So much for Bryce Harper holding the record for largest contract for a North American athlete, and so much for Bryce Harper recruiting Mike Trout to Philadelphia. Mike Trout is reportedly finalizing a 12-year, $430 million contract with the Angels that would both give him the largest contract in professional sports history and obviate his much-anticipated free agency following the 2020 season.
That contract, which is really a 10-year extension on top of the remaining two years on Trout’s current deal, would run through Trout’s age-38 season and be worth $35.8 million per year. It represents both a massive amount of money and a massive underpay given the outfielder’s track record. On the one hand, no athlete has ever been paid this much in sheer dollar value; on the other, Trout is perhaps on a track toward the best career MLB has ever seen. Nobody has been worth more wins above replacement through age 26 than Trout, who has already won two MVPs and finished runner-up four times. By FanGraphs’ value calculator, he has been worth $489.1 million over his seven full seasons—an average of $69.8 million per year.
Trout isn’t just a fantastic all-around player who plays a solid center field and steals 20-plus bases each year. He’s also the best hitter, full stop, having led the majors in wRC+ in each of the past three seasons and somehow having improved each year in that span. Every winter, it seems, Trout identifies a hole in his game—a weakness against high fastballs, too much passivity at the plate, a poor throwing arm—and fixes it in a snap. There’s no reason to think he won’t age as extraordinarily well as he has thus far in the next dozen years. Based on Trout’s PECOTA projection for the next decade, he should be worth more than $600 million in present-day dollars even before accounting for the final two years on the deal.
And with revenues around the game increasing and inflation coming into play as Trout’s new contract progresses, the actual dollar value dampens a bit. Adjusted for inflation, $430 million today places Trout well behind both of Alex Rodriguez’s large contracts, for instance, and the $35.8 million in annual value slots Trout outside the top 10 in baseball history. The largest contract ever signed seems, at first glance, to be a large bargain for the Angels as well.
For Trout himself, Tuesday’s news removes his chance at free agency, after he had already signed an early-career extension that pushed his pending date back a few years. Like Harper’s with Philadelphia, the deal reportedly includes no opt-out clauses; Trout is staying in L.A. for a while. Had he never signed his original six-year, $144.5 million extension as a pre-arbitration star, he would have become a free agent following the 2017 season; had he not agreed to a new deal on Tuesday, he would have become a free agent after 2020. Such an occasion would have allowed all of the sport’s richest teams to court Trout, pitching everything from a trip back east, where he grew up, to a partnership with other superstars like Harper (in Philly) or Aaron Judge (in New York).
Yet in Los Angeles, Trout already has comfort and familiarity, first, with the only organization he’s ever known, and one that by all accounts he enjoys and appreciates. The Angels notably did not fiddle with Trout’s service time when he was a rookie, nor have they pivoted from making moves with an eye on winning to making moves with an eye on maximizing profits instead. Those haven’t always worked, of course—the Angels famously haven’t won a single playoff game with Trout in town—but they haven’t squandered Trout’s prime through lack of effort.
Trout already has a superstar partnership in L.A., as well, with fellow wunderkind Shohei Ohtani providing him company, plus a second-tier star in Andrelton Simmons flanking him in the lineup and potential future stars like top-10 prospect Jo Adell joining him soon. It’s perhaps easy to scoff at Trout’s decision to commit to a franchise that hasn’t been able to win a playoff game despite, again, fielding the best player in baseball history through age 26.
But the frisson of excitement sparked when Ohtani chose the Angels last winter—the sudden thrill of imagining Trout and Ohtani together—will now bloom for the next half-decade or more. Baseball is about winning games and titles; baseball is also about joy, and Trout seems joyful in Los Angeles, and baseball fans can experience joy watching this dynamic team grow and this unprecedented player continue his magical career.