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Angels Notes: Payroll, Trout, Stadium

In the course of a lengthy discussion of Mike Trout’s status with the Angels, Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic (subscription link) drops a note regarding the team’s immediate payroll situation. The Halos, he says, “could top” last year’s team-record payroll, which checked in right around $165MM for the third-straight campaign. Whether that suggests there’s significant room to add depends upon how far past the prior line the team is willing to go; at the moment, the club already projects to have over $162MM in commitments on its books for the present season. With some creativity, though, the team could perhaps still pursue a significant addition this winter — especially if it is willing to allocate some of its relatively clean post-2020 payroll space. The club has added over $27MM in 2019 payroll so far this winter, but it has done so without adding a dime to its future balance sheets.

  • Regarding Trout, the above-linked post covers a fair bit of ground on the broader landscape of large contracts, though it largely (and understandably) leaves unanswered the ultimate question: how much money would it take to keep Trout from testing the open market? He’s far and away the best player in baseball — you’ll need to rub your eyes to make sure you’re reading this leaderboard properly — so much so that any other contract comps feel all but silly to make. Still, former Marlins president David Samson, whose quotes appear liberally throughout the post, claims that even Trout isn’t worth $40MM annually. Of course, Samson also advocates some other dubious positions, such as the notion that, as a front office leader, he would “have a very hard time telling my owner that Bryce Harper is worth $30 million a year when I can have Juan Soto making $555,000.” That sort of imbalance, of course, is baked right into the financial structure of the game. There’s no question any team would rather get more player for less money, but the cost to acquire freely available, established talent is vastly greater than that to retain pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players due only to the constraints on the earning power of less-experienced players. In any event, the potential future market value of Trout will be decided in an open bidding scenario, the outcome of which is impossible to predict at present. What seems clear, though, is that he will reasonably anticipate an opportunity to earn a monumental sum of money along with the chance to choose his destination; the Angels, it stands to reason, would need to offer an immense sum to keep him from checking out the alternatives.
  • So, how likely is an extension for Trout? Not very, says Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter), who cites “whispers” that there’s not much hope of something coming together in the near-term. The club itself was unwilling to disclose the status of talks, if any, per Ardaya. According to Heyman, the Halos do still intend to try to get some chatter going. It’s hard, though, to see why Trout would have much reason to bite unless the organization offered something truly outrageous. He’s already guaranteed to have earned hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of his playing career, so it’s not as if he’s still looking for that first big contract. And with two years still to go before reaching the open market, Trout will presumably prefer to see how things develop on and off the field before committing — unless, perhaps, he’s so comfortable in Anaheim that he simply prefers to stay.
  • Quite a bit can change in two years’ time, after all. To take but one example, it’s tough to know how the Angels’ ballpark situation will look by that time. While the long-term plans remain up in the air, the club has now formally secured a one-year deal with the city of Anaheim to keep the club in Angels Stadium through the 2020 season, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. That’ll leave some added breathing room for both the club and the municipality to try to line up on a plan for the future. It seems the smart money remains on a local solution, though there’s no real indication at this point exactly how things will shake out. Major renovations and new construction both appear to be possible outcomes.

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