How Much Would You Pay for One Year of Mike Trout?

Recently, I was asked what I think turns out to be a pretty interesting thought experiment: if Mike Trout was released by the Angels and became a free agent, but decided he did not want to sign long term with any other team and simply preferred to go year to year instead, where would the bidding war for a single year of Trout’s services end up?

This question gets at a lot of different points, many of them kind of fascinating. What percentage of a team’s total payroll can be allocated to one player while still leaving enough flexibility to put a contender around a superstar? Is a team better off allocating a majority of their available dollars to a few premium assets, then using low-cost filler to round out the roster, or by spreading their money around to multiple players in order to reduce the risk of one injury or a single bad year ruining their entire season? Should a team prefer an +8 WAR player over two +4 WAR players for the same cost?

These are essentially the questions that this thought experiment would force us to answer. By limiting the scope of the contract to just a single year, we remove most of the questions about aging curves, future inflation, expected television revenues, and how much sense it might make to borrow from the future to finance a playoff run in the short term. By limiting the contract length to just one year, the question becomes essentially about the valuation we might place on elite performance.

This question isn’t without historical precedent, actually. In 2007, Roger Clemens signed a one year, $28 million contract with the Yankees, though they actually only paid him about $18.5 million because he didn’t reach the big leagues until June. Still, that was $17.4 million for four months, and this hypothetical would give us a full six months, so the $28 million valuation (in 2007 dollars) is perhaps more informative. Of course, it was also an NYY contract, so the $17.4 million they paid Clemens only represented 8.4% of their total payroll, something of a drop in the bucket for a star player. Even using the full $28 million valuation, Clemens’ salary would have been just 13.5% of NYY’s budget that year.

Clemens wasn’t that great in 2007, though, and we haven’t seen a similar kind of contract since. There have been one year deals for quality players — Hiroki Kuroda is making $15 million on a one year deal this season, for instance — but they’ve generally been for much lower salaries and for players not quite considered premium talents. Hiroki Kuroda’s contract probably doesn’t tell us that much about what Mike Trout would get if he hit the market this winter looking for a one year deal.

What about multi-year deals, though? Are there inferences we can make from contracts longer than one year about what a team might be willing to pay if they didn’t have to take on the risks associated with paying out multiple seasons? Of late, we’ve seen the best players in the game sign for something in the range of $24 to $28 million per season on contracts ranging from five to 10 years in length. The $25 million AAV (or numbers that can round to that) has kind of become the magic number of late, as that’s Ryan Howard, Felix Hernandez, Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke signed for, and CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, and Albert Pujols were all within $1M or so of that $25M AAV figure. Rather than escalating in annual salary, teams have simply convinced these players to sign for something close to that AAV by giving out even longer deals and signing them before players hit free agency.

It’s probably fair to say that if the market pays players like Josh Hamilton at $25 million per year, with all the baggage and risks that surrounded him, there would be a significant premium above that price level to not have the risks that come with aging players and longer term deals. It’s probably safe to say that the bidding for Trout on a one year deal would blow these $25M AAVs out of the water.

But the more interesting question is where the ceiling lies. With the average payroll exceeding $100 million now, a $25M salary for a star free agent often makes up less than 20% of a team’s total payroll, and they still have plenty of room to work with to fill out their roster. It wouldn’t be hard to argue that Trout is easily twice as valuable as Hamilton was perceived to be heading into last off-season, but is there a team that can realistically afford to pay $50 million per year to a single player?

The easy answer is the Yankees, because, well, they’re the Yankees. But MLB’s luxury tax penalties are pretty stiff, and the Alex Rodriguez suspension may allow them to escape the large taxes that come with exceeding the $189 million threshold for 2014. In a case where Trout pushed them back over the luxury tax tipping point, they wouldn’t just paying his salary, but also potentially a 50% tax on the overage, so now $50 million in salary might become $60 or even $70 million in actual costs. Mike Trout’s a great player, but would the Yankees voluntarily choose to take on that kind of financial hit?

