Another Way of Explaining Mike Trout’s $50 Million Valuation

Mike Trout is reportedly close to signing a long term deal with the Angels that will value the free agent years he’s giving up at around $30 to $35 million apiece. At the time he signs the deal, he’ll almost lock in the largest single season salary ever guaranteed to a Major League player, topping the $33 million that Clayton Kershaw will earn in the last year of his freshly minted extension. And even with that, he’s still going to be drastically underpaid.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few conversations with folks where I’ve unsuccessfully tried to explain why Trout is worth something between $40 to $50 million per year for his free agent years. In a time where even the best free agents are signing for half of that, it’s a tough sell, and I’ve realized that most people just generally don’t believe that Trout is twice as valuable as other star players.

So, this post is an effort to help illustrate the dramatic gulf between Trout’s value and the kinds of players that are signing for $20 to $25 million per year. I’m going to try to make the math as non-scary as possible, and avoid using fancy acronyms or models that rely on black box data. We’re just going to deal with the basics.

Thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, we have a pretty good sense of what premium free agent outfielders cost this winter. Between the two of them, the Yankees and Rangers will pay an average of $40 million per year for the next seven years. Is it really possible that Trout and some random scrub is more valuable than having the two best free agent outfielders from the 2013 free agent class?

Well, just for fun, let’s do a comparison of their performances from last year, combining the two free agent outfielders into a tandem we’ll call Jacoby Choo. The difference between Trout’s individual line and their combined line produces the numbers that Random Trout Teammate would need to produce for that pair to be equivalent to owning both Ellsbury and Choo instead.

Name G AB PA H 1B 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SB CS
Mike Trout 157 589 716 190 115 39 9 27 110 136 9 33 7
Jacoby Choo 288 1146 1348 334 229 65 10 30 159 225 31 72 15
Difference 131 557 632 144 114 26 1 3 49 89 22 39 8

To make Trout’s 2013 line match up with the combined line of Jacoby Choo, Random Trout Teammate would have to play fairly regularly, rack up some doubles, draw some walks, get hit by a bunch of pitches, and steal a lot of bases. He wouldn’t have to hit for any power, and since Trout and Ellsbury come pretty close to canceling each other out on defense in center field, he’d just have to manage to be about as good in a corner spot as Choo is, which is nothing special. Basically, he needs to be an average corner defensive OF with some speed, but no power.

He needs to be Eric Young Jr. Seriously, look at Young’s 2013 line compared with the gap between Mike Trout and Jacoby Choo.

Name G AB PA H 1B 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SB CS
Difference 131 557 632 144 114 26 1 3 49 89 22 39 8
Eric Young 148 539 598 134 98 27 7 2 46 100 2 46 11

There’s 20 missing HBPs, but there’s also 16 fewer singles and six extra triples, and the differences mostly come out in the wash. 2013 Eric Young is almost an exact match for what Random Trout Teammate would have needed to do to make Trout’s pair equal the combination of Jacoby Choo. In other words, in terms of performance, you wouldn’t have a huge preference between having last year’s versions of Trout and Young or Choo and Ellsbury.

Last summer, the Rockies traded Young to the Mets for Colin McHugh, a replacement level minor league arm. Young wasn’t free, but he was pretty close to it. He played better in New York, so his stock has probably gone up some, but I think it’s fair to say that Young’s market value is in the low single millions. As a free agent, maybe he’d cost a few million, and land a similar deal to the ones signed by guys like Willie Bloomquist, Skip Schumaker, and Emilio Bonifacio this winter.

Just for sake of argument, let’s give Random Trout Teammate $3 million for the above line. That leaves $37 million per year for Trout, right? Pretty close to what the reports suggest he’s going to get for his free agent years from the Angels, so maybe this is all proof that the $50 million figure that $/WAR comes up with is total bunk, no?

No, because there’s one more thing we have to keep in mind: Ellsbury and Choo are getting $40 million per year for their age 30-36 and 31-37 seasons, where significant decline is expected. The Yankees and Rangers have locked themselves into a $20 million per year valuation for each player despite knowing that neither is going to continue to be as good as they were in 2013. They’re almost certain to get worse simply due to the effects of age. Trout is 22. While he has to be expected to decline a bit just because there is far more downside than upside when you’re a +10 WAR player, the rate of decline is much slower for a great young player than it is for a good old player.

In other words, Trout should be able to retain a good chunk of his value for the next seven years, while by the end of their current deals, Ellsbury and Choo will probably be somewhat close to worthless. The Yankees and Rangers knew this, but were willing to guarantee them $20 million per year for those worthless years because they believe that they’re worth more than $40 million per year in the short term. They’re getting a discount on the value of their current performance in exchange for paying for years where there won’t be much value coming back in return.

These deals for Ellsbury and Choo essentially value their combined value at somewhere in the range of $50 million for 2014, and hope that they’ll play at that kind of level long enough to make up for the fact that they’ll be getting money for nothing at the end of the contract. Since Trout would not be expected to be a nothing player at the end, his free market value wouldn’t have to reflect that kind of significant decline, and thus, his long term AAV would be even higher than the one commanded by guys in their 30s.

Now, of course, Trout isn’t a free agent, and he doesn’t get to sign a deal that pays him market value for the next seven years. But the recent trend of extensions shows that players are getting something very close to current market value for the free agent years they sell in advance, essentially exchanging their injury/collapse risk for the team’s risk of future inflation. If Trout’s really planning on signing away three or four free agent years for between $30 and $35 million apiece, the Angels are getting a huge steal, because Trout actually is, by himself, as valuable as two premium free agents. You are as well off with Trout and Random Trout Teammate as you are with Choo and Ellsbury.

Certainly, there’s additional risk with tying up your value in one player, as having an +8 WAR player instead of two +4 WAR players means that one injury can do more damage to your team’s chances of success. However, there’s also a decreased chance of injury, since it’s less likely that Trout will get hurt than that either Choo or Ellsbury will get hurt, and there are the roster benefits that go along with consolidating value into one player instead of requiring two roster spots to get the same total production.

I’ve spent a lot of time arguing that having one superstar isn’t clearly better than having two good players of equal value to the one star, but at the same time, it isn’t clearly worse either. The point is to accumulate value, and if you can +8 WAR in an +8/+0 package versus a +4/+4 package, you shouldn’t pay dramatically more for either one. +8/+0 should cost something fairly similar to +4/+4, and the market is pricing +4 WAR free agents at between $20 and $25 million per year for their decline years.

I know it’s not easy to accept, but Mike Trout is worth more than Ellsbury and Choo combined. And the market clearly is pricing that kind of combination in the $40+ million range. If Trout takes anything less than $40+ million for his free agent years, he’s giving the Angels a real discount.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


201 Responses to “Another Way of Explaining Mike Trout’s $50 Million Valuation”

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  1. PWR says:

    but we know you don’t think Choo is worth that contract so don’t we need another comp that you think is fairly priced to say Trout is “worth” it (as opposed to what one team would be willing to pay)

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    • PWR says:

      comment aside, it’s not very hard to see Trout is worth over $40mm

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      • JimNYC says:

        Perhaps he’s worth $40 million. Perhaps he’ll get $40 million. I wouldn’t have said that if somebody hadn’t already agreed to pay Clayton Kershaw $33 million, but perhaps Trout will get $40.

        But I can’t see him getting $50 million, because at a certain point the mathematics of his value breaks down and you start to run into a St. Petersburg Lottery paradox. At a certain point, no matter how high the expected return you’ll get from a player, the cost just isn’t feasible for clubs to take on.

        To give a parallel example, picture the most valuable possible player. It would have to be a pitcher — once a hitter gets to be too good, opponents will resort to intentionally walking them every plate appearance, limiting their value ceiling. So the most valuable possible player would be a pitcher who throws 81 pitch, 27-strikeout perfect games every single appearance and can go every fourth day because he keeps his pitch counts low.

        Such a player would be worth, what, 20 WAR? 25? And so his nominal value would be over $100 million a year? For a median-payroll team, that would be the equivalent to their entire payroll. For a top-level payroll team, that would be equivalent to half their payroll. Putting aside the actual money, there would be a tremendous political capital investment for a team to make that kind of a guarantee to a player — it would chance the entire structure of the franchise. No matter how large the franchise. And the downside risk of that player blowing out his arm is just too high for any time to make that type of political capital investment, no matter financial sense it might make in a WAR / dollar calculation.

        Where does that line lie? The line where, in addition to the actual dollars being spent, the structural cost to a team in terms of shunning by other teams; internal costs of building the rest of the payroll around that player; marketing and fan-support investment; etc. just become too great to risk on on a player getting injured or somehow not panning out, no matter how great that player is and how great the potential reward of his production is?

        Do I think Trout will continue to be an 8+ WAR player for the next seven or eight years? Yes, I do. But there’s a risk that he won’t. You can’t compare anybody exactly to Trout because there’s never really been anybody like Trout, but history is riddled with great, transcendent players who, for one reason or another, flamed out early. George Sisler put up 8.3 WAR one season and then got an eye infection and was basically done. Pete Reiser was astounding, amazing talent until he ran headfirst into a wall and his brain stopped working properly. Trout seems to be durable, but you never know when a Tony Conigliaro situation could pop up. Once you get to a certain dollar figure, how good the player is begins to become irrelevant, as a team has a certain risk ceiling that they’re willing to accept, no matter the payoff.

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        • Johnny Ringo says:

          I kind of thought the same, but this was explained in an excellent fashion.

          There is a financial limit for teams to be certain. And, if a real dollar crisis hits, then what?

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        • Paul Sorrento says:

          Your hypothetical pitcher would certainly be worth $100 million plus per year and would get that sum. He would win about 45 games per year (call it 42 for simplicity of math in the other 120 games). A team of replacement players will post a win% of .294, adding about 35 more wins, and that doesn’t account for the natural attrition that occurs during a season where the replacement players that are performing well will end up getting more playing time. All you would need is for a handful of MLB capable above replacement quality players to vault this team to the playoffs where they would certainly be a huge World Series favorite since they would only need to win one game our invincible player doesn’t play in to win a series.

