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It appears that Trout and the Angels are closing in on a contract extension that will keep Trout in Anaheim (or Long Beach or Encinitas or Westlake Village or wherever the Angels end up) into the 2030s. The deal is, as these things go, a bargain, a rumored total of $430 million over 12 years. That’s the largest contract in professional sports history, sure, and also a pittance for the best player who has ever played the game.
Trout seems to have chosen security and the Angels, whatever their flaws, over the risks of the market two years out and playing for a team that might be better positioned for success. By signing, Trout takes the Angels out from under the gun, and allows them to aim for a 2021-24 window in which he’ll still be great, players like Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh will be joining him, and $30 million a season won’t be committed to Albert Pujols. Come 2023, Trout is the only Angel making any money at all, although Shohei Ohtani could be getting expensive by then. By signing Trout, the Angels have altered the future of their franchise.
I don’t question Trout’s decision at all. I will say this: Fairly or not, in the era of expanded playoffs and an overwhelming emphasis on the postseason relative to the regular season, baseball players are judged on October. Clayton Kershaw may be the best pitcher who ever lived, and the larger conversation about him still begins with his postseason work. Trout has played in three postseason games, never played in a postseason win, never advanced. He’s lost MVP awards by being on a lesser team than players who made the playoffs. (He’s lost one by being on a better team than one that made the playoffs.) In our world, Trout’s greatness is unassailable, but for general sports fans, the ones who watch “First Take” and listen to sports radio and read ESPN.com, Trout’s just a guy who doesn’t have a ring.
It may seem that the Angels have made a big bet on Mike Trout today, but it’s Trout who has put much, much more on the line by betting on the Angels.