Albert Pujols made his major league debut at 22. Jered Weaver made his minor league debut at 22.
Mike Trout just made $145 million at 22, and he set himself up to become the richest athlete in North American sports history.
The best player in baseball has decided to stay with the Angels through 2020. Trout agreed with the team Friday on a six-year contract extension, and owner Arte Moreno will formally announce the deal at a public ceremony Saturday at Angel Stadium.
Trout’s family flew here from the East Coast on Friday. The Angels declined formal comment until the ceremony.
The extension guarantees Trout $144.5 million. The Angels granted Trout a no-trade clause, but the outfielder cannot opt out of the deal, according to people familiar with its structure.
However, by resisting the Angels’ overtures for a longer contract, Trout secured his financial future while preserving his ability to hit an even bigger jackpot in free agency.
The deal was announced just before the start of the Freeway Series game at Dodger Stadium. Trout didn’t play and wasn’t available for comment.
Trout could become a free agent at 29. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, who turns 31 next month, signed an eight-year extension worth $248 million Friday. The total value, including the end of his old deal: 10 years and $292 million.
“I said wow, " LeBron James, the NBA’s best player, told reporters Friday. “I wish we didn’t have a salary cap.”
If Trout continues to play at his superlative level and baseball’s revenues continue to increase, he could set a record for career earnings by a North American professional athlete — in excess of half a billion dollars.
Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, who made his major league debut at 19 and subsequently signed the two richest contracts in baseball history, holds the current record of $450 million in career earnings, according to Spotrac.
In comparison, Kobe Bryant will have earned about $328 million when his Lakers contract extension expires in 2016.
Trout will make $1 million this season, under a contract signed last month. The extension takes effect next season, so the Angels will be able to avoid paying a luxury tax this season.
The Trout deal represents Moreno’s third annual nine-figure splash, following Pujols ($240 million) and Josh Hamilton ($125 million). However, Pujols and Hamilton were 31 when the Angels signed him.
This is the third and final season in which the Angels can pay Trout whatever they like above baseball’s minimum wage. The new deal covers his three years of salary arbitration and buys out his first three years of free agency, avoiding the rancor of debating his worth in arbitration hearings and extending his contractual commitment to the Angels from 2017 to 2020.
In his first two full major league seasons, Trout was runner-up to Cabrera in voting for the American League most-valuable-player award. The Tigers won the AL Central in each of those years, while the Angels failed to make the playoffs.
Cabrera might be considered a slightly better hitter, but Trout is a far superior defender and baserunner.
Trout is one of four players to bat .320 with 50 home runs and 200 runs scored in his first two full seasons. The others: Pujols and Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.
Angels pitcher Garrett Richards, 25, was Trout’s teammate at minor league stops in Iowa, California, Arkansas and Utah.
“You can’t say enough good things about him,” Richards said. “I’ve probably seen more Mike Trout at-bats than anyone else. He’s come a long way. He deserves everything.”
Will he be buying lots of dinners for his teammates in the near future?
“I would say so,” Richards said, laughing.