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        • Jeffrey says:

          You’d also get over 40 wins promised to your team….requiring only a 50-70 roster when he didn’t pitch to make them a playoff team.

          And then, you win at least 2 out of your best of 5 playoff series, and you win at least 3 out of every best of 7 playoff series….

          This is a team that doesn’t need a lot more to be World Series Champions

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        • B N says:

          Actually, that player is probably worth more than you’d think, due to short-season postseason play. You’d never lose a play-in game or a divisional series, basically. Even in the Championship and World Series, you’d need to win just 1 out of 4 games he’s not in. Which admittedly, would be tough if you had only replacement-level pitching for the rest of your team, but Houston still won 1/4 of their games, so… All I know is, Steinbrenner would have signed him for $125m even though the next-highest bid was $80m.

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        • Luke in MN says:

          I think that’s one big reason he won’t get what he’s likely to be “worth” in an extension and the other is: why on earth give him a contract extension now unless you get a big discount on what he’d get as a free agent? I mean, you can always decide to pay full value for his free-agent years later, after, you know, making sure he doesn’t lose his arm or something over the next four years.

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        • Nick C says:

          I think I saw that movie. Brandon Frasier, right?

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        • novaether says:

          If this super-player were to be injured, game attendance would be ruined. Nobody would watch the games on TV. It would ruin the reputation of the team and the loyalty of the fanbase. The risk extends beyond a wasted salary.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      I don’t think Choo was worth 7/$130M because I don’t think Choo is a +4 WAR player. If he was, he’d be worth 7/$130M, and he’d be half as valuable as Mike Trout. Keep in mind that the +4/+4 valuations for Ellsbury and Choo are both somewhat optimistic relative to the projections, and +8 for Trout is lower than any system has him. The point wasn’t to argue that Trout is better than Ellsbury and Choo because those two are not as good as the market priced them to be. The point is that Trout is as good as those two even if the market is right about them and the projections are wrong.

      And market price is pretty much always what “one team would be willing to pay”. That’s how auctions work.

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      • PWR says:

        my mistake then. I thought the thesis of this article was that Mike Trout is worth $40mm”, not what somebody would be willing to pay.

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      • tz says:

        However, in most recent instances, the market value for the “top” player only moves slightly above the previous record high, regardless of whether the inflation-adjusted value moves up or down. So if we want to be consistent in using a “market” value for Trout, we’d probably get a value closer to Kershaw’s than to the $37 million quoted above.

        I wonder what would happen if we went back in time to ARod’s deal with Texas to make a similar comparison to the Trout vs. Choo/Ellsbury comp. That A-Rod deal was the one time that I remember a free-agent deal blowing away the previous record $/yr, and is probably the closest analogy to what Trout’s 20’s are worth. It would be informative to know if, using your methodology, whether A-Rod was worth $30+ million, or closer to the $25m/yr Texas actually gave him.

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        • Rex Manning Day says:

          Perusing this list (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/news/2000/12/14/freeagent_signings_ap/), replicating Dave’s process exactly is difficult because there were very few big free agent infielders that year. However…

          The 2nd largest non-pitcher contracted given out that year was to Manny Ramirez (age 28), at 8 years and a $20M AAV. The 2nd largest contract given to a SS that year was to Jose Valentin (age 31), at 3 years and a $5.2 AAV. Together, Valentin and Ramirez were paid $25.2M per year, exactly matching A-Rod’s (age 25) AAV.

          In 2000, Ramirez and Valentin were worth a combined 9.3 WAR; A-Rod was worth 9.5. Between 1998-2000, Ramirez + Valentin were worth 23.7 WAR; A-Rod was worth 22.1.

          So in both AAV and WAR, A-Rod was worth as much as 2000’s priciest OF and the 2nd-priciest SS combined. This is obviously a much more back-of-the-envelope sort of analysis, and the different positions and ages makes it much less straightforward, but still. The basic premise does appear to hold up.

          For what it’s worth, over the life of Valentin’s contract (the shortest of the 3), A-Rod was worth 26.8 WAR while Valentin + Ramirez were worth 26.9. Over the life of A-Rod’s original contract (ignoring the NY changes), A-Rod was worth 69.5 WAR while Valentin + Ramirez were worth 52.3 (of course, Valentin had retired after 2007).

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        • tz says:

          This is very cool. Bet if you shared that with Tom Hicks, you’d have a friend for life.

          Another way to look at this:

          Young A-Rod = Jose Valentin with Manny Ramirez’s bat.

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        • Mo says:

          price of a win was 2.60 in 2002. Assuming a 9 war year that’s around 23 million per year (or 20 for 8 war).
          While Arod would have seen a greater decline due to aging, this suggests that he wasn’t worth 30 mil or so.
          http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/win-values-explained-part-six/

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          But you also have to account for the inflation over those 7 years.

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      • hunter pence says:

        Aren’t you arguing for stars and scrubs here, in effect?

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        • Belloc says:

          That isn’t far from the typical distribution of talent on a Major League roster. And that is true for the teams that are great and the teams that are awful. The main difference between a winning team and a losing team is that winning teams have a dearth of replacement level players. But most teams have a star or two whose individual value dwarfs the rest of the team.

          This holds true even with the Moneyball teams. The Rays and the A’s had a skewed talent distribution in 2013.

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    • Ben Hall says:

      But he’s not comparing their projections (what they’re worth) but what they did last year. Last year Choo was worth 5.2 WAR and Ellsbury was worth 5.8 WAR.

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  2. The Stranger says:

    Do you think GMs have the same psychological resistance to huge contracts as the general public, or are they more analytical? It seems like the public opposition is mostly in the form of “that’s a heck of a lot of money and nobody else makes that much,” rather than anything substantial. Obviously, GMs don’t want to set precedent for $50 million contracts, but do you think they’re analytical enough to see why Trout might be worth that much?

    On a related topic, do GMs see contracts purely in terms of on-field performance, or do they look at revenue effects, too? For instance, if two very good free agents will sell more jerseys than one great one (I have no idea if that’s true), will the GM consider that? Is the potential revenue bump from signing a big-name player (in terms of jerseys, attendance bump, etc.) factored into what the team might spend on bringing in a star player? Or is the effect of a signing on revenue too minimal to matter?

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    • Ben says:

      Jersey sales are split up evenly among all teams.

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      • Eric R says:

        All licensed MLB/team Merchandise is split, but it isn’t that simple. The amount to split, I believe, is based on the difference between the distributor cost and the retail cost. A high margin store, like a stadium store, can make a ton of money with their bigger than usual markups.

        If you own your own stadium store and you buy merchandise from the distributor, and sell it marked up 200%, you are making a bunch of money that you aren’t sharing– though I think most teams lease out the space for those stores, so it is a more indirect profit in that regard.

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  3. Brad says:

    At what point are sports athletes overpaid? I get that owners and the shareholders they work for make a LOT of money. I get that professional sports athletes give up a tremendous portion of their lives (and family life) to not only participate in grueling cross state/country trips but to engage in charity work, contract-related endorsements etc. They must do this while attempting to balance and juggle the rest of their lives (psychological/social/spiritual) as well.

    But you are endorsing that an athlete, if he got what he deserved (and I agree with how you calculate his worth), the amount of pay that most people who work exceptionally important jobs (doctors, politicians, farmers, ecologists etc.) will never even come close to, and will give them the spending power that some poorer countries don’t even have.

    At what point does our formula of athletic success = bigger and bigger “fair/just” paydays become nonsensical? I don’t know, but materialism and economic wealth are not and should not be the only factors in whether or not Trout should get paid a certain amount. But it’s an outrageously complex issue and that is just my two cents.

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    • Naveen says:

      It’s actually a pretty simple issue. Baseball teams don’t compensate ecologists, farmers, politicians, or (non-team) doctors. They compensate their players and staff, and they manage scarce resources to compete against other teams to try and win. If Trout is a free agent, and I’m a major league GM, I’m definitely hoping that as many of my adversaries as possible agree with your line of thinking.

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      • Brad says:

        I’m not an economist, in fact I have extremely meager skills compared to most Fangraphs posters. My interests and talents lie are in the humanities.

        I derive a tremendous amount of insights and information from both writers like Cameron, Johnson etc. and the readers. It always confuses me when I receive hands down for what was essentially an implied question and that was not written in a manner that was offensive.

        I like to learn, I wasn’t trying to be a dick – but it seems a lot of readers assume that any poster must have a certain subset of knowledge that in reality someone like myself does not have but would gladly learn if, like some of responses were, gracious in explaining.

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        • Andrew says:

          I hear you, but this is a fairly strictly numbers analysis site (NotGraphs aside) that makes an effort not to delve into the humanity narratives of baseball. So while it might be a valid question from that angle, it doesn’t really fit within the parameters of the discussion here.

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        • teufelshuffle says:

          Also it seems a lot of those thumbs down are from brief and uncharitable reading of your post’s first question. I think a lot of people who voted it down heard “At what point are athletes overpaid?” as a rhetorical, debate-flattening question (as in “How can anyone think Mike Trout is worth $50M because my dad works really hard too and doesn’t make that much!”) rather than an authentic attempt to open a moral or social dialogue.

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        • Jon L. says:

          Brad, most people on this site have read too many comments from people lamenting that athletes are paid so much compared to other people with whom they vaguely identify. But it’s strange, given your statement about your background and intentions, that you fall into the same trap of commenting on the money athletes earn, without seeming to even consider the relative fairness of the money the owners and stakeholders make. Yes, they make the investments and bear the risks, but they gull towns and populations to cough up money to fund their stadiums and get unfair tax breaks and favors from the government, and oh yeah, most of them have the money to invest in the first place because their grandfathers were robber barons and slavedrivers, or maybe because daddy was President.

          We live in a world of incredible economic disparities. Baseball players getting a reasonable share of the insane profits teams are making from television deals are not among the worst problems.

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        • RC says:

          “I hear you, but this is a fairly strictly numbers analysis site (NotGraphs aside) that makes an effort not to delve into the humanity narratives of baseball. ”

          Could someone tell that to Remington?

