Monday, March 4, 2013

Mike Trout Deserves The Money, But He’ll Have To Wait

He’s a humble, likable baseball prodigy. This could easily be the best season for the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, who is one of the most sensational players in baseball. But with Spring Training currently in progress, his agent, Craig Landis is upset over a contract dispute and feels that Trout hasn’t been earning what he’s worth.

Sooner than later, though, Trout’s payday will come. First, he would need another incredible season on the diamond, even though he’s done something rare that most players at his age can’t make happen. Along with that, the Angels renewed his contract for $510,000, and sense that he’s getting what he deserves.

Judging by Trout’s agent, he absolutely knows nothing about the economics of baseball and has no leverage, and therefore he’s mad at a ball club that is unwilling to give the best all-around player in baseball what he may have foreseen and demanded, too.

The Angels, whether he likes it or not, renewed his deal at a low salary. It’s fitting for an organization that has a reputation of being cheap and stingy when it comes to giving a player a mega-sized contract. Fans have seen it often over the years.

It is well-established that Trout, after producing monster numbers in a game obsessed with statistics, hasn’t met the criterion for baseball’s economic structure.

Given his marveled rookie season, couldn’t he have made massive bucks? Certainly, but he and his agent will have to wait until after a couple of seasons for the Angels to restructure Trout’s contract. There has, quite precisely, never been a one-of-a-kind player in baseball like Trout.

On the field, he was awesome — the best rookie the game’s seen in this era, maybe the best rookie ever. Trout, who was called up to the majors from Triple-A back in April 2012, hit .326 with 30 home runs, 49 steals, 129 runs, a .564 slugging average, .399 on-base percentage and .963 OPS.

Right away, he brought so much attention to the Angels last season, blossoming into a rookie sensation practically overnight. He amazed fans in Orange County and even nationwide. That’s pretty amazing for someone who is barely 21 years of age, wouldn’t you think?

Because he’s a player with less than three years of experience and that he’s done it for one year, Trout may be the most underpaid and unappreciated player, making less than most of his teammates, as he’s playing for a minimum.

He would need to hit the ball hard enough to advance base runners, and more importantly, he would need to play a full season in the big leagues to earn a raise from the Angels. His agent can be unhappy all he wants, but the Angels aren’t ready to pay him a raise when he’s just entering his sophomore season.

The time will come to pay the money he’s worth, and as an ultimate sign of respect, the only way to show somebody that they are welcome is by signing them to a hefty deal and locking them up for long term.

He’s still young, but he’s shown he’s a baseball phenom. Trout won Rookie of the Year last season, getting 248 at-bats and joinining the likes of Derek Jeter, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. It should be convenient that the side to blame is Major League Baseball Player Association, not the Angels. The criticism of the Angels sounds ignorant and irresponsible.

It couldn’t be worst timing, as the Angels are focused on more important things than to hear an agent whine about a player’s salary. It’s a shame Trout’s agent points the finger at Angels owner Arte Moreno, who is very cheap at times but also will overpay players just to buy talent. Jerry Dipoto, Angels general manager, is not culpable either.

What many in this age of baseball don’t quite take into account is pre-arbitration, in which players that can’t always get a large contract usually don’t luck up with one. Presumably because of the system, organizations have the right to pay a player less than the asking price, which means the Angels are the dictators.

As the team that has the lowest-rated form system in the game, the Angels might not have to worry about one of baseball’s prodigies coming from the club’s form system.

No matter a team’s policy, the best hitter and runner in baseball deserves the biggest raise. As much as any baseball team last season, the Angels embraced the notion of handing Trout the challenge of becoming an everyday starter in centerfield.

Had they made the move and called up Trout to play centerfield much sooner, the Angels might have won the AL West. So with that, Trout is the next Angel to earn big money, because in reality, he could have won AL MVP a season ago.

Considering that Miguel Cabrera won last year’s Triple Crown, it was appropriate for him to be named the MVP, as he finished the season by achieving something that hasn’t been captured in decades.

This week, the barrage of outcries initiated by a greedy agent is enough to set off an uproar. The ball club, again, spent massively, shielded that money from Trout and foolishly overpaid for Pujols and Hamilton, forking out $365 million over 15 years on a player whose numbers were in decline for the first year of his 10-year deal, and then another player who has a long history of injuries.

The day after Trout was given his 6.25-percent raise to $510,000, it created a media frenzy. More for the Angels’ sake than his own, he needs to be given the amount he’s due to make by the next couple of seasons. Wherever he goes, if the Angels don’t pay him soon, he’s this generation’s transcendent player.

For now, of course, he’s the generation of Tomorrowland, and he’s not a fantasy. He’s real. He’s good. He’s a hitter and runner. He drilled 30 homers and stole 49 bags.

The question here is not whether he will remain an Angel for a long time, but whether Trout is unhappy about moving to left field, a decision made by manager Mike Scioscia, as Peter Bourjos is expected to start in center field.

Scioscia likes Bourjos' ability to hit and get on base, and since Torii Hunter fled the residents of Disneyland to play for the Detroit Tigers, Trout and Bourjos are Scioscia’s guys.

Yes, he’s unhappy with his contract, but the Angels will eventually buy out Trout’s arbitration years, and perhaps a year of free agency, and then he’ll get $100,000 back. The thing is, Trout won’t be eligible for two seasons, so in the meantime, the star outfielder will continue to amaze us with his baseball greatness.

Our fascination with Trout is growing, especially after what he’s done as a rookie. Being the good kid as he is, Trout will be an Angel for many years to come.