Mike Trout

Angels lucky Mike Trout is even thinking about an extension


At this point, the only thing standing between the Angels and being a largely irrelevant second banana in the Los Angeles market is Mike Trout.

Yeah, Mike Trout, the guy they rewarded for a historic Rookie of the Year and near-MVP campaign in 2012 by paying him $20,000 more than the major league minimum.

Even with Trout, perhaps no large-market team is more poorly positioned for 2016 and beyond than the Halos. Albert Pujols, who is due $212 million over the next eight years, looks like an albatross. Josh Hamilton might be worth only a small fraction of his $30 million salaries in 2016 and ’17. Ace Jered Weaver is now one of the game’s softest-tossing righties. The team’s Opening Day lineup this year will likely have just one player besides Trout under 30 (outfielder Kole Calhoun), and the farm system rates as one of the game’s very worst (the only Angel to make Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects this year was second baseman Taylor Lindsey at No. 93).

Now, having the game’s best player goes a long way. But the Angels have already wasted two of his bargain years. Once they have to start paying him what he’s worth, while also paying Pujols and Hamilton $55 million or so annually, they’ll find it even more difficult to surround him with quality talent. It all suggests that Trout’s best path to a championship is to exit at the first available opportunity. That is currently due to come following the 2017 season.

And it should be noted that the Angels haven’t exactly been generous with their young superstar so far. When the Angels had back-to-back picks, 24th and 25th overall, in the 2009 draft, they selected Trout second, even though he was their preferred player. The thinking was it’d improve their negotiating position a bit. That’s smart business, but Trout might not have appreciated it overly much.

The more damaging decision could have come last year, when the Angels renewed Trout for just $510,000. That’s what he was due according to their scale for non-arbitration eligible players, which was based on service time, not performance. They weren’t willing to make an exception even for the best thing that had ever happened to their franchise. Were they worried that J.B. Shuck would say, “you gave Trout $750,000, where’s my $600,000?”

That Trout is weighing a long-term deal with the Angels suggests he never took it personally, which is wonderful news for management and ownership. Pretty much any figure the Halos can come up with would be a smart deal for them, what with Trout in position to shatter every previous arbitration record and then command a deal worth $40 million-$50 million annually in free agency.

Trout, though, has less incentive to give up free agent years than anyone who has come before him. He’s a position player and he’s built like a truck, so he’s a good bet to stay relatively healthy. Furthermore, he could tell the Angels today that he’s willing to give up his arbitration years for $50 million, and the team would surely take him up on it, what with the likelihood that he could make closer to $75 million those three seasons. That would set him up quite nicely for whatever his future holds.

Maybe Trout will sign two or three additional years away anyway. After all, $150 million is tough to pass up, and that’d still put him in position to sign a huge contract at 28 or 29 (as is, he’s slated to be a free agent at age 26). Making a home of SoCal probably isn’t bad, either.

However, Trout’s quickest path to being both a World Series winner and the game’s highest-paid player would seem to be to eschew such a deal now. If the Angels find themselves in a better position, the money will still be there for Trout two or three years down the road.

Yadier Molina scratched from Cardinals’ lineup

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Yadier Molina was in the Cardinals’ initial, posted lineup for Game 4 of the NLDS this afternoon, but the injured catcher has been scratched and replaced by backup Tony Cruz.

Molina has been playing through a significant thumb injury and exited Game 3 early in obvious discomfort. He no doubt talked his way into the lineup, but manager Mike Matheny told reporters that Molina was removed due to “considerable weakness in his hand.”

Not only will the Cardinals try to stave off elimination without Molina behind the plate, if they are able to advance past the Cubs in the NLDS they could be without the seven-time All-Star catcher in the NLCS.

Robinson Cano underwent sports hernia surgery

Robinson Cano

The Mariners announced today that second baseman Robinson Cano underwent surgery on his “core muscles” today, to repair that which we more commonly refer to as a sports hernia.

Cano played through the injury during the second half of what was a below par season. Hit hit .387/.334/.486 on the year though, surprisingly, did much better in the second half, posting a line of .331/.387/.540. The hernia may have been bothersome, but it didn’t really hamper him, it would seem.

He’ll need six weeks of recovery time, but should be good to go by spring training, looking for a bounce back year.

NLDS, Game 4: Cardinals vs. Cubs lineups

John Lackey

Here are the Cardinals and Cubs lineups for Game 4 of the NLDS in Chicago:

3B Matt Carpenter
1B Stephen Piscotty
LF Matt Holliday
RF Jason Heyward
SS Jhonny Peralta
CF Randal Grichuk
2B Kolten Wong
C Yadier Molina Tony Cruz
SP John Lackey

Yadier Molina is in the lineup despite leaving Game 3 early with obvious discomfort in his injured thumb. Randal Grichuk starts in center field after Tommy Pham played there in Game 3, which is interesting because in Game 1 the Cardinals used Grichuk in right field and Jason Heyward in center field. John Lackey is starting on short rest after winning Game 1, as manager Mike Matheny bypassed Lance Lynn with the season on the line.

UPDATE: Molina has been scratched from the lineup and replaced by Tony Cruz.

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Jorge Soler
3B Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
2B Starlin Castro
LF Kyle Schwarber
C Miguel Montero
SP Jason Hammel
SS Javier Baez

Addison Russell is out of the lineup after injuring his hamstring in Game 3, so Javier Baez is taking his place at shortstop and batting ninth behind the pitcher. Jorge Soler’s hot streak gets him another start in the No. 2 spot, with Kyle Schwarber batting sixth again. Jason Hammel makes his first start in 12 days.