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        • Plucky says:

          I do have an expertise in economics (graduate degree), and if what you’re looking for is an economist’s answer, it’s very simple:

          Athletes are paid what they are paid because
          1) We are willing to spend $40 a ticket, $10 a beer, $100/month for cable, and to vote them stadiums at our expense. This creates an enormous pool of revenue that will get split in some way
          2) Price is set at the margin. Plenty of people don’t pay $40 a ticket to watch teams that lose, only teams that win. Winning teams get a bigger slice of that revenue pie. Free agency is basically the only place in baseball in which pay level is set be a free market process, and a free market outcome results- players get paid proportionate (approximately, and in expectation, and with some mistakes and errors) to how much marginal revenue they produce for their team by helping them win. It’s a classic Wage = Marginal Product of Labor result. In econ-speak, what’s going on in this article (and pretty much everything that goes on on this site) is an attempt to quantify precisely what each player’s Marginal Product of Labor is, i.e what his contribution to winning is. When you answer how much a player helps you win, you also answer how much a rationally operating team ought to be willing to pay him

          Pro sports are fundamentally entertainment, and all top-level entertainers get paid enormously. Judge Judy gets close to $50m/yr. Howard Stern got a 5-year / $400m contract from Sirius. Leonardo DiCaprio can pull in $70m/yr. These people are basically the appropriate comps to Trout- performers at the very apex of their corners of the entertainment business

          If top-level entertainers getting paid orders of magnitude more than a normal doctor is something you find morally intolerable, then there’s one rational reaction: stop being entertained by them. Cut your cord, quit going to games, and quit buying the products advertised on their broadcasts. Then take that money you didn’t spend and donate it to cancer research or something equally noble. If you actually do this, then you get my respect. If you don’t but continue going on about the injustice of it all, then you’re full of it

          As a last note, baseball players on the whole don’t actually get paid more than other professions given where they are on their respective pyramids. There are only 750 (plus injured) MLB players, and they are essentially the best in the world at what they do. The average salary is more like $3.5m and the median is well below that. That’s about half what the average Fortune 500 CEO makes. That’s more or less comparable to what a partner at an elite law firm makes, and I’d bet the 500th best doctor in the country gets paid many multiples of what the 500th best baseball player does (which is probably the league min $500k).

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    • Kevin says:

      Mike Trout, if he gets $50MM/year will still get paid less than many hedge fund managers earn. Athletes earn excessively. So do other walks of life, and it’s difficult to think of a way to change these things.

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      • rustydude says:

        And most of the hedge fund managers will pay around 15% Federal tax on their windfalls, while an athlete will pay closer to 30+% on their salaries.

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    • The Stranger says:

      I’m ok with baseball players being paid what they are because the teams have that money to spend. In one sense, it’s certainly a bit silly that anybody is being paid millions of dollars to pay baseball. But we, as fans, are paying that money to the teams (or making it worthwhile for advertisers to pay that money, which is basically the same thing), so I’m happy that they’re spending at least some of it on the players instead of the owners just pocketing it and walking away.

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      • Boris Chinchilla says:

        “teams have that money to spend”
        So slash ticket prices, memorabilia prices, concession prices and player salaries. The athletes would still be considered rich and more fans could afford to go to more games. Aren’t games in full stadiums more exciting than 13000 paid attendees in a 45000 seat stadium?

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        • Andrew says:

          Except this is a free market system and baseball is a business. These are the prices the market will bear.

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        • Bryan says:

          Baseball is actually a highly subsidized, socialized market. It is not a ‘free market’ – it is an artificial one propped up by local governments. Pro sports teams externalize a ton of their costs on to the tax payers – stadiums, land use, and other infrastructure costs. At a time when cities are cutting back on other social services, MLB teams are building 500 million dollar stadiums, usually by threatening to move teams if cities fail to cough up the dough.

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        • Naliamegod says:

          Those things aren’t tied to player salaries; it’s market demand

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        • Richard says:

          “Baseball is actually a highly subsidized, socialized market. It is not a ‘free market’ – it is an artificial one propped up by local governments. Pro sports teams externalize a ton of their costs on to the tax payers – stadiums, land use, and other infrastructure costs. At a time when cities are cutting back on other social services, MLB teams are building 500 million dollar stadiums, usually by threatening to move teams if cities fail to cough up the dough.”

          Right. Textbook capitalism.

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    • RC says:

      Mike Trout produces orders of magnitude more revenue than a doctor, just as Will Smith produces orders of magnitude more revenue than a doctor.

      There are plenty of arguments that Teachers should be some of the highest paid individuals, and frankly, I agree with most of them, but they’re just not reality in our socio-economic system.

      Entertainment is hugely profitable in our society, and that’s all that matters.

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      • Eric R says:

        “There are plenty of arguments that Teachers should be some of the highest paid individuals”

        Sure, it just can’t work because of the numbers involved. There are 3.3M of them in public schools. At $45k per year [the US average], they collectively make ~4x as much as the ~5000 professional baseball players.

        If you say that teachers are extremely important and should make a couple hundred grand… $300k x 3.3M is a trillion dollars.

        Do that and the 500k private school teachers are probably going to demand a premium, there is another $200B.

        And do that and college professors are going to want even more. 1.5M x $500k = $750B

        Massive pay raise to teachers means that this group of 5.3M people are looking at something close to $2T per year — an 8th of the US total GDP.

        And since US teachers are already reasonably well paid relative to teachers around the world, it may just mean a huge flood of foreign teachers coming in– not to mention lots of private sector folks leaving their jobs to pursue teaching. What happens if you massively increase the supply of people who want to be teachers?

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        • bookbook says:

          +And since US teachers are already reasonably well paid relative to teachers around the world, it may just mean a huge flood of foreign teachers coming in–+

          European and asian teachers are all better paid relative to their peers than US teachers. There are still many reasons why US teachers don’t all move from here to there. (In part, because US teachers are mostly not good enough to compete for those jobs. A closer parallel would be US engineers leaving those jobs to go teach in Sweden.)

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          European and Asian teacher’s peers make less money, though, because a large amount of the smartest people come here, where they’ll get paid more.

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        • Naliamegod says:

          Using average salary globally to compare teacher salaries really isn’t a good method. Other countries (notably Asia) use a completely different salary scale than the USA. In Korea, newbie teachers tend to be underpaid but older teachers get really high salaries because how the salary system works. Furthermore, salary numbers don’t include “perks” that other teachers get that aren’t part of the budget (Korean teachers regularly get bonuses for New Years and Korean Thanksgiving).

          Credentials: 4 years teaching experience in Korea

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        • Word says:

          We’d get more qualified teachers and our education system would improve dramatically?

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        • Eric R says:

          “We’d get more qualified teachers and our education system would improve dramatically?”

          Not sure I understand. All MLBers could agree to work for minimum wage with the balance going to school teachers and it would work out to an extra $1000 per year for each public school teacher.

          Is +$1000 a year the difference maker?

          The problem isn’t that teachers aren’t paid enough, but that there are too many of them for it to be a high paying job.

          Look at the math above– a massive pay raise to the 5M+ US teachers, mostly public school so paid for by taxes, would cost $1.5 trillion or so. With 125M US households that is a $12k extra per household. How many people here think their household can spare an extra $12k per year to make this happen?

          Maybe $300k was too extreme– would $100k be enough for public teachers? Then maybe it’ll only cost $4000 per household…

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      • Brad says:

        Interesting comments. Thanks for the insights – most of them I have never considered before.

        Certainly far from a simple issue. :)

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      • tz says:

        And don’t forget, entertainers, like hedge fund managers, make their money by volume:

        If Will Smith has, say, 100 million fans, and makes $100m annually, he’s making $1 per “customer”.

        A teacher making $45k, with say 90 students across all their classes, makes $500 per “customer”

        Basically rephrasing Eric R’s first point in a different way. We as a society DO place a higher value on each teacher/student relationship than for each entertainer/fan relationship, though not proportional to the differing amount of TIME spent in each of these relationships.

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      • John C says:

        I don’t buy it. Never have. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can go to college and learn what they need to become a teacher. Anyone.

        There’s no way that someone can learn how to play baseball as good as Mike Trout. It’s impossible. You either have the ability or you don’t, and only Mike Trout does. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, I can’t play baseball like Mike Trout. Neither can anyone else.

        An ability that anyone can learn is never going to be as valuable as a skill that can’t be taught. That’s just a fact of life.

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        • Pale Hose Kyle says:

          I disagree. You are oversimplifying. Depends on the skill. If I was absurdly talented at some other pursuit, like carving soap, I would not be paid as much as many other people with a “teachable” skill. Nor should I be, I suppose. Teaching isn’t the only skill that is largely “teachable”. The other professions we are throwing around, like doctors & lawyers are teachable in that same way.

          Anyway, your last statement is about “what is” and not “what ought to be”. Can you clarify – do you think those things are the same?

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        • tylersnotes says:

          Anyone with a modicum of genitals can go to high school and learn what they need to become a baseball player. Anyone. There’s no way they are going to be Mike Trout either.

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        • Nick C says:

          Good point about Mike Trout though.

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        • Bip says:

          Yes, it’s much easier to be a teacher than it is to be Mike Trout, but there is also a much higher demand for teachers than for baseball players. Also, the relative scarcity of the skills says little about their value in this case. It’s hard to legitimately defend the idea that playing a sport is more valuable than educating children. The athlete may take on additional duties as a result of the importance we place on them, but it’s not a direct result of the player’s skills.

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    • PG says:

      Salaries will continue to rise as long as consumers continue to pay the prices for tickets to the ballpark or TV advertising. These new TV contracts are particularly lucrative so it stands to reason that players will get there share.

      I am not sure but I think that revenues for jerseys, caps etc.. is shared among the teams (and maybe the players association as well). I think that the the Marlins for instance will benefit from the sale of a Mike Trout jersey just as much as the Angels.

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    • LK says:

      At the risk of wading too far into politics here, I don’t think you’ve hit on the solution to the “problem,” to the extent that you’ve identified one (trying to remain agnostic).

