If there's one thing we learned from this weekend's extension bonanza, it's that we are not going to see too many franchise players hit the free agent market anymore. There will be some big names and such out there still, but the Buster Posey's, the Justin Verlander's, and the like are going to be locked up long before they end up on the free agent market, leaving their club in a potential bidding war.
It's probably safe to say that Mike Trout fits that bill. Just a year into his career, he has already established himself as a franchise player. He finished second in the American League MVP and ran away with the AL Rookie of the Year award. He's a five tool guy. He's a fantastic hitter, a menace on the basepaths, and a wizard with the glove. He's absolutely the total package. Which is why the Los Angeles Angels likely will never let him hit the open market.
Some questioned the Halos when they only awarded him a $510,000 contract this winter. This was actually a touch more than the minimum they could have renewed his contract for. The Angels didn't give him more because they didn't have to. While Trout's agent was reportedly unhappy with the six figures, Trout was quick to dismiss it. Because he realizes the fact that he's about to get paid in a big way here in the next year or two.
But what would that look like? Sure, many have talked about a potential contract extension for Mike Trout, but there are far less explanations as to what that contract could actually look like.
If the Angels don't sign Trout to an extension, he'll become a free agent after the 2017 season. He'll become arbitration eligible in 2015. So any extension would obviously want to carry him through those arbitration years and at least a couple years of free agency. It's difficult to put an exact number on what the years could be in a potential extension.
Trout is 21 right now, having reached the legal drinking/voting age back in August. One could imagine the Angels going anywhere between seven and ten years with an extension. Which means that he could be a free agent anywhere between 28 and 31. A seven-year extension after the season buys out the rest of his arbitration years and three years of free agency. That'd take him to the age of 28, where he could likely hit the market again.
The years are tricky. Does Trout want to wait until he's pushing 30 to hit the free agent market, or would he rather just stick with a year or two of his free agency being bought out and hit the market when he's 26 or 27? That'll be a question during negotiations.
As difficult as it may be to determine the years, the dollars are an entirely different animal to try and tackle. Who do you compare him to? Albert Pujols? Evan Longoria? Ryan Braun? Pujols took home $100 million over seven years, but that was after three seasons. Braun's deal was for eight years and $45 million, which was a record for a player with one year of service time before Paul Goldschmidt signed his extension for five and $32 million last week. Given the fact that Trout is already better, both with the stick and the glove, and younger than Braun, it's a tough comp to make.
As far as Longoria's deal is concerned, he ended up getting 10 years and $136 million after that second contract extension, which will essentially make him a Ray for life. It's hard to see Trout signing for a decade, but the numbers aren't too far off here.
Putting your finger on the exact amount that Trout could go for is almost impossible, and it depends on the type of years he's looking for. Nine figures isn't completely out of the realm of possibility, but that's only if he's going for nine or ten years. There are any number of ways you could go with it, but a safe figure may be seven or eight years, to the tune of $60-70 million. Extremely reasonable for a player of his caliber.
That deal not only keeps him affordable, but a seven year deal sets him up to be a free agent at 28, where he's still in his prime and he can cash in again, with potentially one of the largest contracts handed out in the history of professional sports. At this point, it's just a matter of waiting to see when the Angels may pull the trigger on an extension, whether they look at something during the season (unlikely) or hold off until next winter (more likely). Either way, getting him locked up and buying out a couple of those free agency years are going to be a priority for the Halos.