Mike Trout’s agent, in his talks with the Los Angeles Angels, implied that the outfielder wanted a $1 million salary for 2013, according to major-league sources.
Such a figure would have been the largest ever paid to a player with fewer than two years of service. But Trout’s agent, Craig Landis, could have asked for $25 million and it wouldn’t have mattered.
Trout, as a pre-arbitration player, had no leverage. And the Angels, rather than reward Trout for his historic rookie season, simply followed a scale that they use for all of their pre-arb players, sources say.
The team renewed Trout for $510,000 – the top of their scale for one-plus players, but just $20,000 above the major-league minimum. Outfielder Mark Trumbo agreed to the top of the Angels’ scale for two-plus players - $540,000.
One source said that the Angels actually made Trout a higher offer than $510,000, then renewed him as a punitive measure when he would not accept. Another source, however, said the Angels did not negotiate in any fashion, refusing to deviate from their scale.
Whatever happened, the real question is why the Angels weren’t willing to make an exception for Trout. They could have broken their scale for a player who won the AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in the MVP voting. They also could have gone above scale if they awarded bonuses to 0-to-3 players who achieve certain honors, the way other teams do.
Ryan Howard’s $900,000 salary in 2007, coming off a National League MVP award, remains the highest ever awarded to a player with less than two years of service. Buster Posey received $575,000 in ’11 after winning the NL Rookie of the Year award and helping the San Francisco Giants win the World Series.
The entire episode with Trout likely will be forgotten if he and the Angels reach agreement on a long-term contract in the near future. The team has every right to wield the hammer on players before they reach arbitration. After that, the great ones get paid in a big way.