The hunt for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka came to an end on Wednesday as the 25-year-old signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the New York Yankees, which could ultimately be a blessing in a disguise for the Los Angeles Angels.
The Halos had been rumored to be in the Tanaka sweepstakes, but bowed out just days before the announcement of the signing. So with the Japanese phenom off the market, the Halos can now focus their attention on their own young star in Mike Trout.
The 22-year-old has quickly become one of the league’s best players in his first two seasons in the majors. He broke several team and league rookie records in 2012, and followed it up with a great sophomore season in 2013. This is also includes two second-place finishes for the AL MVP award to Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, two Silver Slugger awards and two All-Star game selections.
With that said, there lies a potentially huge problem for the Halos as Trout is set for arbitration after the 2015 season, which will likely see him receive the highest-paid settlement in MLB history. It is a scenario that the Angels would like to avoid at all costs.
So how does the Tanaka situation apply here? The money that the Halos would have dished out to Tanaka can now be used to help lock up their star center fielder. Although pitching is their primary area of concern heading into next season, a long-term deal with Trout should be the top priority for the organization.
The 22-year-old has been regarded as a once-in-a generation type player by the baseball world. Trout is a five-tool player that will only get better as he gets older, which is crazy to think knowing that he already has two second-place MVP finishes in his first two season.
He outweighs all other concerns for the Angels as he is and will be the face of the franchise for the next decade or more. The Halos have a current ball club built around an aging core players with hitters like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, who have both shown that they are on a steady decline. Over the next few seasons, the Halos will transition even more to having Trout becoming the focal point of their offense by placing him in either the no. 3 or cleanup spot in the lineup.
Trout is a player that Los Angeles must build around, if they have not already started to do so with their roster. So when should the team start contract negotiations?
Now. The Angels should begin contract talks with Trout as soon as possible, because the dollar amount to the deal will only get higher as time passes given his performance on the field. That isn’t the only obstacle that the team faces as they must mend their fences with Trout after the meager raise to $510,000 that they gave to him prior to last season, which is only $20,000 above MLB’s minimum salary for players at $490,000 a year.
That decision to give Trout a small raise of $20,000 could come back to haunt the Halos if the two-time All-Star chooses to hold it against the organization in the contract negotiation process. But despite the fact that they are heavily underpaying Trout, it will nonetheless be a record-breaking contract, one that the Angels know that they must commit to.
If the Halos either step away from negotiations or are unwilling to agree to a deal because of the large dollar amount, it will be a decision that they will later regret as they would letting go a great player whose career path is heading towards that of a Hall-of-Famer. Players like Trout don’t come around very often, and if the Angels want to keep him, they must act fast.