A hot topic in some baseball circles this week is related to – you guessed it – money.
Craig Landis, agent of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout – the unanimous winner of the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year Award and second-place finisher in the voting for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award – is “stunned” over the second-year player’s 2013 salary, according to the LA Times.
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports his sources say Landis wanted $1 million for Trout’s services this season. Instead, Trout had no choice but to accept the Angels’ $510,000 offer.
Those up in arms about this apparently do not understand Major League Baseball’s salary structure.
Just like any other pre-arbitration player, Trout basically has no leverage. He has to play for whatever his team offers him – as long as it meets the MLB minimum salary. That is $490,000 this season, going up to half a million next year.
Like most clubs, the Angels have a pay scale for one-, two- and three-year players that they stick to. The intent is to keep all salaries down until the players become arbitration-eligible at three years of service and free agent-eligible at six years. At that point, the player takes charge, able to secure his best deal from wherever it may come.
The Angels could have made an exception for Trout in 2013, but it would have been relatively insignificant in size. If the flood gates were opened, the owners might lose control over this expense hammer they hold over all players in this service time range. MLB ownership has proven time and time again that without strict rules to govern their behavior, some will over-spend, creating problems for their peers as well.
Some complain that the current compensation rules are unfair. Well, if you are among the unhappy, then focus your aim on changing them. Just don’t expect to get anywhere.
On the owner-player labor front, concessions from one side are not generally given without expecting something in return from the other. With the current collective bargaining agreement having four more years to run, any alteration to the pre-arbitration salary structure (beyond annual cost of living increases to the minimum salary) is almost certainly not coming soon.
Sure, Trout and Landis could carry a grudge over this player not being treated better financially than his peers, but when the big money comes, will it really matter?
That time will come soon enough. Like many other young stars, Trout seems likely to receive a multi-year, multi-million-dollar offer to cover his arbitration-eligible years and perhaps some of his free agent years as well. This could happen before Trout becomes eligible for arbitration for the first time following the 2014 season.
Considering the contracts the Halos have given to established stars Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton the last two winters, it is pretty clear that Angels owner Arte Moreno is not hesitant to pay what the market requires.
No matter his 2013 salary, if Trout continues on his current trajectory, his first multi-year contract could set a new MLB record for that type of deal.
All of this current noise will then be long-forgotten.