And is any one player really worth that kind of cost anyway? As good as Trout is — on pace for his second +10 WAR season in a row and still just 21 years old — would a team be better off diversifying the kind of money he’d command to acquire multiple players in order to reduce their odds of getting no value from a massive chunk of their payroll? For instance, the Red Sox spent about $47 million (plus incentives, so probably a bit north of $50M) in 2013 salary during the last off-season, but ended up with Shane Victorino (+4.1 WAR), Koji Uehara (+2.2 WAR), Stephen Drew (+2.0 WAR), Mike Napoli (+1.9 WAR), David Ross (+0.6 WAR), Jonny Gomes (+0.6 WAR, +1 billion bro-hugs), and Joel Hanrahan (+0.0 WAR). Even with Hanrahan being a total zero, they’ve gotten +11.6 WAR from that group this year, a total that not even the most optimistic forecast for Trout could equal.

But that gets back into the question of risk versus value consolidation. If Trout could produce another +10 WAR season for that same ~$50 million in salary, is it better to have the opportunity to then find above replacement level players for minimal costs at the six roster spots you’ve now opened up? After all, if they didn’t have Mike Napoli, they’d have more playing time for Mike Carp, and if they didn’t have Stephen Drew, we probably would have seen Xander Bogaerts in the big leagues much earlier in the season. Smart teams can find decent role players for low cost salaries that would be able to produce above replacement level and not add significantly to the cost of the team’s payroll, so consolidating all of the value from those players into one roster spot could theoretically lead to a higher overall total.

But with that upside comes additional risk. If you went with the Trout-and-scrubs model, and then Trout blew out his knee trying to take an extra base, your season is probably over. The 2013 Dodgers show that it is theoretically possible to just light $50 million on fire and still build a winning team around the ashes of the wasted cash, but it required a $215 million payroll and some pretty great performances from a couple of low paid rookies in order to make it all work. The list of teams that could absorb having $50 million in dead money on the books basically begins with the Yankees and ends with the Dodgers. The other 28 teams would be screwed.

However, there’s no such thing as a risk free purchase in free agency, and it’s not like buying a bunch of mid-tier players always works out as well as it has for Boston this year. There may be heightened risks in consolidating all of your discretionary spending into one single superstar, but perhaps you see the value of getting +10 WAR from one guy as being worth the gamble.

So, I’m not going to write a conclusion. I’m legitimately interested in what FanGraphs readers think about this thought experiment. Instead of trying to convince you of why my number is the right number, I’d much rather see what the results from the crowd. To somewhat counteract the herd mentality of picking the most popular number, I’m going to set this poll up as a Google Doc, so you won’t be able to see what other people are inputting as their number. I’ll publish the results tomorrow, and talk about where I see the value proposition lying on this kind of decision.

For the purpose of this exercise, assume that you’re only getting one year of Mike Trout, and that having him for 2014 won’t give you an advantage in signing him to a long term deal after the season ends. Also, assume that the team you are in charge of has a $120 million budget, and that only $60 million of that is already committed to various players for next season. In its current form, your team projects as an 81-81 club, so your plan for the winter is to add as many wins as you can for $60 million in payroll expenditures in order to make a big playoff push and try to win the World Series.

Of the $60 million you have available to spend this winter, how much of that do you give to Mike Trout on a one year commitment?




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

168 Responses to “How Much Would You Pay for One Year of Mike Trout?”

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  1. Brendan says:

    It’s not my money! $11-ty billion!

    +28 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Scott says:

    How many roster spots are left to fill?

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    • Ben says:

      This is crucial to know before giving a legitimate answer

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TKDC says:

        Not really, the talent on the team is known to be an 81 win team. I think it is reasonable to assume there are a few, but not that many, roster spots to fill, and you can fill roster spots for $500,000 each if you want to have replacement level players.

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    • EDogg1438 says:

      Mike Trout can play all the positions at once so it isn’t that crucial.

      +52 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. eddiegaedel says:

    I said 30 million in the poll but was surprised it started at $25 million. I don’t like the idea of paying any one player more than $20 million in a season so I imagine some people would have selected lower if given the opportunity. That being said, Mike Trout is the exception to the rule.

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    • TKDC says:

      If your answer is lower than $25 million, it might as well be $0 million.

      +76 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Cidron says:

        true, because the other team will pay that 30+ mil/yr.

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      • eddiegaedel says:

        Guess I didn’t think of it that way. It’s so crazy to me to shell out $30 to anyone in a year. Obviously people would give it to him, but the question is, What would YOU give Mike Trout. I guess i’m not a GM for a reason :)

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    • Terence says:

      Ha, the number in my head the entire time was $60M. I was suprised there was not a higher option.

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    • LK says:

      You think a lot of people wouldn’t be willing to pay $25M to Mike Trout when they had $60M in salary to spend? You could be right, but that position strikes me as ludicrous.

