By: Steven Silverman
No player in recent history has lived up to such high expectations at the start of his career as Mike Trout. Yasiel Puig made a grand entrance, certainly, but he came from relative obscurity. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper each had their share of troubles in recent years—injury being most prominent. Trout, meanwhile, put up gaudy numbers in both of his first two full years in the big leagues, leading the league in runs scored both times. These MVP-caliber -the necessity of “caliber” is an argument for another time- seasons earned him a $1 million pre-arbitration contract—the highest in Major League Baseball history—and have (left) people wondering how much money he’s really worth and howmonstrous his payday will be once he hits free agency.
There are varying estimates on how much a win is worth. For simplicity, I’ll use $7 million, which is favored by Beyond the Box Score, and slightly outweighs the estimates (computed) by FanGraphs. Trout is listed as having produced a total WAR of 20.1 in 2012 and 2013 combined, which means that, had the Angels tried to replace him in the aggregate with other players, they would have expected to pay around $140 million for it. At his $510,000 salary in 2013, he was worth over 130 times his salary over that two-year period: quite the bargain!
Now, how much can Trout expect to get on the open market once he hits free agency? That depends largely on whether the Angels lock him up before he can test the market, which they would be wise to do. Trout would hit free agency after the 2017 season, when he would only be 25. Considering that Robinson Cano- a great player, but still inferior to Trout-got $240 million over 10 years from the Mariners at age 31, something in the neighborhood of $350 to $400 million for Trout is definitely within the realm of possibility. Though the Angels will certainly attempt to keep Trout, they have a few other expensive players: namely Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and C.J. Wilson. My projection is that Trout gets a short but steep extension after 2014—3 years, $100 million or thereabouts—and then hits a mega-payday when he finally tests the open market. $500 million might be a bit outlandish, but the average salary in the majors has topped $3 million, a seemingly inconceivable number just a few short years ago.
Yes, $500 million is an absurd amount of money for anyone. But then, Mike Trout is an absurdly talented baseball player, and could command such a salary. If he keeps up his breakneck production and posts 8 or more WAR every year, and salaries continue their current meteoric rise, don’t be surprised to see figures that were previously reserved for owners’ earnings being handed out to players like Trout.