      If Mike Trout is worth $50M based on the revenues he generates for his employer, then he should be paid that $50M. However, if we decide that it is sub-optimal for an individual to make that much money (for whatever reason, whether it’s that his vocation doesn’t provide a societal benefit, or others need the money more than Trout would need his 50th million), then his wages should be re-distributed in whatever proportion is deemed appropriate, whether to those in need or those whose work we find more beneficial, like your example of doctors. This is already the system that we have in place, it’s just a question of degree. Your complaint, as I see it, boils down not to the fact that Trout makes (or would make) too much money, but that people making as much as Trout are not taxed at a high enough rate – that is the much more relevant issue, and what we should be debating.

      Just my 2 cents.

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      • Erik says:

        There is another important distinction here that is not made. While Mike Trout may be “paid” $50 mil, what he’s really doing is being giving $50 million to “manage.”

        Money is not inert, it does not sit around collecting dust. Money is invested and is almost always creating value. The question then is who is best to manage the investment of the money? Should it be the creators of it seeking to maximize their monies value for personal gain, or government seeking to maximize political power?

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      • John C says:

        Re-distribution of wages? I think the proper term for that concept is Socialism.

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        • RC says:

          Yeah, all those socialist roads and socialist schools and socialist hospitals and that socialist military and socialist research is terrible.

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    • chuckb says:

      Without meaning to sound glib, professional athletes become “overpaid” by societal standards — at least in a free market — when we, the consumers of these sports, quit paying the prices we’re paying to consume them. When we quit paying for tickets or for premium cable packages that help fund them, they become overpaid. When we quit watching them on network TV — thus increasing the ad rates that go into paying their salaries — and buying their jerseys and other memorabilia, then they become overpaid. Until we stop voting to allow our cities (and tax dollars) to pay for brand new stadiums to serve as their playgrounds, they’ll become overpaid.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Price settles where supply meets demand, friend. This is the reality of capitalism.

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    • RichW says:

      It seems that athletes get criticized for what they are paid more vociferously and more often than other highly paid people. I rarely hear comments about movie actors salaries which can easily dwarf most baseball players at $15-$30 million per film. Since many bad films make a lot of money we don’t even hear anything about performance for the money they make. Just now I read that Sandra Bullock will make minimum $20M and possibly $70M million for Gravity. Sandra who?

      I’ll pay my $30 give or take and watch Trout and other Baseball players no matter what they get paid.

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    • jackson says:

      Mike Trout may also make more than that for his team. Would you rather the players who actually play get the money, or the owners get it. Because if we don’t pay players as much, the money is not going to go to doctors, politicians, farmers, and ecologists, it’s going to go to Arte Moreno, the Angels owner.

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      • John C says:

        I want it to go to Trout. Trout’s the one with the talent. Moreno’s sole baseball “talent” is signing his name to checks.

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    • Kevin says:

      IMO the most important thing to remember is that, these men are the ones at the absolute peak of their profession. At any given time there are just 750 men on an MLB roster, and the vast majority of even those 750 make the league minimum. In virtually any profession, the top 750 in the world (the top 0.00001% FWIW) will be quite handsomely compensated, and rightfully so. We just very rarely see or hear about the millions who strive and fall short of becoming one of those 750, unlike many other professions.

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    • munchtime says:

      Baseball players, as most other individuals, are paid according to the revenue they generate. MLB generates billions of dollars of revenue, at that is distributed to those individuals according to the revenue they are perceived to generate. More talented players make more money than less talented players, because they are perceived as a bigger reason why people give money to MLB.

      Doctors, on the other hand, are part of an industry that generates enough revenue to dwarf what MLB does. However, there are a significantly larger number of individuals that are part of that industry. Even though doctors generate more total revenue than baseball players, they are paid less because the revenue is distributed to many more people.

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      • RC says:

        ” as most other individuals”

        This is false.

        There are actually very few industries where worker revenue production is even remotely tied to wages. A software engineer who writes $1M+ of code a year may make $80K while a plumber who creates $100K of revenue gets paid the same.

        Its pretty much only in industries with large powerful unions (like professional sports) where compensation is tied to revenue. In most industries increased revenue just leads to increased profits for stockholders and the executive board.

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        • Bip says:

          I think fame has something to do with it too. Even if players didn’t have unions, if they were paid peanuts compared to team revenue, people would find out and be outraged. I think people are starting to get outraged about the fact that college players generate tons or revenue and see none of it themselves.

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        • Eric R says:

          “I think people are starting to get outraged about the fact that college players generate tons or revenue and see none of it themselves.”

          http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2013/08/29/pay-college-athletes-theyre-already-paid-up-to-125000year/

          Forbes estimates that NCAA players get the equivalent of $50-125k *per year* between scholarships, room and board, elite coaching and training.

          From the same article, only about 10% of Div I schools make an overall profit on sports. Football and Basketball bring in money, but the rest are mostly in the red.

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    • Bip says:

      Most of us with experience in the comments sections of articles about baseball salaries are used to the obligatory curmudgeon who has nothing to add, and just complains about how athletes are so overpaid. Your comment isn’t like that, but I can see how others interpreted that way. As others have said, most of us are just thinking about the numbers, not whether the Angels or Trout might be considering other social factors when agreeing to terms.

      I gave you a thumbs up because I don’t think this comment should have a negative score.

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  4. tomsmith79 says:

    Wow.

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  5. Pale Hose says:

    Shin-Soo Ellsbury is clearly superior to Jacoby Choo.

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  6. RC says:

    “I’ve spent a lot of time arguing that having one superstar isn’t clearly better than having two good players of equal value to the one star”

    And been wrong the whole time, because underpaid players who produce 0-2 WAR are really easy to find.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      This is, of course, demonstrably not true, or else no team in baseball would ever field anything close to a replacement level player. But congratulations, based on that belief, you actually should think Trout is worth something like $60 million per year, since you think Random Trout Teammate is likely to put up an additional +1 to +2 WAR. So you think this post is actually underselling his value.

      If you actually believe that great players deserve far more than what a linear $/WAR scale suggests, then you have to conclude that Trout’s a $60+ million per year player. Do you believe that?

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      • JJ says:

        Dave – But RC didn’t say teams can ALWAYS find 0-2 WAR players, just that it’s easy. The fact that teams do field roughly replacement level players doesn’t disprove his point.

        Also, I don’t think he implied that the “super star” value is equal to the production of the Random Trout Teammate. Trout wouldn’t be worth 1-2 more WAR (5-10 million).

        I think the bonus super star value doesn’t show up in any given season, but the superstar makes it easier for teams to improve their roster over time.

        Upgrading over two 4 WAR players is very tough. Upgrading over an 8 WAR and replacement level player is very easy. Trout here wouldn’t himself be worth that extra 1 or 2 WAR. He’d be worth: (the difference in the odds of landing an upgrade over a 4 WAR player, and the odds of upgrading over a lesser player) times the upgrade.

        Assume that there’s only a 20% chance of finding a 2 WAR upgrade over your 4 WAR incumbent, and a 50% chance of finding a 2 WAR upgrade over your replacement level incumbent. Trout’s bonus superstar value would be about .6 WAR.

        So it’s probably not huge, maybe a few million bucks here or there. FO’s probably wouldn’t pay out that full amount, because there’s uncertainty in future roster construction. It wouldn’t be clear when or if Trout’s bonus superstar value would make it easier for the team to upgrade.

        Anyways, my sense is that there is SOME value in having one superstar instead of two good players, but that the value is very small. Also, the value would be uncertain depending on the team’s needs and available free agent or trade options, so that value doesn’t show up in the market.

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        • JayT says:

          While I agree that there is more value in one 8 war player versus two 4 war players for the reasons you mention, I also think that the difference is pretty much nullified by the injury risk. The possible outcome is very different between the two teams.

          For the team with the superstar (8 war) and the scrub (0-2 war) if you have an injury you could get somewhere between 0 war and 12 war. The 0 war instance is if your superstar misses the full year and neither scrub works out. The 12 war being the superstar doesn’t get injured and the scrub’s replacement puts up a 2 win season.

          For the team with two four war players, if you have an injury you would get somewhere between 4-6 war. If the injured player’s replacement doesn’t work out, you get only the 4 war of the uninjured player. If the scrub does work out, then you get 6 war.

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      • RC says:

        “Dave – But RC didn’t say teams can ALWAYS find 0-2 WAR players, just that it’s easy. The fact that teams do field roughly replacement level players doesn’t disprove his point.”

        Exactly, and that’s where Dave keeps missing hear.

        Look at well run teams like the Red Sox and Rays. They have a handful of superstars, and then seem to always be able to fill the bottom half of the roster with guys like Daniel Nava – basically free 1-2WAR players.

        The fact that badly run teams don’t seem to be able to find these guys doesn’t prove they don’t exist, it just proves that badly run teams are badly run.

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      • RC says:

        Its funny to me that you keep making this argument Dave, and then panning deals that teams make for low cost 1-2WAR players, like Marlon Byrd.

        Seriously, go through this year’s FA class, look at the guys projected below 2WAR, and tell me that teams pay for wins linearly, because the data clearly doesn’t back that up.

        You guys write articles all winter about guys like Chris Young, who is projected for 2.3 WAR or so and gets 7M. Or Kurt Suzuki, who is projected at about 1.2WAR and gets 2M.

        There’s an awful lot of obvious 1-3 WAR talent available every offseason for significantly less than the $5-6M/WAR that you guys say a WAR is worth.

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        • Bip says:

          Mark Ellis produced 4.5-5.5 WAR over 2012-2013 for the Dodgers for $8 million total, and that was totally consistent with his career track record. So after putting up two seasons of better than 2 WAR/600, what does he sign for? $6 million, or about 1 WAR.

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        • Park Chan ho's Beard says:

          Again, you’re totally missing the point

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    • LK says:

      I’ll admit that I find this line of thinking persuasive, but it doesn’t show up in the data at all in terms of what teams are actually willing to pay players. At some point, if no FO is willing to value wins exponentially, I think there must be some flaw in the premise. It’s not like the forward-thinking GMs haven’t considered this.

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      • me says:

        It would only make sense to value players like that if your roster was crowded with above average talent.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Yeah, the Yankees, Red Sox, Jays, Nationals and Tigers are really the only teams with the capacity to afford that.

