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Column: Mike Trout deserves his huge new contract, and Angels deserve credit for getting it done

TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 18, 2019: Angels outfielder Mike Trout walks to the batting cage for hitting pr
Mike Trout and the Angels are finalizing a deal that will keep him with the team through 2030.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Good heavens, it really happened.

Mike Trout is an Angel for life.

Few thought he wanted to stay. Even fewer thought the team would be able to keep him.

Then Arte Moreno stepped in and took a giant hack and just crushed it, delivering a hit bigger than Scott Spiezio’s three-run jack on that October night in 2002, doing what great sports owners in Southern California do.

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Moreno connected on such an impactful blow, the outcome is worth repeating, this time with a punctuation mark that has described a career.

Mike Trout is an Angel for life!

A mere two seasons short of free agency and with the baseball world buzzing about a new home, Trout decided Tuesday that he already was home by closing on what is essentially a lifetime contract with the Angels, reportedly for 12 years at $426.5 million.

It is the richest deal in professional sports history and worth every penny. It is a stunning wake-up call by baseball’s sleepiest big-market team and worth every bit of applause.

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Trout is the best player in baseball. He has been the best player in baseball for most of his entire seven-year career. He is just 27 and could one day rank as the best baseball player in history. His competitiveness is unmatched, his drive is unparalleled, and when his contract ended in 2020 he could have gone anywhere for any amount of money.

Yet without even coming close to entering the market, he chose to stay in a place where he has played in all of three playoff games.

This is the Angels’ biggest and most surprising victory since that 2002 World Series championship. This is the low-key Trout saying he embraces the Orange County lifestyle, endorses the Angels’ direction and has enough faith in the franchise’s future to work here for the rest of his career.

This is pretty much the biggest statement in Angels franchise history, don’t you think?

It was a huge win for Moreno, who showed a great understanding of the Southern California sports landscape and a great fearlessness in the wake of past failure. Moreno knows that the market requires big stars, and Trout is easily his biggest star. He knows that fans expect a concerted effort to win at all costs, and this boldly checks that box. And Moreno shelled out all the money despite still hurting from big-bust contracts given to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols, because he knows that Trout is very, very different.

This was, conversely, a loss for the Dodgers, who this winter refused to give an equally big contract to free agent Bryce Harper even though Harper wanted to play in Los Angeles as badly as Trout wanted to stay in Anaheim. There is no salary cap in baseball; the rich Dodgers simply didn’t want to spend the big money and give the long deal to Harper, not understanding that his star power in this town would have been worth the cost — it could have even ended their TV stalemate.

The Dodgers have won six consecutive division championships, while the Angels have won one division title in nine years, yet who will begin the season with the bigger headlines and suddenly more impressive future? That’s how it works around here. Moreno gets it, Guggenheim did not.

This is also a huge win for Billy Eppler, who is slowly building hope in his four seasons as the Angels’ general manager. There was the signing of Shohei Ohtani. There was the addition of Andrelton Simmons. The farm system has gone from being ranked as baseball’s worst to somewhere in the top half. New manager Brad Ausmus is bringing in a new culture.

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Sure, Trout stayed for the money and for the atmosphere that fits his low-key demeanor. But there’s no way he stays unless he thinks Eppler is building toward something special, and now his decision gives his boss time to continue the rebuilding at a smart pace. If Trout wasn’t signed by the end of this season, the Angels would have had to rush through a quick fix next year to impress him. Now they can continue their slow, steady growth.

Finally, this is a big loss for everyone else in baseball who thought Trout could be persuaded to go to a bigger, shinier market. This includes, Harper, who, since he joined the Philadelphia Phillies, has shamelessly recruited Trout to come back closer to his Millville, N.J., roots.

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In the end, Mike Trout chose a place that fit his quiet, workmanlike personality, yet a place that he believes can fulfill his vivid championship dreams. He has so much faith in Los Angeles’ “other’’ team that he permanently made it his team, and now they’re the talk of the town.

He chose the Angels, and he chose them for life, and good heavens indeed.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke


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