PHOENIX — The Angels played hardball with Mike Trout by “renewing” the star outfielder’s contract for $510,000 Saturday, a move they had every right to make but left a bitter taste in the mouth of Trout’s agent and disappointed the 21-year-old phenom.
Trout won American League rookie-of-the-year honors and placed second in most valuable player voting after hitting .326 with 30 home runs, 129 runs and 49 stolen bases in 2012, but he will make only $20,000 — about 4 percent — above the major league minimum in his second season.
“I asked only that the Angels compensate Mike fairly for his historic 2012 season, given his service time,” Craig Landis, who represents Trout, said in an email. “In my opinion, this contract falls well short of a ‘fair’ contract, and I have voiced this to the Angels throughout the process.”
Players with fewer than three years of major league service have no leverage in negotiations, and most make close to the major league minimum, which rose from $480,000 to $490,000 in 2013. Trout has a little more than one year of service time.
If a player and team can’t agree on a figure, the team can unilaterally renew the player at a salary at or above the minimum, an outcome that can alienate players and agents and hinder future negotiations between the sides.
“We love Mike — he’s a big part of what we’re doing now and hopefully for many years to come,” Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said. “But we’re operating within the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement, and it’s a system that rewards service time.”
Some organizations reward young stars. Derek Jeter was renewed after winning the AL rookie of the year in 1996, but the New York Yankees more than tripled his salary, from $130,000 to $550,000.
After Albert Pujols won National League rookie of the year and finished fourth in MVP voting in 2001, the St. Louis Cardinals bumped his salary from $200,000 to $600,000. The last 10 rookies of the year made an average of 21 percent over the minimum the following year.
The Angels, who have a $160-million payroll, are taking a different tack, putting far more emphasis on service time than performance. Slugger Mark Trumbo, who has played two years, signed for $540,000, the most of any Angels player with less than three years’ experience.
“Service time in the 0-to-3 class drives the boat,” Dipoto said. “Mike understands how the system is set up, and he understands the benefits that come to him later.
“I’ve been in the game my entire adult life, and this is the first time I woke up thinking I’d be criticized because we’re not paying a player enough. We work in an industry where we’re widely criticized for paying players too much.”
Landis said Saturday’s action “will put an end to this discussion,” but his e-mail raised another potentially sticky issue for the Angels — Trout’s dissatisfaction with moving from center field, where he played spectacularly last season, to left field to clear room for Peter Bourjos.
“As when he learned he would not be the team’s primary center fielder for the upcoming season, Mike will put the disappointment of the renewal behind him and focus on helping the Angels reach their goal of winning the 2013 World Series,” Landis said.
In an interview Thursday, Trout, who will be eligible for arbitration in 2015, seemed unfazed by a renewal.
“You could easily put yourself in a bad mood about it, but that’s not me,” Trout said. “I like to play baseball. I’m going to try to win a World Series for the team. … I have to put up some numbers and not worry about off-the-field things. My time will come.”
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