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      • Bip says:

        If a star player really is worth more than a linear scale should suggest, but teams don’t think he are worth that much, you don’t volunteer to pay him what you think he is worth, you pay him as little as you can. Plus, the advantage of the star player is only such an advantage if a team has picked up on a way to get extra value out of 0-2 WAR FAs. As more teams pick up on that, that extra advantage that comes with star players decreases.

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        • Eric R says:

          Rather than cherry picking some FAs to suit an argument, how about systematically looking at them instead?

          Last year, 19 position player FAs signed a 1 year MLB deal for less than $5M.

          On average they got $1.93M and 0.52 fWAR. That is $3.74M per win, so I suppose yes, they were a bit of a bargain.

          …but, only 2 of 19 were 2-win players [Loney and McLouth, who had averaged 0.8 and -0.2 fWAR per year over the previous three years]. The other 17 averaged $1.93M and 0.26 fWAR for $7.5M per win.

          So, ~90% of them were bad deals relative to the mediocre to elite FAs and 10% were stellar deals.

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    • Bip says:

      Some things to consider:

      1. If star players are paid in line with $/WAR, but many 0-2 WAR players are paid at a lower $/WAR rate, then perhaps our idea of $/WAR is inflated. Perhaps the valuation you describe is really happening. So, $/WAR is around $5 million, but star players get a bonus because of the scarcity of roster spots and of players at that level. Non-star players get less because they are less scarce.

      2. How reliably can teams predictably find cheap players who outperform the $/WAR value of their salary? Basically, I’m saying that we have to be careful of hindsight. The thing about $4M players is that they may turn into 2 WAR bargains, but the might turn into 0 WAR wastes of money. If we see a team with a lot of bargains, it isn’t necessarily because that team is good at spotting bargains.

      In other words, your premise that 0-2 WAR players are easy to find for cheap only works if those players can be identified beforehand, not just by us being able to retrospectively identify a bunch of players that produced more value than their modest salaries paid them for.

      3. The disproportionate value of a star player needs to be balanced against the disproportionate loss suffered by the team if the star player is hurt. Let’s assume a team could choose between signing a 5-WAR player and signing two 2.5-WAR players, each for the same total price, and all would be upgrading positions with a 0-WAR players. In both cases they add 5 wins. On the one hand, the former option will leave a lineup spot available to find a bargain 1-WAR player. On the other hand, there is a greater chance that the 5-WAR player gets hurt than the chance both 2.5 WAR players get hurt, which is what would have to happen to lose all 5 wins. Plus, your 1-WAR fill in could get hurt too.

      4. This source of value is dependent on teams being able to recognize undervalued players… something most teams seem to be getting better at doing. If teams were able to perfectly value all players, then there would be no cheap 1-WAR players. They would all cost exactly 1 times the $/WAR rate. So whether you buy 6 wins with a 5+1 situation or a 3+3 one, you’re paying the same amount no matter what. So, if this is a legitimate advantage of having stars, it’s an advantage that may be going away to a degree.

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  7. Kevin says:

    While I can see the obvious upside (pricing out inflation), it FEELS goofy to me that the Angels would lock him up long term now. Regression seems inevitable as few players can be this great for very long in any sport. Can Trout average 8 WAR over the first six years of his career? If now, that could drive the price he’s asking down. The risk of not doing it is obvious: the $/WAR is bound to be higher when Trout reaches free agency, and if he can continue to be super-human he’s going to earn more per year than the Astros will pay their entire team in 2014.

    But it still seems like quite a risk to pay him this kind of money now, when his value seems to be just so bloody high.

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    • joe says:

      Pujols averaged 8 per season over his first 8 years and he never had a 10+ win season. I seem him as a comp – STL signed him to an extension after his 3rd year right. ~100mil – 8 years. What would that look like in today’s environment? STL got a great deal back then.

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  8. Mike Trout's Agent says:

    Thanks, Dave!

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  9. Oliver says:

    Isn’t there some pretty serious value to the simple fact that Trout only fills one spot on the roster, while Jacoby Choo fills two?

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    • Grimace says:

      This is something I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while, without hitting on a great way to quantify the value. Would be glad to hear what you’re thinking!

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    • Edwin says:

      I think Dave somewhat addresses that in an article from January.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-orioles-stars-and-scrubs-problem/

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    • RC says:

      “Isn’t there some pretty serious value to the simple fact that Trout only fills one spot on the roster, while Jacoby Choo fills two?”

      No, a roster spot is a cost, not a benefit. Having Trout instead of Jacoby-Choo just means you need to have an above-replacement-level player available for that spot to be better off.

      So basically, if you’ve got a decent farm system, Trout is better. If you have a terrible farm system, and are terrible at evaluating FA talent, Jacoby Choo is better.

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  10. LK says:

    Very easy for me to say, but if I were Trout I wouldn’t sign. The chance to re-define the pay scale doesn’t happen often, and he has that chance. I’d want to see the bidding war.

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    • Matt says:

      If I were Trout, I’d take the 150-200M guaranteed money, and laugh all the way to the bank. And if I can get another huge deal out of it later, even better. If not, I still have more than enough money to live on for the rest of my life, with, say, 100M to spare.

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      • Philip Christy says:

        What’s important to this discussion is what you specifically would do if you were Mike Trout.

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      • TerryMc says:

        Go for the best of both worlds, sign now but get the currently in vogue opt-out clause in the contract so you have the guarantee if something dire happens and can maximize if things are going great.

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      • M W says:

        The average American makes 2 million $ in a 40 year career. He’ll make more than that in his first arb year even if he breaks his legs. So, it would be a gamble to not take the deal now – but perhaps not as a big of one as you seem to make it.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      I’d try to sign away 1 FA year instead of 2, then head home to play for the Phillies for the rest of my career.

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  11. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Baseball is a team sport, no matter how good or valuable Trout is based on his performance, a team can’t be successfull with just one great player. Why
    pay a guy X2 or X3 Choo’s because he is so much better? You might have better luck taking that $50 mill and buying 2-3 pretty good players. If Trout gets the bank and snaps his knee, it may take his team 5-6 years to recover.

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    • Atreyu Jones says:

      Baseball is a team sport, a team can’t be successful with just 2-3 pretty good players….

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    • Nick says:

      On the one hand, I do think having two 4 win players is more valuable than one 8 win player because of risk factors, like injuries. I think of it like diversifying a portfolio, or not putting all the eggs in one basket.

      On the other hand, that could mean that two 1 win players are replaced from the everyday lineup instead of just one. So theoretically, the numbers could come out to something like a net gain of a less risky 6 wins versus a more risky 7 wins.

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    • john says:

      This is a very important point. The Pujols example is a great one. Had the Cardinals paid up the $22-23 million they offered and Pujols collapsed like he did the Cards would not have been in either the LCS in 2012 or the WS in 2013.

      While it is unlikely Trout degrades much at this age, the Angels are well an truly screwed if the gambit fails. They already have two high paid duds. A Trout extension is a bigger risk for them than for others.

      I would go year to year with Trout personally especially if he asks for an opt out or doesn’t give them at least three free agent years.

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      • Belloc says:

        Pujols was a good player in 2012 when you compared him with mere mortals instead of the Albert Pujols of the preceding decade. In fact, he produced more WAR than his replacement Allen Craig.

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        • Belloc says:

          Also, while we don’t know how Pujols’s contract would have been structured had he chosen to stay in St. Louis, we do know this: Pujols was paid $12 million in 2012 and $16 million in 2013. Pujols was actually a bargain for the Angels in 2012, producing 3.7 fWAR for $12 million. Obviously, 2013 was a lousy year.

          I suspect the Cardinals would have back-loaded his contract in a similar manner.

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  12. Random Trout Teammate is going to be quite variable from team to team based on positional scarcity methinks.

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  13. RMD says:

    What’s even crazier is that among the three other named players… they play in hitter’s parks while Trout plays in a pitcher’s park which deflates his numbers.

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  14. Pumpsie Green says:

    Any industry-altering contract considers more than just on-field value. Before he puts pen to paper, Arte Moreno will ask himself ‘how much money can I make off this guy’. Advertising, ticket sales, tv money – all that and more will roll around in his brain. Unfortunately for Trout, I believe he’ll come to the conclusion that while he might make, say, $500 million with Trout on his team through 3 fa years, he will still make $450 million even without Trout locked up. I completely agree with Dave’s baseball valuation, but financially a double-value contract for Trout won’t add up for the Angels, especially considering their long-term payroll commitments.

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    • Atreyu Jones says:

      Wouldn’t factoring in outside factors mean that keeping Trout on the team would be more valuable than his on-field value, not less?

      Or, wouldn’t the “I’m going to make money either way” line of thinking be a deterrent to signing ANY player beyond the minimum?

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  15. Thufir says:

    I love it when Dave drops the hammer….

    I have to say, I am quite surprised that Trout is going to sell himself as short as has been reported.

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    • Jason B says:

      There is something to be said for eliminating downside risk. Sure, you can go year-to-year, take your arb raises and hit the FA market, but that’s years away, and there is some non-zero chance of a catastrophic or life-altering injury, some inexplicable decline in performance, etc. I would consider $30-35M a fair price to eliminate the downside risk of those years.

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  16. Eminor3rd says:

    Missed an opportunity to use Jacoby-Soo Choosbury :'(

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  17. vivalajeter says:

    Remember when there was a tweak to UZR and it had a pretty big impact on Jason Bay’s value when he was on the Red Sox? What happens if we find a glitch in WAR, and Trout’s ‘only’ been worth 8 WAR the last two years instead of 10? What if he’s ‘only’ the best player in the game today, but he’s not Mickey Mantle Part 2?

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    • PraiseTrout says:

      In 2013, Trout’s defensive value was 3.3, which includes positional adjustment. So he wasn’t gaining or losing value on defense really. In 2012, there might be a case, since he had a DEF of +13. If UZR had an issue that would make Trout ‘only’ an 8-win player each year, you’d need to find out he was actually a -20 defender each of the past two years, which seems highly unlikely since scouts and metrics agree he is pretty good.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        I didn’t mean to imply that the DEF part of WAR would change. What I’m saying is, we look at his page, see 10 wins, and just go with it. What if there’s a component to WAR that was glitchy, and a simple calculation error had an impact of a couple wins. He’s still be elite, just not Inner Circle HOF elite.

