Mike Trout hit his 300th home run this weekend to surpass Tim Salmon as the all-time leader in Los Angeles Angels history. But Salmon has one thing Trout still doesn’t–a World Series ring, won as a member of the 2002 Angels.
At the end of this 60-game, COVID-abbreviated season, Trout will have earned $130,690,125 from the Angels for his first 10 seasons. He’ll have three American League MVPs, but not one playoff victory to show for it.
It won’t happen this year, either. At 17-25, the Angels are nine games out of first in their division, ahead of only Texas, and unlikely to go to the postseason even with eight American League teams qualifying in the expanded format.
Trout is still worth the money.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Trout, the club’s nominee for MLB’s prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, which acknowledges charitable contributions to the community. “It’s been a tough year, obviously this year. We had higher expectations. But I have 10 more years on this contract, so we’ve got to move forward.”
Be that as it may, Trout—a world class centerfielder—is widely regarded as the top position player in Major League Baseball with the most lucrative contract. But for the Angels, he might be sports’ most incredible bargain.
At first blush, Trout’s hefty contract of $426.5 million over 12 seasons, signed last year, might look like a big chunk of owner Arte Moreno’s overall revenue.
But when viewing it through another lens, Trout earned $17.7 million in 2019, while the Angels amassed $377 million in total revenue, 10th among MLB teams. That’s about 4.5% of the club’s revenue last year spent on Trout, who helped sell a lot of tickets, souvenirs, hot dogs and beer.
Trout’s jersey sales ranked ninth in baseball, according to figures supplied by MLB. Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees was No. 1.
That was the last season before the pandemic struck, when 3.02 million people attended games at Angel Stadium and the team had a $161.3 million player payroll, ninth among the 30 MLB teams.
Had MLB played a full 162-game season in 2020, Trout would’ve been paid $37.7 million, exactly 10% of the club’s total revenue had it been on par with last season. Instead, Trout earned a prorated $15 million for 60 games with no fans in the stands and without any appreciable ballpark revenue.
There’s no reason to believe Angels revenue would have shrunk in the absence of the coronavirus. Their home attendance has been virtually steady since Trout joined the team for good in 2011. They drew 3.06 million in 2012, Trout’s first full season, and have hovered around that mark ever since.
The Angels owe Trout $353.5 million for the remaining 10 years of his contract. At 29, his best years should still be ahead of him before the arc begins to trend down in his mid-30s. When it’s all said and done, he’ll have earned $486,190,125 for his 20 years playing baseball.
Once the virus passes and fans can return to baseball parks, at $377 million in revenue for the next 10 seasons, the Angels will have earned $3.7 billion. In that context, Trout is a more than fair investment.
There are two major factors that could increase Angels revenue well beyond that, while Trout’s earnings are locked in for the remainder of his career.
The club has agreed to buy Angel Stadium from the city of Anaheim for $325 million, renovate it for the third time or replace it, while building a ballpark village in the parking lot around the 54-year-old stadium.
Secondly, if the Angels can invest well in complementary players around Trout and construct a winner, revenues at the new or refurbished park will continue to soar.
For 2021, the Angels have $118.2 million tied into four players: Trout, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton.
Trout is just the type of player to build around, a warrior in the clubhouse, said Joan Ryan in her recent book, Intangibles, which discusses the validity of clubhouse chemistry as a necessary element to winning.
“A warrior is the best player, a formidable player to be reckoned with,” said Ryan, who’s also a media consultant for the San Francisco Giants and their players. “He’s the guy on the poster, the guy that other players look to. As long as we have Mike Trout in the lineup, we always have a chance.”
Moreno, who’s worth $3.4 billion, bought the Angels from Disney in 2003 for $182.5 million, just a year after they came from behind to defeat the Giants in seven games to win their only title in their lone trip to the World Series. The Angels are currently valued at $2 billion.
In their early years under Moreno’s stewardship, the Angels made the playoff four times in five years with home attendance reaching a club record of 3.4 million in 2006.
The Angels have made the playoffs only once since losing to the New York Yankees in the 2009 AL Championship Series. That was in 2014, Trout’s third full season. They were swept by the Kansas City Royals in a best-of-five AL Division Series and haven’t been back to the postseason since, suffering through what now looks like their fifth consecutive sub-.500 season.
Mickey Mantle, the player Trout is often compared with, won the World Series seven times and the AL pennant 12 times in his first 14 seasons roaming center field for the Yankees. He was their warrior during those years, from 1951-64.
It’s been frustrating, particularly this season, Trout said, bemoaning a loss of clubhouse camaraderie with his teammates because of COVID-19 protocols.
“It’s not like we’re coming to the ballpark with a bad attitude,” Trout said. “Losing stinks. Being in the clubhouse is just a lot different. Team chemistry plays a big part in this and not being able to do things together is tough.”
Despite a decade of having Trout and his lifetime batting average of .305 with the 300 homers and 790 RBIs— including 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 37 games this season—the Angels haven’t maximized their potential in wins or revenue. Attendance has actually gone down 400,000 from their halcyon days of the mid-2000s.
No one can blame it all on Trout, but the lack of results speak for themselves.
“I can’t control that,” Trout said. “I come in every day, trying to get better, keep working hard. All I can do is just keep my body in shape and go out there and keep putting up numbers. We’re just trying to find that consistency.”