Mike Trout

Angels lucky Mike Trout is even thinking about an extension

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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.

Russell Martin is not a fan of the automatic intentional walk

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after being struck out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.

As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.

My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.

It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.

It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.

The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”

We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.