Angels sign Mike Trout for $1 million, keep working on long-term extension

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While reports swirl about their long-term contract talks the Angels have given Mike Trout a $1 million salary for 2014, which is almost double what they were required to pay him based on his service time.

That makes sense, from a performance standpoint and from a keeping Trout happy standpoint, and it also hints at an extension being close to finished because by finalizing his 2014 salary the Angels clear the way for the average annual value of any long-term deal to begin counting in 2015 for luxury tax purposes.

Or, put another way: By signing him for $1 million this season and then announcing a long-term extension after that the Angels can avoid pushing their current payroll into luxury tax territory.

UPDATE: $1 million is the highest salary ever for a pre-arbitration player on a contract renewal, topping $900,000 for Ryan Howard a while back.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.