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      • bdhudson says:

        The Angels paid Josh Hamilton roughly that amount. Every single team that could afford it would pay him at least $25M.

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        • LK says:

          To be honest, if Mike Trout’s available for $25M, I think every team figures out a way to afford it if they’re given the chance.

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        • leeroy says:

          Agree. If Mike Trout knocked on the doors of Tropicana Field today and said, “I want to be a Ray, but it will cost you $25 million.” Andrew Friedman would search every couch cushion in Florida for spare change and take Raymond the mascot off of the payroll to make it happen

          +54 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dirtwoman says:

      Ah, Mr. Angelos has stirred from his undisclosed location, I see.

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  4. Dr. Evil says:

    One miiiiiiilllllion dollars!

    +53 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. TKDC says:

    It’s funny, if you added Trout, you are probably looking at a playoff team (wild card) before factoring in what you could do with the rest of the money. But I don’t think you want to settle for a projected 89 win team (I put Trout at 8 WAR for next year), so how much value can you get with the rest of the money? Enough to give you a good shot at the division?

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    • bdhudson says:

      Well, you’re also assuming in that scenario that Trout is replacing a 0-WAR player to get you to 89 wins. I think that’s probably generous given that in 2012 there were a total of 11 position players with <0 WAR. You're probably still gaining 6-7 wins, but you can't assume a starting point of 0.

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      • Julian says:

        You could, if you assume an OF is hitting free agency or if you’re going to non-tender him

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        • bdhudson says:

          So you’re assuming that a team without a full roster is an 81-win team? As it stands, you win 81 games. That implies you have a team that can do that without Mike Trout. The likelihood of Trout replacing a 0-win player is incredibly low.

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        • TKDC says:

          The player that Trout is replacing can be traded to improve the roster elsewhere. When building a roster in the off season, it is pretty easy to avoid having highly valuable players not help you. You just trade them for other needs. Not a genius concept.

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      • Terence says:

        I’m not sure how you came up with that number. I found 200 position players in 2012 who produced less than 0 WAR.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=np&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=10&type=8&season=2012&month=0&season1=2012&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=21%2ca

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        • bdhudson says:

          Because I didn’t have a 10 PA cutoff. I used qualified position players because the assumption is that you are replacing one starter with another starter, right? You aren’t rolling into 2014 with Matt McBride as your starting left fielder if you think you’re an 81 win team.

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        • Dan says:

          Well, there were only 11 that qualified for the batting title. You do have to put SOMEONE in CF every day to win 81 games…

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        • snack man says:

          bdhudson, most teams will give a rookie a try if they are truly producing 0 WAR, so they rarely are qualified.

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      • Tim says:

        Also, adding up WAR is not intended to produce team wins, as Dave will tell you in every article except this one.

        +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TheUncool says:

        There’s a flaw in that logic. IF you’re not replacing an essentially 0-WAR player w/ Trout, then what makes you think you’re replacing 0-WAR players w/ some lesser acquisitions using the $$$ saved?

        You’d have to apply the same logic to each and every other lesser player you’d acquire as you would Trout in this scenario.

        I suspect your best bet is to sign Trout to whatever’s needed and then do your best to find great bargains (that most other teams overlook) w/ the rest of your $ and also rearrange your roster/team as need be to make the most of Trout’s acquisition.

        Basically, you’ll have to try to squeeze out surplus value and beat the projections w/ the remaining roster spots you’d fill after giving Trout his $45-50M (or possibly more). How else are you going to try to win a championship by adding a projected 9-plus-WAR player to an 81-win team? Just expect the team to win games exactly equal to the aggregate projection? The game doesn’t actually work that way in reality…

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        • TheUncool says:

          That and make some shrewd moves in trades, roster management, etc. to adjust and complement…

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        • TKDC says:

          They don’t even have to be shrewd moves. Every 81-win team has glaring holes, so if the current CF (or LF) is valuable, he can be traded to fill another hole. This isn’t rocket science. The point about player WAR not equaling team WAR is a good one, though.

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        • TheUncool says:

          That don’t have to be shrewd moves, but you can always use more of them, if you’re looking to win it all. ;-)

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      • Bob M says:

        Bear in mind that the 2013 Brewers have 3 players below 0 WAR on the season – just at first base! Especially given that you have $60 million that needs to be spent, it should be pretty safe to assume that Trout is going to either fill an empty spot or replace a poor player.