        Really, if we looked at his player page at the end of 2012 and saw that he had an 8 win season, would we be thinking “no way! he was definitely worth more than that!”.

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        • Eric R says:

          If it was a formula error and the same formula is used for all position players, then the issue would seem to roughly impact all players equally.

          if Trout went from 10.4 wins to 8 and Cabrera went from 7.6 to 5.6 and replacement went from 0 to -1, the big picture is that things didn’t change much.

          When you fix replacement back at zero Trout and Cabrera move up a bit.

          With a fairly large total drop in position player WAR it would throw the balance of position player to pitcher WAR off and when that is adjusted back to the “correct” ratio, which would then give the position players some more of their value back.

          That said, we have a check against that with a different calculation done on baseball-reference.

          If you mean a problem with Trout’s calculation or a subset of the MLB population’s calculation, what would that mean?

          Is the WAR formula something like:
          If [player] = “Mike Trout” then
          WAR = WAR * 1.2
          else
          WAR = WAR * 1.0
          end

          ??

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      • John C says:

        If WAR made a mistake and Trout is “only” an 8-win player, that means he slips so badly that he’s only as good as…Andrew McCutchen. National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, that is.

        Trout is off-the-charts valuable no matter how you cut it.

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        • RC says:

          Nobody is talking about paying MCcuthcen 50M a year.

          He’s got a point. What if we start calculating a opponent-faced pitching WAR component and find out that Trout has faced an unusually easy slate of pitchers in his two years, and is only McCutchen good instead of what he is?

          He’s still supremely valuable, but then the Trout-at-$50M-a-year package as a whole is no longer valuable.

          These are the sort of risks that don’t make sense when you’re talking about players in the middle of the curve, but at the outside, you’re going to see larger effects.

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  18. Joe says:

    I’m relatively new to reading and following here, so this may be a basic question. I get the basic premise to this article, and it all makes sense.

    The thing I’m still questioning is whether it’s really better to have all that on-field value and production tied up in one player. If $80 million is getting you a pair of players who offer 4 WAR each or one with 8 WAR and one with 0, isn’t it better to have those 8 WAR coming from two different spots in the lineup? That way the team is less vulnerable to injuries, slumps, bad luck in when the player comes up to bat, etc.

    Given the age factor, I agree with the overall argument of the article here, but I’m curious about the lineup construction issue.

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    • Eric R says:

      Dave mentioned that. Lets say every player has a 10% chance of suffering a minor injury [lets say -0.5 WAR] and a 3% chance of a major injury [-2 WAR]. With two 4 win players then you have:

      75.7%, 8.0 WAR [both healthy]
      17.4%, 7.5 WAR [one minor injury]
      1.0%, 7.0 WAR [both have minor injury]
      0.6%, 7.0 WAR [one major and one minor injury]
      5.2%, 6.0 WAR [one major injury]
      0.1%, 4.0 WAR [two major injuries]
      Weighted average 7.8 WAR

      Now with Trout and replacement level; lets call minor and major -1 win and -4 wins for Trout (same percentage of the total) and the minor and major at -0.1 and -0.2 for the replacement level player.

      75.7%, 8.0 WAR [both healthy]
      8.7%, 7.9 WAR [RP/Minor]
      2.6%, 7.8 WAR [RP/Major]
      8.7%, 7.0 WAR [Trout/Minor]
      1.0%, 6.9 WAR [both Minor]
      0.3%, 6.8 WAR [Trout/Minor, RP/Major]
      2.6%, 4.0 WAR [Trout/Major]
      0.3%, 3.9 WAR [Trout/Major, RP/Minor]
      0.1%, 3.8 WAR [both Major]
      Weighted average 7.8 WAR

      The difference is a tiny amount of rounding error.

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      • Jason B says:

        I would say, though, that both of your estimates are low, such that it distorts your conclusion. A ‘minor’ injury to Trout would drop, say 2-3 WAR, and a major one, perhaps 5-10. (From last year’s 10 WAR season)

        And the odds of those happening? I would guess like 20-30% for a minor injury, 5-10% for a major one.

        Just supposin’ of course. But your estimates seemed low to me.

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        • Eric R says:

          I used the exact same numbers for the “good players” in terms of the percentage of their total; the 4 win players were 12.5% and 50% and so was Trout.

          I used a small negative on the replacement level player and perhaps didn’t need to since his replacement is just another replacement level player.

          I somewhat randomly picked my numbers, but I certainly didn’t do it backwards to force the weighted averages to be the same. Feel free to do the math yourself and please report the results.

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        • Eric R says:

          Out of curiosity, using your numbers. (1) I took the mid point for your ranges, (2) inferred that the 4 WAR players would lose 25% and 75% of their value for minor and major injuries, same as Trout, (3) replacement level players would have a fairly small injury penalty given the nature of replacement level:

          Two 4.0 WAR players
          45.6%, 8.0 WAR [both healthy]
          33.8%, 7.0 WAR [one minor injury]
          6.3%, 6.0 WAR [both have minor injury]
          10.1%, 5.0 WAR [one major injury]
          3.8%, 4.0 WAR [one major and one minor injury]
          0.1%, 2.0 WAR [two major injuries]
          Weighted average 7.05 WAR

          Trout [8 WAR] & Replacement level [0 WAR]
          45.6%, 8.0 WAR [both healthy]
          16.9%, 7.9 WAR [RP/Minor]
          5.1%, 7.8 WAR [RP/Major]
          16.9%, 6.0 WAR [Trout/Minor]
          6.3%, 5.9 WAR [both Minor]
          1.9%, 5.8 WAR [Trout/Minor, RP/Major]
          5.1%, 2.0 WAR [Trout/Major]
          1.9%, 1.9 WAR [Trout/Major, RP/Minor]
          0.1%, 1.8 WAR [both Major]
          Weighted average 7.01 WAR

          Again, the difference is only rounding error

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        • Eric R says:

          As a post-script, you could come up with just about any percentages you want, and the final numbers will be the same.

          The only way to get different results is if the 8.0 win player is more injury prone than the two 4.0 win players, or if the loss in value from similar injuries is not linear.

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  19. David says:

    If Mike Trout’s is worth 50 million dollar a season I’m curious to what kind of a contract a player could demand if he had a Ruthian level of performance. I mean in his very best season Ruth posted 15 fWAR that is 4.6 more than what Trout did this past year. Only 29 position players in baseball posted that delta in 2013.

    Just posturing with Ruth but if we assume modern day Ruth spends his age 19 through age 22 seasons in the minors and his age 23 season was his half year in the bigs with age 24-29 being his 6 years of control that means he hits the open market at 30 years old with a .543 wOBA, 213 wRC+, 75.6 WAR.

    On a 10 year deal with the WAR calculator he could theoretically push 700 million! By the way I don’t mean for this to turn into a post about how well Babe Ruth himself would fare in the modern era all I mean is that theoretically if someone came along and started dominating the game like he did what kind of salary could he demand. Putting it in that context is 70 million really possible?

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    • John C says:

      Babe Ruth wouldn’t come up at age 23. Babe Ruth, if you made him an outfielder from the very beginning, would have been in the major leagues at age 19, 20 at the latest. Seriously, Babe Ruth is another league from even people like Trout, A-Rod, and Ken Griffey Jr., who all got to the bigs at 19 or 20.

      He would be a $50 million a year player, easily. And be worth even more than that. He’d hit free agency at 27 or 28 and get a deal that would be higher than the GDP of most third-world countries.

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  20. Evan Gattis says:

    Most contracts have a realistic upside and a realistic downside that are more balanced, even if they aren’t totally balanced. Ellsbury/Choo could hold value better than expected. Freeman might turn into a +5 player. Simmons might hit ~100 wRC+. Or Ellsbury loses his speed, Choo loses his OBP, Freeman checks in at +2, and SImmons hits like Yuni with a better eye.

    WTF can Trout do but hold his value or find a way to get worse? It’s almost humanly impossible that he gets better to any significant degree, so a contract covering 4-6 years in the future has to price in the downside more than one of the random good-player extensions because the good-player extensions have improvement upside (or lack of expected decline upside for FAs) and Trout really doesn’t. When you ran the poll last year about what you’d pay for 1 year of FA Trout in 2014, I voted 1/50MM, so I don’t think your valuation is batshit insane in general, but the contract is too far out in the future to pay that much because of the skewed downside risk profile.

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    • tz says:

      It would be great to confirm what the range +/- is for future performance is for guys like Trout. Intuitively I agree with you that the range for his upside above 10 WAR would be smaller than the downside, while other guys around his age would have a nice bell curve around their career mean (or maybe even skewed to the higher side)

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      “It’s almost humanly impossible that he gets better to any significant degree.”

      We said that last year, too. I think we need to remember that the key word is “almost.”

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    • jruby says:

      I don’t remember who posted it (a while back), but there was a somewhat convincing argument that Trout’s WAR improving still isn’t as unlikely as it seems. Basically, if he puts up a season with his 2012 defense and 2013 offense, that’s something like 11.5. Would it be ridiculous for his walk rate to increase even a little more from 15.4, and his strikeout rate to keep going down just a little, from 21.8 in ’12 to 19.0 in ’13 to, say, 18.0 in ’14? If he does that, he might be around 12.0, and we’ve all got a new high water mark to regress from.

      Another post noted that, of the 11 guys to put up Trout-like numbers at a Trout-like age, 8 of them put up a combined, I think, 23 seasons above 10 WAR in the rest of their careers.

      Basically, my argument (that others have conveniently made for me) is that Trout’s chance of performing even better at some point from here on out is probably somewhere around 40-60%, rather than the intuitive 10-20%.

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      • Evan Gattis says:

        Nobody has put up Trout-like numbers at his age. Even using a filter of 2 *7*-win seasons by age 23, post-war, that leaves 6 players, and how did they do over the next 6 years compared to the average of their 2 qualifying years?

