Mike Trout and the Angels agreed on a six-year, $144.5-million contract extension Friday, and the critics immediately pounced. Baseball is so flush with cash that the criticism was directed not at the Angels -- for a third $100-million deal when the first two so far have backfired -- but at Trout and his agent, Craig Landis.
Trout set himself up for life financially and preserved the ability to negotiate a monster free-agent contract at 29, which could make him the richest athlete in North American sports history. But the Angels would have preferred a longer deal, and industry executives and other agents wondered why Trout and Landis would pass up a chance at perhaps $300 million -- guaranteed now.
“We’re not like the other people,” Landis said Saturday. “We feel that Mike is going to do well. We feel that is a nice length. We like the length of this deal. We feel that this keeps our options open down the road, and it gives Mike what we think for him is still lifetime security.”
Trout is 22. Barring significant injury or a downturn in performance, he will hit free agency in the prime of his career. Miguel Cabrera, at 31, is guaranteed $292 million through age 40 -- and salaries for premium players only go up.
“I understand most people are looking to get as long a deal as possible because they’re in the latter part of their career,” Landis said. “I agree with that strategy, if you have a player of that age. What Mike was trying to accomplish was some financial security, but also keeping the door open for whatever may happen down the road.
“We think we accomplished both of those things. What other people think doesn’t really matter to the Trouts. We talked about it many times.”
The Angels initially projected that Trout could earn as much as $60 million in his three years of salary arbitration eligibility, though they revised that estimate downward in the negotiations. The extension essentially provides him with $45 million over those three years.
Rival agents said Trout should have gone year by year with the Angels, getting to free agency sooner and getting paid more each year until then.
“They weren’t representing Mike,” Landis said. “My job is to do what the client wants me to do, to try to accomplish for him what he would like to accomplish. I spent a lot of time talking to Mike and his parents. This is not a unilateral decision.
“Their input was the most important piece of the puzzle. I tried to accomplish what they wanted me to accomplish. We’re happy. Mike’s happy. Mike’s parents are happy. The Angels are happy. We view it as a win-win.”
The Angels have not made the playoffs since 2009. Trout has lost the last two most-valuable-player races to Cabrera, whose Detroit Tigers have won the American League Central in each of those seasons.
Yet, Landis said Trout had enough confidence in the Angels to sign now, without waiting to see if the team would end its playoff drought.
“Everybody writes about that, but that is not something we were terribly concerned about,” Landis said. “We think that this franchise is committed toward winning. You don’t always win because you’re committed towards winning. You have some years it just doesn’t go your way. [Owner] Arte [Moreno] has shown a commitment to bringing in good players and spending money. Mike thinks that the team this year is going to be good. We’ll see how it goes. He believes this organization will win.”