Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has been around baseball at the highest levels for the past quarter-century. He’s played. He’s been a broadcaster. He’s coached and managed. And, in his mind, there isn’t a doubt where Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the soon-to-be recipient of the largest contract in major-league history, stands in the game’s hierarchy.
“The best player I ever played against was Barry Bonds and I think that with his ability to play center field, [Trout is] in that conversation,” Roberts said. “And it’s a conversation of two, for me. I haven’t seen a player as well rounded. Now you bake in what he does off the field, I can’t recall a player that has impacted or continues to impact the game more than Mike.”
Trout, 27, and the Angels are close to agreeing to add 10 years and $360 million to the two years remaining on his current contract, making it a 12-year, $426.5-million deal. That would smash the record Bryce Harper set when he signed a 13-year, $330-million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies last month. And with good reason: Trout, a seven-time All-Star and two-time most valuable player, has been the superior player. Roberts has had a good seat to witness Trout’s prowess a few times a year during interleague games the past three seasons.
A New Jersey native and devoted Philadelphia sports fan, Trout was assumed to be interested in joining the Phillies after the 2020 season. Harper openly campaigned for that, declaring he would recruit Trout as soon as he had the chance. And while Trout said he preferred to not discuss his future during camp, he remained open to reaching an extension with the Angels.
Now, in a winter previously marked by teams’ lack of spending, Trout emerges as the biggest winner, surpassing Harper and the other premier free agent, Manny Machado, who landed a 10-year, $300-million contract from the San Diego Padres last month. That leaves the Dodgers, the two-time defending National League champions, as the only one of the region’s teams to not break the bank this offseason.
The Dodgers, who shy away from offering nine-figure contracts, re-signed Clayton Kershaw for $93 million, let Machado leave and offered Harper a short-term deal that would’ve given him the highest average annual salary in baseball history.
Harper stayed on the East Coast, Trout is staying on the West Coast, and Roberts says that’s fine.
“When you look at the East Coast and you see the players that they have, the stars there, to keep Mike on the West Coast as the East Coast guy that he is is great,” Roberts said. “For him now to play his entire career as an Angel, I think that obviously means something to him and the Angels, so I’m happy for him. He’s all that’s good about the game.”