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    • rustydude says:

      Yeah but is 8 WAR really a good projection?

      Szymborski ran the ZIP #’s on him before 2013 season started and it spit out 8. Then Trout went on to do this. I think an 8 WAR projection is now obsolete. Mind you, even Szymborski referred to the projection as a bit aggressive and it would be tough to project any player at 10 WAR before the season started. But it seems to me that after this year, where he smashed the 8 WAR projections, that you have to bump him to 8.5 or 9. Splitting hairs, maybe. But it’s weird to think that a 9 WAR projection is even in the conversation.

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      • Tim says:

        You can’t really pay for 9 or 10 WAR though because it’s all downside risk from there. Even if you project him to 9, there isn’t a normal bell curve around that.

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        • Hank says:

          is it all downside risk? for a normal player, yes, i would definitely say that after such an insane season you basically have to assume he’s going to regress downward. but trout’s only two full seasons in the majors have both been (or are both going to be, assuming nothing crazy in the next few months) 10.5 WAR monstrosities. last year, his WRC+ was 166; this year, steamer/zips have him finishing in the 170s. is it possible he’s just redefining the ceiling for a player of his caliber? i think there’s at least some chance of that. so yeah, while i agree that i would still take even or slightly below even odds on him doing worse next year, i don’t think you can totally rule out the chance that he could just bust out an even better season and get some upside.

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        • Tim says:

          It’s not 100% downside risk but if you project him at 10 it’s much more likely he’ll get 8 than 12 just because 12 is really really hard. Anybody on the edges is going to have this problem.

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        • TheUncool says:

          Remember though that you’re not building an entire roster from scratch around Trout as your 1st piece. In this scenario, Trout would be the big piece that puts you over into serious contention. And you’re not going to get into serious contention by spreading the $$$ around on lesser players for a likely, nearly full roster that can already win 81 games.

          When you’re about to shoot the mooon, you really have to just aim for the moon and not worry so much about the downside risk. Not saying you don’t leave anything for some potential bargains and maneuverability, but what’s the positive alternative to expecting 9-plus WAR from Trout in the given scenario though?

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  6. marlins12 says:

    It all depends on which team I’m GM’ing, what my needs are and what the available free agents/trade candidates look like to fill-in those needs.

    I’ll say $30 million. That gives me another $30 million to pay another 5 or so players.

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  7. La Truite de l'Amour says:

    How much would Dave Cameron pay for one night with Mike Trout?

    +41 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Steve-o says:

    Wouldn’t matter because I’d trade him in July

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Gerald says:

      That was my immediate thought. I know it’s kind of cheating the exercise but the idea of acquiring and then immediately trading Trout for say…the top 5 prospects of any top 10 farm system seems like a pretty swell idea to me.

      Or for the Angels (and this seems like sacrilegious) but trading Trout to someone who is willing to take on Pujols and Hamilton’s contract.

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      • Bob M says:

        I think Dave looked at that earlier this year, and decided that not even the Dodgers or Yankees could take on that much dead weight. Even for a player like Trout.

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      • Darren24 says:

        Why wouldn’t that team just outbid you now and keep their prospects, instead of letting you sign him just to gut their farm to trade for him? This doesn’t remotely fit the scenario.

        +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • chief00 says:

      Kobayashi Maru, MLB-style. Well played, Cap’n. :)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Mike Trout says:

    60M, obviously….

    +21 Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Do we factor the backlash from MLB and ownership in for throwing $50M for one year at a player?

    My answer is $32,200,025 — that’s 15% more than the highest AAV ever awarded to a MLB player (Roger Clemens’ $28,000,022 (2007)http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/highest-paid-players/ )

    If someone told me — you’re 22 and I’m willing to pay you 115% of the highest AAV ever awarded to an MLB player and that player would be a surefire HOF minus PED factors — I’d take it.

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    • Moves Like Munenori says:

      That was behind my thinking as well. I picked $32M, mostly due to the inertia that has to be overcome in paying more than is currently accepted. If there were a bidding war, however, there is no telling where this would end up, collusion be damned.

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    • Terence says:

      You’re not really comparing a 45 year old pitcher to a 23 year old outfielder are you?

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      • TJ says:

        You’re not really missing the point are you?

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        • leeroy says:

          “If someone told me — you’re 22 and I’m willing to pay you 115% of the highest AAV ever awarded to an MLB player and that player would be a surefire HOF minus PED factors — I’d take it.”

