Given a frustrating history of roster and front office turnover, consistently handicapping any attempt to sustain a championship level. the dogged suspicion was that at some point during or after the final two years of his contract, the best player in baseball would be headed to his New Jersey home and his basically hometown Phillies with the Angels left to explain what this time would be the very unexplainable.
Well, this time, no explanations needed. This time a big market team acted like one, and Mike Trout–obviously convinced by what he has seen of a rebuilt and still being rebuilt foundation, what he heard from Arte Moreno and Billy Eppler regarding the team’s future, and (of course) offered a historic and head-spinning contract–decided he could continue to make his summer home (and play out his entire career perhaps) in a place where he already has seven years of comfort and Hall of Fame caliber statistics.
I applaud Trout and Moreno and say thanks. I mean, won’t we all benefit to have the center fielder locked in at 12 years and $426.5 million and paying in to our equally head shaking California taxes?
The Angels have been to and won only one World Series in 57 years, but this is another day for champagne, buying into what Trout has obviously bought in to, which is a champagne future in Anaheim or Long Beach, though I continue to believe Moreno will ultimately emerge with a new OC lease and development rights in the parking lot. Another Angel owner in another time was romanced by tideland oil money but refused to agree to “Long Beach Angels” as he ultimately listened to a board member named Walt Disney and headed to one of the few remaining orange groves in Anaheim. The Gene and Jackie Autry Suite at the Big A remains exactly as it was furnished during their tenure.
The Angels are currently winding up another spring of some frustrating pitching injuries, and with other lineup questions, lightening may be needed if they are to pop corks in 2019 but Trout, 27, is now committed through 2031 and Shohei Ohtani, 23, through ’24, and Jo Adell, at 19 the prince of a farm system that has climbed from last to 12th in rankings by Baseball America, could be in right field as soon as next year. While Eppler has been reluctant to dip into that farm growth, sources close to the club believe he is now willing to trade a piece or two if pitching or other help is needed in mid season.
The Angels owe Albert Pujols $87 million over the final three years of his 10-year contract. He is 39, rightfully proud and headed to the Hall of Fame (as well as a series in his former home of St. Louis this season), and it is unknown if Moreno has considered discussing with him a move into the personal services phase of his club commitment. Injuries (a knee was drained 12 times last year according to club sources and there has been a series of surgeries) and age have taken an obvious toll but Pujols continues to move up the career ladder in impressive categories while some of his career numbers in other categories have melted some.
There has been media speculation that the Pujols contract was inhibiting other Angel signings and free agent forays but the record commitment to Trout puts that to rest to a considerable degree, at least with Pujols now down to the final three years. The signing says the Angels are alive and in business and enhances a strange off season in which a few well known free agents remain unsigned while Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado–a fearsome foursome–have received $1.32 billion in contract commitments. Life at the top is healthy indeed, and let’s salute the Toronto Blue Jays for recently announcing they are raising the salaries of their minor league players 50%. It’s worth remembering that the most successful organizations are still built from the bottom up or does the swirl of all those dollars often make it seem the other way?