Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Mike Trout’s 2013 Salary Debate


Trout curiously penny-pinched by his team in salary assignment. Photo wiki/flickr Keith Allison

The Los Angeles Angels could have “assigned” any salary they wanted to Mike Trout, per the guidelines set forth by the CBA for pre-arbitration MLB players.  They chose to give Trout a nominal raise ($20k), paying him barely more than the MLB minimum for 2013.

Trout, to his credit, has taken the high road.    Trout’s agent Craig Landis has not, ripping the team for the move, which resulted at the end of a “negotiation” whereby the Angels basically told Landis they were done talking and summarily “assigned” a salary for 2013.

Were the Angels entirely within their right to do this?  Yes.

Is $510,000 an amazing amount of money regardless?  You bet.

Does this number have any effect on the 9-figure salary Trout will eventually merit?  Not in the least.

Did the Angels needlessly look to save a few thousand dollars with the ONE guy on the team who they shouldn’t have low-balled after his historic 2012 season?  Absolutely.

There’s ample precident for teams to pay pre-arb guys more than they need to in order to show good faith.  Just a couple of recent examples: Craig Kimbrel went from $419k to $590k after winning the Rookie of the Year in 2011.  Tim Lincecum went from $405k to $650k after winning the Cy Young.   Grant Brisbee posted a few more 1st-2nd year salary jumps for the last 10 years of Rookie-of-the-Year award winners to further illustrate the point; Trout has the 2nd lowest raise by any of the last 10 RoY winners (unsurprisingly, the penurious Marlins gave Chris Coughlan a lower raise after he won).  What Trout did was arguably more impressive than what either Kimbrel or Lincecum did; he unanimously won the Rookie of the Year and came in 2nd in MVP voting (a disputed MVP vote since Trout’s season from a statistical basis was one of the best in the history of the game).

Why antagonize your best player, your most important guy going forward, in order to save $100k??   This is the same team that is going to pay Vernon Wells $24.643 Million to be their 4th outfielder.  Jeff Miller, columnist for the Orange County Register, put it better than I could online; every one of his points is valid.

I just hope the Nationals never stoop to this sort of behavior just to save a few thousand dollars on a team worth hundreds of millions.

Written by Todd Boss

March 5th, 2013 at 8:43 am

6 Responses to 'Mike Trout’s 2013 Salary Debate'

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  1. Contrast this to the Nats’ policy with the Face of the Franchise in his early years; Ryan Zimmerman went from $327K for 2006 (the minimum being lower then) to $400K in 2007 and $465K in 2008 before signing the first of his big contracts (and I remember comments to the effect that the Nats were being cheap and should have gone to $1 million). The Nats have done similar things with later rookies (Espinosa went from $415K in 2011 to $506K in 2011), not including of course players like Harper and Strasburg who signed big contracts from the get-go.

    Steven J Berke

    5 Mar 13 at 11:00 am

  2. Is Jayson Werth our Vernon Wells? Meaning, a big contract that lots of people (ok, for Jayson all) mocked at the time but was intended as the first “We have to pay extra on one guy to get others to take us seriously” kind of a guy?


    5 Mar 13 at 11:14 am

  3. Absolutely. A better Nats blog writer would have remembered to look up what the team gave as raises to its prominent 1st year guys 🙂 Well done.

    Todd Boss

    5 Mar 13 at 11:35 am

  4. Is that how you view Vernon Well’s contract with the Angels? I don’t; I viewed it as a horrible acquisition (Wells signed that deal with Toronto) on top of a horrible contract (one that greased the wheels for Toronto’s former GM to get canned). I don’t think i’ve ever considered the Angels amongst the league’s cheap teams.

    Now, Washington absolutely was in the “cheap” category the first few years … and I do believe that the Werth contract was partly about making a statement to the rest of the league. He struggled in the first year of the contract and now unfortunately its listed as a leading albatross contract in the league. If Werth had continued putting up 4-5war seasons would we be hearing about it? Probably, but not as loud. Even given his wrist injury last year Werth put up a war-worthy season in terms of dollars per win (FAs cost about $5M per war, Werth put up a .6 war in 81 games, equating to about 1.2war for a full season which is just about on par with his $13M salary last year).

    Todd Boss

    5 Mar 13 at 12:37 pm

  5. I don’t know if I view it that way, I was kind of just spit-balling and seeing how you view it. It felt like the Angels knowingly took on his albatross of a contract to make a move to make a splash, which is somewhat analogous to what Washington did.

    The flip side is that I don’t know if the Angels ever really loved Wells (you’d hope they did for that contract…) but Rizzo loves Werth and will bend your ear for an hour on his intangibles etc.

    If we give Werth another 2 years, we might be fully into the “What they hell were the Nats thingking?” mode though, and basically no one liked the terms of the Werth signing.


    5 Mar 13 at 12:42 pm

  6. OK that’s far on Wells. I still can’t believe the trade the Angels made to get him. Maybe another good analogy would be Kansas City coming out of nowhere to give Gil Meche $55M. But then the Royals didn’t really follow it up with any subsequent signings like the Nats have done post Werth. Either way, the Nats went from laughing stock to 98 game winners awfully fast.

    Here’s the scenario I worry about; year is 2017. The team has Werth at $21M, Zimmerman at $14M, Gonzalez at $12M (still a huge bargain), but has Strasburg hitting free agency, Harper in the 2nd year of a potentially massive contract extension, and Detwiler & Zimmermann possibly out the door b/c they both hit FA in 2016. You have to assume that both Strasburg and Harper are looking at $20M/year contracts in this timeframe. How many $20M/year players can you have on a team and still be competitive?

    Todd Boss

    5 Mar 13 at 2:23 pm

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