          The problem with this reasoning is that another team will certainly be willing to offer 115.1%+. Think of it as a bidding war with 29 other teams. At what point do you stop bidding?

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        • Jason says:

          Somewhere north of $40M.

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        • I guess I’d get outbid — but I’m a Pirates fan so I’m used to it. I remember what Jason Kendall’s contract meant post injury. I’d rather spend tons of money on scouting and development and find the next 0-6 Trout than spend $50-$60M on a year of Trout.

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        • Brandon says:

          The problem with that line of thinking is that your scouting dept might find the next trout and you have a good team and someone picks him before your turn to draft.

          Or thinking there will be another trout in your lifetime.

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    • JayT says:

      The highest single year ever paid out though was A-Rod in 2009-2010 when he was getting $33 million. I don’t see any way Trout wouldn’t set the single season record.

      For me, I said $40. That leaves you with a ton of money to upgrade other spots. I could be convinced to go even higher depending on what other free agents would be available.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dan says:

        Completely agree there is no way Trout wouldn’t set the single season record. That $33 mill to Alex was offset a lot by having to also pay him 20+ per year into his twilight/decline years.

        Here we are talking 1 year of Trout in his peak (or even pre-peak) year. If Trout were a FA at the end of this season I would have to think he would blow Alexs’ 10/$275 out of the water due to the next 10 years basically having no decline years (due to age at least) incorporated in it. So he would be looking at AVERAGING $30 mill a year. A one year deal would therefore have to beat the $30 mill significantly. Why would he take it otherwise?

        1 year deal means much less long term injury risk for the team to take on and even if it blows the team past the luxury tax threshold it’s just one year, so the penalty is minimised. Make a run at the WS and then drop back under the limit next year.

        There would be at least two teams out there willing to go up to and beyond 40 I wouldbe quite certain.

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        • Hank says:

          yeah, i think you got the point some others are missing — it’s not how much you think he’s worth, it’s the lowest value that only one team thinks he’s worth, and that is definitely more than $40 mil.

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  11. Kyle says:

    What does this say about the Angels who have Trout for fractions of pennies on the dollar, yet still suck?

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  12. KingCorran says:

    I went with 45 million. Why?

    Because the first 1-2 WAR are much easier to get. You only have so many spots to fill, but there are a lot of fairly safe 1-2 WAR players out there. Mike Trout’s as safe a bet to reach his lofty projection as you could ask for… and if one or two 1-2 WAR guys flop, they’re much easier to replace with MiLBers than a 3-4 WAR guy.

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  13. GilaMonster says:

    It really depends what I need and what I have. Do I need offense or pitching? What does my outfield look like?

    If I needed pitching help, I’d rather go after Choo,Josh Johnson/Lincecum,Haren and a few smaller prices.

    I’f I needed offense, I’d probably pay up to $40m for Trout and add a few smaller pieces

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  14. TBH says:

    I think you guys are underestimating what the algos are going to project at the end of this season. It’s got to be more than 8 WAR, given the Tango aging curve and the lack of BABIP/xBABIP differential.

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  15. Anon says:

    Also, assume that the team you are in charge of has a $120 million budget

    With this unique situation, I wouldn’t be surprised for the owner of a team at the right spot on the win curve to ignore the budget for one year. Detroit possibly?

    With the $60M limit you give, I would say $35M seems right. However, $50M is a more likely number without your specific limitations (and possibly up to $75M).

    Also, the signing team would get a year window to try for an extension and a draft pick if Trout leaves.

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    • Anon21 says:

      “Also, the signing team would get a year window to try for an extension”

      Well, he does say to discount that in giving your answer.

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      • Anon says:

        Which I did with the $35M number (along with the budget limit set by Dave). In reality, GMs would consider a one year negotiating window to have a significant worth.

        I’ll split out the valuation I made. Talent/production in the range of $40M-$60M. Negotiating window $5M-$15M. Draft pick $1M-$5M. Opportunity cost (win-curve evaluation) $0-$20M. Risk of injury/underperformance and backlash potential from fans, players, owners, and the league would act as a damper on the final cost.

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  16. Braves Fan says:

    Depends on which team I’m the GM of. Hypothetically, if BJ Upon wasn’t on the Braves (or even if he is) 40+ Million plus for Trout would make a lot of sense. They have starters at every position and a lot of depth in the rotation and BP. Without Trout they are a 90-95 win team (bj upton’s 0 WAR) but with him they are possibly a 100-105 win team. A team like Philly though might be better off spreading the money around. So long answer is 42 Million.

