Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dear Mr. Jerry Dipoto,
I know you’ve received a lot of flack the past two seasons about some of the decisions you’ve made regarding player personnel. And I know you are under a lot of pressure this off-season to prove to Mr. Arte Moreno – and more importantly to the fans – that you are the right man to be in the GM’s office. Now I am no expert, but I’d like to throw in my two-cents worth in the whole “should-the-Angels-sign-Mike-Trout-to-a-huge-contract-now-or-wait-until-he-is-arbitration-eligible-and-we-are-priced-out-of-the-market” debate:
First, let me say that I think I understand the position you are in when it comes to the whole CBT thing. (For those who don’t understand it, the greatly abbreviated explanation is that a team is penalized financially if they exceed a certain payroll threshold. And it’s not that the Angels can’t afford the payroll or the penalty; the problem is that it looks to other teams and the fans that they are trying to simply buy a championship trophy.) You have limits on what you can offer Mike Trout right now, and you will have much more financial flexibility when he is eligible to negotiate a real contract in a couple of years. The prudent thing to do is to wait.
Second, I understand there is a certain protocol regarding young players. In their first couple of years they earn close to the League minimum (roughly $500,000), and then if they prove themselves to be valuable, then they get a nice contract with lots of zeroes. I get it; a guy has to pay his dues. And as much as Trout deserves it, you don’t want to set a precedent of offering young players a big contract before they are eligible. You don’t want every kid who has one hot season to think he deserves a multi-million-dollar paycheck when he has yet to prove himself over the long haul.
Third, I know that you have a lot higher priorities during this offseason. As anxious as fans are to see Trout signed to a long-term deal, there are more immediate concerns. We need pitching, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. There are a few holes in the line-up that need patching. Trout is not going anywhere in 2014 (unless – God forbid – you decide to trade him), so I understand the need to delay an offer another year.
But let’s face it; Mike Trout is the best player in baseball right now, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. And I know there are a couple million Angels fans in SoCal and elsewhere who want to see Trout locked in to a 20-year, $4-gazillion contract ASAP. They’d gladly hold bake sales and car washes to help cover the costs. They just don’t ever want to see him in a visiting team’s uniform at Angels Stadium.
So is there a middle ground? Does it have to be either minimum wage or $80 trillion?
I think there is a potential secret option “C” that is worth exploring. Now, I don’t know everything about MLB contract negotiations, but I do know a thing or two about employee-management relations. And I know that an employee will have a greater sense of loyalty if he feels appreciated by management. And one of the most important ways a person feels appreciated by his boss is by the numbers on his paycheck. So I wonder if there is a solution that doesn’t involve backing yourself into a corner that you can’t get out of later.
What if you offer him a one-year, $1 million contract for 2014, with the understanding that a much more lucrative deal awaits him next offseason? It would be a good-faith gesture of his importance to the ball club that neither breaks the bank nor sets an unwanted precedent for future players. Or, what if you offer him a bunch of incentives and bonuses outside his regular salary? Give him an extra couple hundred grand for making the All-Star team or reaching certain statistical milestones that he is sure to meet in ’14. There are definitely options out there if you are willing to be creative in looking at them.
Trout said himself that he is at that stage in his life and career where he wants to settle down a bit, that it’s time to “buy a house” somewhere. Mr. Dipoto, please do all you can to make sure that his new house is in a Southern California zip code.
Ryan M Blanck
Big-time Angels fan