If you’ve spent any time on sports Twitter in the last 72 hours, you’ve read the name, “Mike Trout.” Even if you don’t follow baseball, you should know who this man is and why he’s important. He made headlines on Wednesday morning when he signed a contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels. The contract, which would have expired at the end of the 2020 season, will now keep him in LA until 2030, a ten-year extension. The value of the deal? $430 million. Trout is now the most valuable athlete in North American sports.
Less than a month earlier on February 28, megastar Bryce Harper signed a deal worth $330 million with the Phillies. That deal had been the richest contract in sports, but Trout blew it out of the water. Take note kids: If you want to make money, play baseball. A record-breaking contract was signed, only to be easily, laughably, surpassed just three weeks later. Is Mike Trout even worth that kind of money? Is anybody?
Anybody? No. Trout? Absolutely. Without a doubt.
Trout is simply the best baseball player on planet Earth. As I explain why, and why he could be the greatest player in history, keep in mind that all of his accomplishments came before he turned 27. That’s important because a player’s prime is considered to be between 27-29 years old.
Let’s start with his awards. Although he had a poor debut in 2011, he didn’t play enough games to be considered a major leaguer. When he did play enough games in 2012, he won Rookie of the Year with a .326 average. He won MVPs in both 2014 and 2016 and was the runner-up in 2012 (his rookie season), 2013, 2015, and 2018. He’s been an All-Star every single year since his rookie season, and he’s been crowned All-Star MVP twice. Finally, he’s been awarded a Silver Slugger every year except 2017.
So those are his accolades, but they don’t tell the full story. What makes Trout special? Let’s start with his WAR, his Wins Above Replacement. This measures how valuable a player is to the team against an average replacement player. If a player has accumulated 30 WAR over his career, he’s worth 30 wins over a hypothetical replacement. The average benchmark for Hall of Famers is between 50-70 WAR, which they accumulate over 10+ years of major league service time.
In seven seasons, Trout has accumulated 64.3.
He has the 145th highest WAR of any player in history, and he’s not even 28 yet.
You can also look at how well he sees the ball. He has a career .307 average, which is the 5th highest among all active players. Since his rookie season in 2012, he’s only had two seasons where he batted under .300. He’s also accumulated 1,187 career hits. By the end of the first half of the 2019 season, barring injury, Trout will reach the list of all-time hit leaders. He’s just 25 hits away from reaching the bottom of the list.
Want more? His career .416 on-base percentage is 2nd in the majors and 23rd all-time. In fact, he’s led the majors in OBP every year since 2016. He has a career OPS of .990, which ranks 1st in the majors and 9th all-time. NINTH. ALL. TIME. He ranks 11th in all-time slugging percentage, and in 2018, he was so feared by other teams that he led the league in intentional walks. And there’s so much more that I won’t go in to. He’s undoubtedly the greatest player in baseball, and there isn’t a close second.
There are men who spend over a decade, some even two decades, working to achieve greatness. They give their heart and soul to the game, just to have a shot at entering the Baseball Hall of Fame and becoming legends. Mike Trout makes it look like child’s play. If the Hall wanted to, it could waive the usual requirements for entry just for him, and he’d be enshrined tomorrow. I don’t think anybody could really argue against it. He’s already there.
Is he worth the monumental contract the Angels agreed signed him to? That $430 million beast? Nearly half a billion dollars? Without a doubt. The Angels aren’t a good team. Last year they finished 4th in the AL West, with a losing record of 80-82. Trout is the only bright spot on that roster, besides Japanese Rookie of the Year pitcher Shohei Ohtani. While people love Ohtani, Trout is the one they pay to see. Since he’s the crown jewel of the team, almost a god among men, that puts the Angels in a position of need. I don’t think anyone would blame Trout if he wanted to leave. He knows what he represents: A game-changer. Insert him into a team that’s good but not great, and he could potentially push that team to the playoffs. If he wanted to join a competitive team and win a World Series, he would.
Trout decided that he doesn’t care about that. He cares about Los Angeles, his teammates, and being the best baseball player he can possibly be. That’s incredibly respectable. Is he worth $430 million? Absolutely. He’s probably worth far more. His raw talent is worth $400+ alone. Given that he chose to stay with a team which isn’t that good, it can be safely assumed that he stayed for his teammates, and if he likes them, they definitely like him too. So he’s probably a team-player, which is extremely important for a club. Finally, the Angels would be dead in the water without him. Mix his talent, likability, and importance to the team, and you can see why the Angels should’ve just offered him a blank check. $430 million is a staggering amount of money, but believe it or not, it’s a team-friendly deal. The fact that Trout was okay with not demanding a blank check speaks to his character and only makes the whole thing more ridiculous. The Angels got away with robbery. It’s the biggest win they’ve had since they won the ALDS in 2009.
Mike Trout will play for the Los Angeles Angels until 2030. He’ll be playing until he’s 39 years old, at least. For any other player, that would be silly. The body slowly deteriorates with age and wear, and even the greats devolve into mediocrity during their 30s. But Mike Trout could easily be a different story. There will undoubtedly be a decline, but who’s to say that a mediocre season for Trout isn’t equal to a good season for anyone else? Once his contract finally ends in 12 years, he’ll probably retire. If that happens, he’ll be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2035. He’ll get in on the first ballot. Remember how good he is right now? Remember how he’s already at a Hall of Fame level? Imagine what he could do in the next 12 years.