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  17. Krog says:

    The Yankees would sign Trout for at least $10 million for the rest of the current season if they could.

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    • Jeff says:

      Looking at what they took on with Soriano and Wells I’d take the over on 15 million that they’d pay for the rest of the season considering the value of making the playoffs.

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  18. Bip says:

    The real answer is obviously something deferred. Probably $25 million for year one, and then $20 million the next year, despite the fact he’s not on the team that year. That’s basically the universal solution to affording players a team can’t actually afford.

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  19. SC says:

    I put down $42 Million. This seems to be nearing Trout’s value on the Open Market. I probably would have gone higher if I had a bigger payroll. Trout AAV on a long-term deal probably starts at 30 something assuming if living in a bubble he was a true free agent. This figure gives a higher per year value as a return to minimizing risk. Good discussion question- Dave

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  20. Ian says:

    I’d pay more for one year of Anna Kendrick, if you know what I’m saying.

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    • MovieFan says:

      So you’re a producer looking to make Pitch Perfect 2. Why are you on this board? Just because the title of your movie has the word ‘Pitch’ in it?

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  21. Coodle says:

    Twist: I allocate the entirety of the funds on Bloomquist, Yuni Betancourt, Francoeur, Ibanez, Delmon & Michael Young, Morse, Ankiel (to pitch), Zito (to hit), and Karstens (the eye candy)

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  22. Max says:

    I went with 42 million. My thinking is you get trout for a shitload which makes you a fringe contender, yet you still have 18 million to improve the roster, at a time when older veterans are always available for cheap, 1 year deals. Considering all the prime locations like New York and Los Angeles would be lining up to sign this guy for 30-35 million, which is probably closer to his market value, this hypothetical mid market team would likely have to overpay to sway him. by paying around 42 million, your 81 million team becomes a fringe 90 win team with money still available to spend

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  23. will says:

    I would pay close to the full 60, even with a projection of about 8 WAR. A superstar like Mike Trout increases gate receipts, jersey sales, and hype around the brand of the team. Going all out on a guy like Trout sends an exciting message to your fan base, even if from a production standpoint he is less valuable than Boston’s assortment of quality players. Both in the short and long term, signing a guy like Trout can increase the budget of your ball club, creating money to sign more quality guys.

    The additional revenue superstars can generate is rarely mentioned on fangraphs, and is the reason why we see big name players routinely get more than their projected production would warrant.

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    • will says:

      Example: The Mets probably could’ve gotten more production if they spent David Wright’s 140 mil on a combination of other guys. But as a Mets fan, the signing got me more excited about the team and the ownership. I bought a David Wright jersey and bought tickets to 20 games this year. I wouldn’t have gone to as many games or bought a jersey if they used the money on the more productive combination of Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew instead.

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      • Hank says:

        i agree with this reasoning to an extent, since there was definitely not a lot of general excitement about the red sox at the beginning of the year (even though i thought cherington made a lot of good signings, and it seems to have turned out well), so maybe it would help with those things right off the bat. but now the red sox have about a ~90% shot to make the playoffs, and i think that helps a lot more than being at ~2% and having a david wright-type player, for the rest of this year and beyond. so i don’t know that i really like this idea.

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        • will says:

          Well of course being in the playoff race will be a revenue boom, but it’s not like the Mets could have spent Wright’s 20 mil this year and gotten enough pieces to put them anywhere near the playoff hunt.

          My point is that when calculating a player’s value to a team, ‘star power’ should count as an extra 1-2 WAR, because the additional revenue the star generates can be spent on other players.

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      • olethros says:

        Unless you bought your jersey at the stadium, the Mets didn’t benefit from that – apparel sales are divided equally among all teams. Tickets and concessions are the benefit there.

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      • Darren24 says:

        You sound like a fangirl more obsessed with your favorite player than you are with your team winning and losing.

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  24. Ballfan says:

    60 mil
    easy

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  25. Alex says:

    Who would actually be stupid enough to spend 60m on him? My god, you could spend that in much better ways.

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  26. jruby says:

    This is a ridonkulously awesome question.

    I said 34mil. If my goal was to take a team from .500 to the playoffs, I’d want to try to get an elite hitter and an elite pitcher. I’d think Trout and an ace or plus-2 could get you from 81 wins to 91 no sweat.

