opt-out and a full no-trade clause and will keep Trout in Orange County through 2030. He’ll turn 39 that August.

There is justice because the best player in baseball should also be the highest paid. Nolan Arenado’s extension (eight years, $260 million) with Colorado, Manny Machado’s deal (10 years, $300 million) with the Padres and Bryce Harper’s contract in Philadelphia (13 years, $330 million) set the bar. Trout soared over it like an Olympic pole vaulter, as should be the case when you consider his 64.3 WAR is higher than Machado’s (33.4) and Harper’s (27.4) combined.

This is, incidentally, a metaphorical bat flip in the direction of Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, whose offices are in Newport Beach and whose corporation’s dugout suite at Angel Stadium is right behind home plate. If contract length and worth are ballplayers’ ways of keeping score, as we have stated before, Trout wins from every conceivable angle. Boras will be reminded of such every night he shows up.

It’s a win-win-win for Trout. He gets the money. He gets the security. And he gets to stay in Anaheim, where he doesn’t have to please a skeptical public, become an endorsement machine or turn himself into something he’s not. Trout has succeeded as a low-key player in a low-key market, and he obviously has decided the stability and the lifestyle were worth taking the deal now and staying in Orange County, rather than waiting for 2020 and shooting for $500 million-plus.

Not everyone is on board. Those who criticize Trout’s popularity and marketability found their spokesman Tuesday morning in Fox Sports host Colin Cowherd, who made this observation about Trout in an otherwise reasonable comparison between baseball players with their mega-contracts and NBA players who take a few million less to chase a ring:

“Nothing against Mike, he’s a nice kid. He could be in a mall in Los Angeles, though, and nobody would know, because when you’re not in the playoffs in baseball nobody knows who you are.”

Cowherd got some snark for that, deservedly so. After all, who goes into a mall these days? Ever hear of Amazon? And are you aware Trout represents Orange County and not L.A., regardless of what Arte Moreno’s marketing materials might say?

But Cowherd did make a salient point in his monologue. Baseball remains the one sport where the decade-long (or more) guaranteed contract still exists, and teams that offer them open themselves to immense risk.

Right now the numbers say Trout is absolutely worth it. Machado could be worth his $300 million as long as you ignore his leisurely jogs to first base and occasional extra-legal contact with fielders. Harper, through his career, had one MVP season and otherwise is the baseball version of famous for being famous.

But when each is in his late 30s and still drawing a healthy chunk of his team’s payroll, will we still be talking about those deals positively? Exhibit A for long, unwieldy deals remains Albert Pujols, who turned 39 in January and still has three years left on his 10-year, $240 million deal. His WAR in 2018: 0.5.

We said it about Pujols’ Angels contract in 2012, and we will say it now about the contract Trout is about to sign: If the Angels can win a World Series in the first few years of this deal, it’s all worth it. If not, it turns into an albatross, because Father Time remains undefeated.

Still, consider: Trout will have Shohei Ohtani in his lineup sometime in May, and likely as a two-way player in the years to come. He will at some point have Jo Adell alongside him in the outfield, the brightest prodigy to this date of a rejuvenated Angels farm system. And, surely, there will come a year when the Angels have truly healthy arms in their rotation and not just a bunch of 8-7 pitchers, right?

(If you got that last reference, congratulations. If you didn’t, feel free to Google “Nolan Ryan” and “Buzzie Bavasi.”)

Anyway, there is this triumph as well, as one commenter on a discussion board posted by The Athletic noted:

“Glad to have Mike as a life long Angel!!  Where’s all the Philly fans today??”

Scoreboard. For now.


@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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