Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout had one of the rookie years for the ages in 2012.
The unanimous winner of the American League Rookie of the Year also finished runner-up in the Most Valuable Player voting after hitting .326 with a .399 on-base percentage and a .564 slugging percentage.
Trout led the AL with 129 runs and 49 stolen bases, as well as an adjusted on-base-plus-slugging percentage rating of 171 (100 is average).
Oh, and he did it all in just 139 games, seeing that he wasn’t recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake until they had played 20 games (and lost 14 of them—significant to point out about a team that finished four games out of a playoff berth).
Trout’s rookie season puts him on a short list of great rookie players that includes names such as Joe Jackson, Ted Williams, Albert Pujols and Mike Piazza. And what was Trout’s reward for such a landmark debut? He got the standard 6.25 percent pay raise for 2013.
He’ll make $510,000 this season. Oh, and by the way kid? You’re moving to left field.
Now, it would be easy to vilify the Angels for treating Trout this way. But there is an important point to remember: He’s played one year in the bigs and has no leverage in contract negotiations.
Where Trout is at in terms of service time, it’s laughable to even call them “negotiations.” They’re more like a one-way conference call, as in, “Here’s what we’re offering, see you at work tomorrow.”
There have been exceptions to this, but for a young player who is, per the collective bargaining agreement, completely under club control for his first three major-league seasons and only eligible for free agency after six years those exceptions involve giving up something in return.
Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays did that. He signed a six-year, $17.5 million contract before his rookie year in 2008, a contract that in essence surrendered his three arbitration-eligible years prior to free agency.
Of course, last season he was rewarded for that loyalty—Longoria signed a six-year extension that included guaranteeing three option years on his old deal that will pay him an additional $100 million.
Even then, it cost Longoria something—he won’t be eligible for free agency until 2022 at the earliest or 2023 if the Rays (or whatever team hold his contract by then) picks up the club option at the end of the deal.
That means Longoria won’t get to play the free-agent market in his prime; he’ll be 38 at the end of the 2023 season. So Trout didn’t have a leg to stand on.
As far as the move to left field, the Angels still believe that speedster Peter Bourjos is their best option in center. If he can’t cut down the strikeouts and get on base more regularly, Trout’s a pretty damn good Plan B for center field.
But when Trout’s agent Craig Landis opened his mouth on Friday, he cast his client in a bad light.
Landis doesn’t believe Trout’s contract is “fair.” As they say in my old neighborhood, “Gee, dat’s too bad.”
And according to Landis, Trout isn’t happy about moving to left field. Of course, all Trout said on the matter was what he should say, that he’s just happy to be in the lineup.
It’s a case where the 21-year-old kid should have done the talking and the agent should have just kept his yap closed.