    The right answer might be “whatever he asks for,” though, and that’s because he’s simply glorious.

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  27. Owen says:

    I think you have to go as close to the full $60 million as you need to to sign him. Adding the best player in the game makes you an automatic threat to make the playoffs and gets your fan base excited and spending money. I don’t think there really is a downside to spending as much as you need to get him. Even if you get a worst case scenario where he blows out his ACL day one of Spring Training, you’ve already sold tickets and jerseys, you’ll get a good chunk of your money back from insurance, you’re still a .500 club (assuming you gave Trout $60 million and had no money left for other additions) who could overachieve and stay in the playoff hunt, and most importantly, you won’t have gone over budget this season and will again have $60 million burning a hole in your pocket next offseason to add to your .500 club. Basically, you just pay the man!

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  28. Rule of Law says:

    If you could get Trout for 35, do it up.

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  29. J. D. KaPow says:

    $60 million. And a pony (I’m told he doesn’t need a bicycle).

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  30. Shyam says:

    I need more information. What league/division is my hypothetical team in and am I in a ‘baseball town’. Because depending on if I’m in a ‘baseball town’ and/or easy division Trouty’s total (on and off-field) economic value skyrockets closer to that 60. Also, in this hypothetical is my pitching league average along with my hitting or do I have a comparative advantage on one side of the ball (and conversely below avg on the other side).

    Another thing, for the last few years, the $/WAR have been around 4.5-4.9 depending on calculation. Considering that this is a 1 year deal so you minimize long term injury risk saddling your books, you are getting a ball player for his age 22 season….$50 million is when I would even pick up the phone if I was Trout.

    If I were trout, I would ask and probably be able to get 55-60 on the open market.

    If I was a GM for this hypothetical, I would offer 43-45 but it is pretty pointless since this strips away so many realities.

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  31. jpg says:

    I went with $37MM. It’s a 50% bump or there about ($37.5MM wasn’t an available option). That would leave $23MM and plenty of options for roster construction. It would be enough wiggle room for three solid regulars, two stars players or one superstar.

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    • pft says:

      So is it your contention Trout increases revenue by 37 million or more? If 37 or less, whats in it for the owners? No profit in it that I see,

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      • Bobby Bonilla says:

        Considering that revenue includes expenses… yes paying Trout $37 million would increase revenue by $37 million.

        The word you meant was profit and it is quite likely you would make one by paying Trout the money if you manage to make the playoffs.

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  32. Scallywag says:

    Perhaps the prospect of landing Trout for one year might convince some high-salary players on some contending teams to restructure their own contracts to accommodate? Outside the rules of this scenario, I know. Anyways, how about 28 million with a games-not-on-the-DL clause that would push it to 34 million if he were to remain healthy all year? MIke Ilitch would do it.

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  33. Cuck City says:

    $500,000 since its his second year and thats what I can pay him.

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  34. dave says:

    No doubt Trout is the best player to come around in a long time, however, before I would spend monster cash on a single player I would buy 2-4 lower tier players. If he would go down you would never recover.

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  35. Bill says:

    I said $30 million, then thought about the actual question, for 2014, with that FA class, I would likely go north of $50 million. There is not another 5 free agents next year that would make you good enough to be a playoff team, however with Trout and one of the top 5 pitchers you are probably there depending on your division.

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  36. pft says:

    How much is making the playoffs worth to a team? Probably depends on the team. Have heard studies use 30 million but if you give it all to one player whats the point? Capitalism 101, need to save some for the owners.

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  37. Tim says:

    I’m gonna be honest, I would rather have $60m and a mediocre baseball team.

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  38. Everett says:

    38 million.

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  39. Nick says:

    I went with $37M, but I could see going up to ~$42M. Even if you believe that he is a 10 WAR player valued at $60M, he wouldn’t get it. There’s too much risk in putting all your eggs in one basket, and that number is just so crazily unprecedented I don’t see how he could bargain for it. If he were 25 and had put up 5 consecutive 10 win seasons, I could see him getting close to the $60M mark, but spending somewhere around $40M would shatter previous records and allow the team to spend on bit pieces, like a Scott Feldman type, a setup man, etc. to round out the team and maybe eek out a 91-71 projection.