        Pujols dropped from 8.85 to 8.03
        Ripken dropped from 9.15 to 5.47
        A-Roid dropped from 8.55 to 7.97
        Eddie Mathews dropped from 8.3 to 7.0
        Cesar Cedeno dropped from 7.45 to 3.93
        Andruw Jones dropped from 7.35 to 6.08

        That’s an average loss of 1.86 wins, nobody improved, nobody maintained performance, and only A-Roid and Pujols stayed within a win, and you can take both of those with as many grains of salt as you want. Trout put on a bunch of muscle for last season- there’s no way he can expect to match his 2012 defense going forward.

        Could he post a random 10.5-win season along the way? Absolutely. But I’d take under 60 WAR for 2015-2020 for whatever anybody wanted to bet.

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        • jruby says:

          For what it’s worth, here’s the comment I was referring to:
          bstar says:
          February 13, 2014 at 11:59 pm
          “I’ll take the over on [whether Trout’s best future season is going to be >10.4 WAR], B N. I think you’re underestimating the quality of a player who can put up a 10+ WAR season early in his career.

          Here are the guys who have put up a 10 WAR season at age 25 or younger (B-Ref numbers):

          Ruth
          Gehrig
          Mantle
          Hornsby
          Cobb
          Mays
          Trout
          Williams
          E Collins
          Foxx
          A-Rod
          Speaker

          Not counting Trout, that’s 11 players. Over the course of their careers (past age 25), eight of those players put up 22 more seasons of 10+ WAR, with only Foxx, Collins, and A-Rod never being that valuable in a season again.

          I understand it’s possible there’s no longer an aging curve anymore. If Trout does put up a few more 10+ WAR seasons, I’d agree they likely aren’t going to be monster Bonds/Ruth type of seasons.

          But you never know. What if he becomes a 40+ HR guy down the road? What if he improves a little defensively? I think it’s a stretch to suggest he’s peaked in the outfield at age 21.

          Trout was a little better with the bat last year than 2012 but worse in the field. All he has to do to put his biggest season yet is have a 2013 offensive year and a 2012 defensive one. If he did that he’d be over 11 WAR. Certainly very possible.”

          Reasonable minds can disagree about whether his argument or your argument is more applicable. I’m inclined to go with bstar’s because I think Trout is more similar to the “10 WAR season under 25″ group than the “two 7 WAR seasons under 23″ group. You *are* right thy no one’s put up Trout numbers at Trout age, but I think the best way to get comps is to assuage the age requirement rather than the numbers requirement. The first puts him with people of the same talent who peaked a little later, while the latter puts him with people of the same age who are less talented.

          I don’t mean to dump on your argument because it’s definitely defensible, but I’m just so interested by Trout that I think he’s worth comparing and discussing arguments on an academic level.

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        • bookbook says:

          Sure, but 60 WAR is “worth” about $420 million on the current free agent market. I wouldn’t sign him to a 6 year/$420 million contract either.

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        • jruby says:

          Well, I agree with you, bookbook, that contract’s not going to happen, but I’m not really talking monetary valuation, I’m talking pure performance and talent level. Yeah, I don’t think you can comfortably project 60 WAR over the next 6 years, but all I’m saying is I could definitely see, like, 52 with one massive 11.5 season thrown in there.

          tl;dr for my entire comment thread: I think it’s a coin flip whether Trout will ever have a better season than his 2013, which is a bit more optimistic than most people. It follows that I think his true talent level is a little higher than people think as well. But time will tell.

          In related news, my number 1 goal for this season is to get to CBP on May 13th or 14th when the Angels are in town.

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        • RC says:

          “Here are the guys who have put up a 10 WAR season at age 25 or younger (B-Ref numbers):’

          This is another one of the statistical errors that bothers the hell out of me.

          Trout putting up 10 WAR doesn’t mean you should compare him to other players who put up >10 WAR, because all of them were better than he was. You’re using your subject as the cutoff point, instead of using your subject as the middle of the sample.

          Trout’s 10 WAR is closer to Pujols 9.4 at 24 than it is to Ruth’s 13 at 24, but you’ve eliminated Pujols because he doesn’t fit the narrative you’re trying for.

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        • RC says:

          ” All he has to do to put his biggest season yet is have a 2013 offensive year and a 2012 defensive one. ”

          The guy put on like 20 lbs. There’s significant reason to believe that the improvement in power came directly at the expense of defense.

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        • jruby says:

          RC, I definitely agree with a lot of what you said. Increased weight can definitely lower defensive numbers, and it probably will going forward, to some extent, but I also think that will be somewhat mitigated by getting better at playing the outfield technically, rather than physically, with more experience.

          Your statistical point is well taken, in that it’s somewhat dubious to set the lower bound at 10, when the guy’s seasons are 10.0 and 10.4. This will obviously lump him in with 12.5s and 14s and such which ARE qualitatively different from what Trout’s done.

          But we can try to remedy that. I looked up the top 50 single seasons before the age of 25. Trout, at 21 and 22, had the 11th and 8th best of these. The lower bound for the top 50 was 7.9 WAR, which we can all agree is below Trout’s true talent level at present. Here’s the breakdown of those 50 seasons:

          Above 10 WAR: Lou Gehrig(1), Ted Williams (2), Mickey Mantle (1), Jimmy Foxx (1), Ty Cobb (2), Tris Speaker (1), Mike Trout (1), Willie Mays (1)

          9.1-10.0 WAR: Mike Trout (1), Eddie Collins (1), Stan Musial (2), Benny Kauff (1), Mickey Mantle (1), Rogers Hornsby (2), Cal Ripken (1), Ty Cobb (1), Eddie Collins (1), Albert Pujols (1), Arky Vaughan (1), Alex Rodriguez (2), Mike Schmidt (1), Babe Ruth (1), Joe Jackson (2), Johnny Bench (1), Joe DiMaggio (2).

          7.9-9.0 WAR: Willie Mays (1), Reggie Jackson (1), Ron Santo (1), Eddie Mathews (2), Cal Ripken (1), Joe DiMaggio (1), Ken Griffey Jr. (1), David Wright (1), Joe Cronin (1), Ralph Kiner (1), Dick Allen (1), Troy Glaus (1), John Olerud (1), Albert Pujols (1), Mel Ott (2), Jimmie Foxx (1), Ryne Sandberg (1).

          Obviously, I dropped the age limit a year from bstar’s argument (if it’s 25, Trout’s seasons are the 15th- and 11th-best), but I think if anything 25-and-under is *overinclusive*; we’re talking about Trout’s age 21 and 22 seasons, after all. Basically, all I’ve been proposing is that Trout’s group of comps is the players in the 9.1-10.0 and >10 groups from above.

          Listen, I love talking about this and hearing why I may be mistaken; in particular, I’m interested to hear why a) my group of comps is wrong or b) why he can’t be expected to have his best year ahead of him. I don’t think “it’s impossible to imagine him doing better” is an argument, and I don’t think conclusory statement like “Trout’s not as good as ” count either. That’s what we’re discussing.

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        • Miffleball says:

          I think the major wall you keep running into is the notion that it is reasonable to project trout for seven straight years of 8+ WAR. if he pulled that off it would give him nine such years in nine years. For comparisons sake, willie mays and babe Ruth each had 11 such seasons and bonds had ten. This projection basically suggests that at age 21 and two years into his career trout is likely to become not just the best player of all time but the best player of all time by a wide margin. While I certainly acknowledge that he has the talent to do so, paying him at this stage as though it’s a lock to happen may be premature

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  21. Nick says:

    But Ellsbury and Choo weren’t signed by the same team. Is it feasible for one team to devote 50 million dollars to a single roster spot? I agree that he is worth it in the abstract, but he’s also so good that only a couple of teams could even afford him, which also brings his price down.

    I don’t believe if he became a free agent tomorrow he would get 10/500 even if he’s technically worth it.

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    • Eric R says:

      “Is it feasible for one team to devote 50 million dollars to a single roster spot?”

      Lets say large market teams are looking at $150-230M payrolls. If they devote $50M to one spot vs an alternative universe where they stop at $30M, the difference is all of $800k per remaining roster spot.

      Of course if you can sign Trout for $30M or you can sign Trout for $50M, you certainly take the former :)

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      • RC says:

        The average MLB salary is right around $3.3M. Having to pay the remainder of your roster roughly 25% less than average sounds like a pretty heavy burden.

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        • Eric R says:

          A burden that comes with getting an 8-10 win player at the 25th spot.

          Same decision people make all the time.

          If I am in the market for a new car and I have a $10k trade-in, I can buy an $100k Mercedes that’ll cost me $2k a month for the next four years on one end or a $15k Civic that will cost me $110 a month.

          If I am a private chauffeur and can average $15000 a month driving an upscale car and maybe $3000 a month with the Civic as essentially an independent cab service, then despite the Merc being much more expensive, it pays for itself.

          Is it riskier? Perhaps, but the risk reward balance might say that it is still the better move.

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  22. Spunky says:

    I could read a new Dave Cameron article praising Mike Trout every day. Great job, Dave.

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  23. B. Dalton says:

    If the Oakland A’s won the AL West last year with a roster priced at 1.36 Mike Trouts, and the Rays won 92 games at a cost of 1.14 Mike Trouts, how could he possibly be worth it? It’s not about doubting data, but in this case it’s far enough detached from real world implications that I’m not swayed.

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    • jackson says:

      because the A’s and Rays had cheap controlled players who were worth much more than they were paid. Why is that so hard to understand?

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      • B. Dalton says:

        In other words they are a model for sustained success that doesn’t involve paying $50 million annually to one guy. Why would you assume I don’t understand that?

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        • Eric R says:

          A model that only works when you have a pipeline of good pre-arb players, that starts to break-down when they become arbitration eligible and ends at free agency.

          You have to be extremely good at evaluating other teams’ minor leaguers and drafting and a bit lucky for it to work.

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        • B. Dalton says:

          That’s still more feasible than waiting for a generational talent and then putting 1/3 of your resources into him.

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        • Jason B says:

          B. Dalton – I think you make a good point – I don’t think banking $50M on an otherworldly talent is any more of a sustainable path than trying to keep a good pipeline of young, cost-controlled talent.

          And I like(d), and miss, your bookstores.

