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Mike Trout’s new $430 million contract is a bargain

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$430 million! Twelve years! The biggest deal in sports history! The mind reels!

That’s the first response of just about everyone but, once you think about Mike Trout’s new contract with the Los Angeles Angels, you realize that it’s a team-friendly deal. In fact, it’s a bargain.

One way to think about it is to look at how good a player is vs. how good other highly-paid players are.

Now, I’m sure I don’t need to go into the gory details of why Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. If you doubt that, well, there’s not much I can do to help you, frankly, because it means you’re immune to most external stimuli.  But what I don’t think people truly understand is just how much better Trout is than even the other top players in the game. Since this is a story about money, let’s compare Trout to the next two-highest paid players in the game: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Harper has had approximately one year as good as most Trout years. Machado is consistently one of the best players in the game, but he’s never approached Trout in a given year. I don’t think that’s a slight on those guys to say that. They’d probably admit it themselves. But did you know that, according to WAR anyway, Trout’s eight big league seasons have been worth more than Bryce Harper and Manny Machado’s fourteen seasons combined? Yep. Put the two most highly paid players in baseball history before today and they don’t add up to one Mike Trout. Harper and Machado will make a combined $660 million over the next ten years while Trout will make $430 million over the next 12. That’s a deal!

Here’s another way to look at it.

Mike Trout is going to make around $36 million a year for the next 12 years. In 2018, baseball revenue was $10.3 billion. That number will, presumably, go up this year and most other years going forward. That means that Trout will make, at a minimum, 0.35% of overall revenues. When Alex Rodriguez got his ten-year, $250 million deal from the rangers in 2001, baseball revenues were at $3.58 billion, which means that A-Rod made nearly 0.70% of overall revenues. A-Rod’s first ten-year deal — as opposed to the extension he signed after his opt-out — is considered by most to have, actually, been something of a bargain. Trout’s, proportionately, is far cheaper than that.  Oh, and if inflation is a concept floating around your head right now, know that once you adjust for inflation, Trout and A-Rod’s contracts are roughly the same amount in absolute dollars. Once you adjust for inflation, however, baseball’s revenues have more or less doubled. Again, fantastic deal for the Angels.

OK, Craig, this is a bargain in the context of baseball. But is it not, possibly, an overpay for the Angels? Nah, hard to see it that way.

A lot is made of how much dead money the Angels have in the form of contracts to Albert Pujols and some other past-their-prime players. That’s rather unfortunate for them, but let’s not cry too much for Arte Moreno. The Angels play in the second largest media market in the country and are currently in the middle of a TV deal that pays them $3 billion over 20 years. Or, around $150 million a year. Which is around what their payroll is, even with Trout’s extension and even with Pujols’ (mostly) dead money. Which means that, before a ticket, a beer, a big foam finger or a stuffed Rally Monkey is sold — and before league-wide revenue sources are accounted for — the Angels are breaking even. Once the other stuff is accounted for — and they sell a lot of tickets in Anaheim — they are quite profitable. Oh, and the value of the franchise has appreciated madly too: Arte Moreno paid only $180 million for the team and it’s now worth over $1 billion and may be north of $2 billion.

All of which is to say, any claim that Mike Trout’s new deal is too big or otherwise unreasonable is, well, unreasonable. He is being paid less than he is worth in baseball terms. Proportionate to the numbers that actually matter, he’s being paid far less than a lot of big stars in the game have been paid in the past. And, with respect to the team who is paying him, he does not represent an unreasonable investment, let alone an unduly burdensome one.

Mike Trout is worth it. The Angels can afford it. In fact, the guy is a bargain.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.

As for the Indians, the commitment to Kluber for 2020-21 is $31.5 million if you exercise next year’s option, $18.5 million if you don’t. He’s one year and a freak injury removed from goin 20-7 with a 2.89 (150 ERA+), 0.991 WHIP, and 215 innings pitched. Cleveland is coming off 93 wins and should contend. Why you trade Kluber in that situation, regardless of the return, is a question they should have to answer to fans who expect to see winning baseball.