Pop quiz, hot shot: you have the best player in all of baseball on your team, one year away from arbitration eligibility. If he hits arbitration he’s going to get insanely expensive because there literally are no comps for him in recent history. If he gets close to free agency, dudes, forget it, he’s making over $300 million. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!
Well, you sign him to an extension before you lose all your leverage, that’s what. And it’s what, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are trying to do with Mike Trout by the start of the 2014 regular season.
DiGiovanna says that the Angels may, as is their right with a pre-arbitration player, simply renew his deal with a raise set at their discretion. That’s what happened last year, giving Trout a salary far short of a million bucks despite an MVP-caliber season. It stings, but that’s the system. This year, however, it shouldn’t sting as the sides will be negotiating for that long-term deal simultaneously. Important to note that any such extension would most likely be announced on Opening Day or after. For if one is reached before then, his salary counts against the Angels’ salary figures for luxury tax/revenue sharing purposes in 2014, if announced after, it doesn’t count until 2015.
Trout’s first two full seasons are historically good. He’s hit .324/.416/.560 with 57 homers, 180 RBI and 82 stolen bases since the beginning of the 2012 season. Add elite defense and baserunning to that equation — and figure that he’s only 22 — and you have a recipe for the highest paid player in baseball sometime soon. If the Angels can lock him up through his arbitration years and for part of his free agency at a below market rate, they should do it immediately if not sooner.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.