As a pre-arbitration player, 2012 AL MVP runner-up Mike Trout has no negotiating power with the Angels. So, instead of signing for a salary he didn’t like, he had his contract renewed by the team for $510,000 on Saturday.
That figure is just $20,000 above the major league minimum. It’s unclear whether the Angels initially offered him more. Teams will often make pre-arbitration-eligible players offers and then roll them back if they’re not accepted. The Angels other 21 pre-arby players all agreed to contract; Trout was the only one to have get renewed.
Most teams employ a strict scale for pre-arbitration players in which salary is almost entirely determined by service time, with performance figuring very little into it. That the Angels didn’t throw Trout a bone an kick in an extra $100,000-$200,000 likely has far less to do with them being cheap and more about not wanting to mess with their scale. They’ll certainly be willing to make it up to him later.
Trout, on the other hand, may have some hard feelings over the negotiations. Still, it’s strictly business as usual for major league teams. That pre-arbitration players are paid so little allows teams to fork over $15 million, $20 million or even $25 million per year to free agents. Trout will get his eventually; he’ll be eligible for arbitration for the first time after 2014 and he’ll be eligible for free agency following the 2017 season.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?