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  24. Scott Clarkson says:

    1986 Eric Davis basically pulled a Jacoby Choo in 132 games: 27 HR, 80SB, 84BB, 134 SO….prorate that to Jacoby Choo’s unprecedented 250+ game season ;)

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    • jruby says:

      Actually, this raises a really awesome possibility…

      Maybe the Angels could pay Trout $40 million a season, but also lease him out at $250k per game when possible?

      Like, if the Angels have three night games at US Cellular, and he also plays those early afternoons in Wrigley… I mean, he could also do this whenever LAA’s in NY, the Bay Area, DC, hell, even TB to Miami and Cleveland to Pittsburgh… He could easily get 200 games in and make a little extra spending money. It’s not like he ever needs to practice…

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      • jruby says:

        By the way, I’m gonna go ahead and say this is the best idea I’ve ever had.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Don’t those teams rarely have home games at the same time? When the Mets are home, the Yankees are way. When the Giants are home, the A’s are away. Etc.

        Otherwise, it would be a cool idea.

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  25. Alex says:

    One thing that seems to get lost in estimating players worth on a pure $ vs performance basis ignores a critical element – the players are human. The money is nice, REALLY nice, but ultimately athletes want to WIN more than anything else. Would the Angels get similar value out of Trout + scrub for $50-53 million? Sure. But they’d do a lot better with Trout and someone of the caliber of Choo or Ellsbury to pair him with (or any combination of players for the same cost). Trout knows this. If he’s going to sign a long term commitment to a team, he does have to weigh his desire to make guaranteed money vs his desire to allow the Angels enough financial flexibility to ensure that he has a quality team built around him too. Add in that the performance of their new core of long-term committed players (I.e. Hamilton and Pujols) has been embarrassingly bad at the START of their contracts with the Angels failing to make the playoffs both years, and one has to think that Trout is aware that other parts will need to fall into place for him to actually win. That’s why he might be more amenable to a merely excellent AAV in the range of 20-30 mill

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    • Belloc says:

      But Trout could always defer compensation to give the Angels payroll relief to sign talent if his contract became an impediment to the team. The Union has never rejected an individual player’s decision to amend his contract to defer compensation.

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    • Bobby Bonilla says:

      Take it from me guys: deferred compensation is AWESOME.

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  26. Burly says:

    The one concern I have about Mike Trout’s future performance is his size. He’s currently listed as 6’2″ and 230 lbs, and he’s only 22 years old. He isn’t going to get smaller as he gets older. One also has to wonder, in this day and age, how he got so big so young. Frank Thomas was able hold his big body together until he was about 32. However, as an outfielder Trout has to do a lot more running than Thomas ever did.

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    • Belloc says:

      “One also has to wonder, in this day and age, how he got so big so young.”

      Here’s a shot in the dark: How about genes and exercise?

      Trout is about the size of the average MLB player. College football teams are filled with players younger than 22 who make Mike Trout seem tiny. Calvin Johnson is 6’5″ and 240, and he just finished his 7th season playing a sport that is more dangerous than boxing – and that’s not including the three years of college football and four years of high school football he played. And Calvin Johnson is still one of the fastest players in the NFL.

      And Frank Thomas was an absolute monster. No one would compare his physique with Mike Trout’s.

      I really don’t see your point.

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        He may be the size of the average MLB player, but he’s almost certainly not the size of the median MLB outfielder.

        The kid’s the same size as Luke Kuechly.

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    • jackson says:

      as Billy Beane said, “we’re not selling jeans here”

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    • Spencer D says:

      His billed weight is wrong. He’s closer to 250 now, though not in a bad way. That was one of the big stories last offseason.

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      • RC says:

        There’s also the fact that the MLB “average” height and weight stats have guys like Dustin Pedroia at 5’10 (I’m 5’11, and I’ve met Pedroia. He’s not 5’10), and David Ortiz, who is now listed as 6’4 250, but was listed as 6’2 220 back a couple years ago.

        Basically, MLB’s height/weight numbers are useless.

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  27. Aaron says:

    There is a conceptual inconsistency in this article. Dave, your article asserts that Trout’s value is based on statistical production, but you then assert in one of the comments that it is really based on what teams are willing to put forward. How can you assume that adding the salaries of 2 players, generally assumed to be paid more than what most teams would pay justifies a sufficient conclusion with regards to Trout’s monetary value?

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  28. Joe says:

    Unless he gets an out-clause after year three, Trout’s crazy if he signs for 6/$150 million. By my rationale that means he’s giving up three free agent years, his ages 26-28 seasons, for $32 million a season. Obviously we can’t know what he’d get in arbitration, but guesses have ranged from 12-16-20 to 15-20-25. For the sake of argument, let’s average those and assume he’d get 13.5-18-22.5, for a total of $54 million. Which means he’s selling those three free agent seasons for $96 million. I realize that $150 million guaranteed is a lot to walk away from, but he needs to be getting at least $120 million for those three years. If not, roll the dice on hitting free agency at 26 and cashing in for 10/$450-500 million.

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  29. Jon L. says:

    I loved the equation Trout + E. Young = Ellsbury + Choo. No one’s commenting on it, but it was clever, and fun, and poignant.

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    • jruby says:

      $100* to the first person who can come up with a nontrivial equation where both sides match up in terms of performance AND the letters in the players’ names on one side can be anagrammed to the players’ names on the other side.

      * not really

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      • Brian says:

        Jeff Francoeur = Fran Jeffcoeur

        Lovely woman. Can’t lay off the sliders, though.

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      • Jason B says:

        With your anagram clause in there, you can freely offer $5,000,000 and not have to ever worry about paying out.

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        • jruby says:

          To paraphrase some words of wisdom from a corporate attorney: “Cats get rich. Dogs get rich. Pigs go to jail.”

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        • jruby says:

          Oh I see what you were saying. Yeah probably. But just because it’s impossible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t incentivize people to spend their time trying!!!

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    • tz says:

      T Hudson + E Young = OUCH!

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  30. Tea Totaller says:

    Clearly the answer is for the Marlins to trade their entire roster for Trout, even if it means paying Trout more than their entire roster.

    Step 2 is Trout plays every position, precedent for it here: http://deadspin.com/160306/now-playing-first-base-bugs-bunny-second-base-bugs-bunny-shortstop-

    True Bugs Bunny is the only player known to play every position and win, but certainly we all agree with Trout’s greatness it will be no problem.

    Trout hasn’t pitched before, but we can assume he will easily surpass Bugs’ rather pedestrian 5.4 K/9 and put up pitching stats somewhere a bit better than lesser players like Babe Ruth.

    And with the extra ticket sales, the Marlins can then afford to pay Trout what he is truly worth.

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  31. BubbaBiscuit says:

    His free agent years at $50 Million each are still a nice discount when compared to the price of a win in free agency that will be higher in 2018 than it is now.

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  32. isavage30 says:

    The problem I would see is more in terms of lineup construction. Even if “protection” is a myth, lineup construction matters. Except when he hits a home run, someone needs to drive in Trout and someone needs to be on base for him to drive in, and someone needs to field the other positions who doesn’t suck. If you could purchase 3 3-WAR players for the same price as Trout (let’s say Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes), I think you have an advantage over the team that has Trout and lesser players.

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    • Eric R says:

      “I think”

      OK. Sop the next step is to try and prove it. If you just say that you think 3 3-win players is better than 1 9-win player and two replacement level players and someone else says the opposite, then nothing is advanced.

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    • BubbaBiscuit says:

      That is not the issue being addressed here. Yes, you can construct a roster in many different ways and some of those are better than other versions of rosters that may include Mike Trout.

      The idea being posited here is that if you have $50 million to spend on free agents in one year when Mike Trout becomes a free agent, you’re going to come out ahead giving all of it to Trout. Sure, everyone will be trying to find bargains and beat the system by getting more WAR than they pay for, but that is rare in free agency and everyone else is trying to do the same thing. Paying Trout $50 million that year barring injury will generate a better $/WAR than the average FA price for WAR that year.

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  33. pft says:

    Mike Trout may produce 50 million a year with his play. But in business, much to Marx chagrin, the worker does not get all that he produces. Overhead and executive salary/bonuses must be accounted for. That’s why players and workers almost never make more than 50% of what they produce and in capital intensive industries its as ow as 10-20%.

    Also, the Angels as currently constructed simply can’t value those 10 wins as much as a team like the Yankees with their 85 dollar a seat average ticket prices and revenues that are more than double if not triple league average.

    That said, 40 million for his early free agent years sounds about right. In baseball FA can be paid more than they should because young players subsidize the free agent contracts by making just a fraction of what they produce for 6 years.

    Trout really should be looking for a much longer commitment with an opt out if he is planning on letting the Angels have any of his free agent years for 30 million. I still think 15/400 (11 FA years) with an 8 yr optout works for both sides. If you look back at Arods first 10 year FA deal, all FA years, it would be worth 10/500 today.

    Trout like many young players may want to lock up financial security a bit too badly though and will take a lesser amount. Can’t say I blame him, anything more than 100 million is going to get left to his estate or in a trust, and injuries happen. Angles can mitigate their risk with insurance, but not sure Trout can.

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  34. Pennsy says:

    Any compensation that is a simple wage is underpaying Trout. His ceiling is that of a franchise-altering superstar but he will never be given a chance to actually own any piece of the team he could potentially create so much value for.

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  35. Miffleball says:

    I think the major wall you keep running into is the notion that it is reasonable to project trout for seven straight years of 8+ WAR. if he pulled that off it would give him nine such years in nine years. For comparisons sake, willie mays and babe Ruth each had 11 such seasons and bonds had ten. This projection basically suggests that at age 21 and two years into his career trout is likely to become not just the best player of all time but the best player of all time by a wide margin. While I certainly acknowledge that he has the talent to do so, paying him at this stage as though it’s a lock to happen may be premature

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  36. mmikulka says:

    “There’s 20 missing HBPs, but there’s also 16 fewer singles and six extra triples, and the differences mostly come out in the wash.”

    How can it not be relevant that this replacement player would reach base 36 fewer times than the Troutless portion of Jacoby Choo? That’s a 60 point difference in OBP and can’t be made up for with 6 extra triples!!

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