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  40. Aaron says:

    I don’t like that the lowest number is 25 million. I think players in general are overpaid and are more lucky than deserving of that type of money. I think I would rather offer 15 million and lose the bidding war than put all my assets into one player. Unless I am the Yankees or Dodgers, I would not legitimately consider more than $15 million. My other concern is that he turns into Scott Kazmir: a once great young talented player who had an undefined ceiling and injuries quickly lowered it.

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  41. David says:

    in a sealed bid, collusion-free auction, I can envision 1-year of trout’s services going for over 60 million. it’s only one year of commitment, and contending teams are bidding for his services as well as depriving their competition of his talents.

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  42. Steve S says:

    This article assumes that a 1-year contract is an automatic advantage to his AAV, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the other way. A long-term contract adds value to a franchise in terms of stability/guarantee at a position moving forward and long-term dividends for marketing down the road. If you spend all year hyping Trout and then lose him next summer, that’s not getting a full return on your investment.

    Trout’s other widely-cited advantage, his youth, could be a detriment to his hypothetical contract, too. He just hasn’t had the service time to build as much of a name brand (Well, he’s Mike Effing Trout, so that could be an outlier in this case).

    With this in mind, Trout may be worth $50 million for a 1-year contract, but wouldn’t be shocked if he got something more in the $20-$25 million range. However, if we include long-term deals? I could totally envision $30-$35 million AAV over 10 years.

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    • Simon says:

      Of course it’s an advantage to his AAV to have a one year deal. The worst downside is that he breaks on opening day and you lose your $35 million or whatever. Compare that to the downside of a Pujols deal.

      Look at next season. The Red Sox need a CF. The Yankees OF is pretty terrible. The Reds need a CF. You could argue the Cards could be interested in an elite, true CF. The Nats could do with an upgrade on Denard Span. The Giants need offence. There would be more who would be interested too. Are you really suggesting that none of these teams would offer Mike Trout more than $25 million to play for them next season? I think every single one of them would offer that.

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  43. NATS Fan says:

    I assumed I was the GM of a contender and I have a whole in CF or LF. then, $45 million

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  44. RJackson says:

    The Angels already answered this question when they got him for one year for 510K… :P

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  45. Eddie says:

    600 quatloos.

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  46. Joncarlos says:

    I said 44 but I think he would go higher. When Choo hits the FA market this year what is he going to get? 7mil per win?

    If you think he’s an 8-9 WAR player (and worth 6-7 over your current LF/CF) then you have to pay at least that, and maybe more given that you don’t have any long term risk factors like the last year of his contract being his age 37 season.

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  47. SmokingPoet says:

    I’d give Mike Trout 45 million to be my friend for a year. Seems like a good guy.

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  48. theetrain7 says:

    If you are the Tigers GM, would you trade Cabrera and Verlander for Trout and Wilson??

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    • beisbol says:

      Without question you would. Verlander’s contract doesn’t look to have any surplus and is quite possibly a burden at this point. Miggy is already making good money and is older, so has less extra value as well.

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      • Professor Ross Eforp says:

        Yes. Yes. Yes. A million times, yes.

        CJ Wilson is only signed through 2016, so he could turn into a boat anchor and the penalty wouldn’t be all that stiff.

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  49. olethros says:

    $28M. I know I’d lose the bidding, but as a GM I’m never going to allocate 25% of my payroll to a single player. Give me a higher payroll budget and I’ll go up to about $50-$55M, but never exceed 23% or so of my total payroll.

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  50. Bob Spaziani says:

    It is obvious that the overall value that Mike Trout brings to the field everyday is unique among his peers. His rare combination of speed, power and athleticism warrants a 1 year deal well over 25M. Trout has successfully abolished all thoughts of a sophomore slump which leads me to believe that no major regression will occur before his age 30 season. Because of this, I would offer Trout a 1yr deal between 35M-38M. While Trout alone has the potential to single-handedly win the club a few more games, the possibility of a 90-95 win season will hinge on the performances of other players. With the remaining 22 or so million, I would try to acquire a grab bag of 5-6 mid level guys to fill the roster.

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  51. Mister says:

    “Even with Hanrahan being a total zero, they’ve gotten +11.6 WAR from that group this year, a total that not even the most optimistic forecast for Trout could equal”

    Wait a minute, he’s on pace for over 11 WAR this year. I think he would go well over 12 WAR if he could do 2012′s fielding and baserunning production in the same year as 2013′s batting production.

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  52. Hurtlocker says:

    All the Subway sammiches he can eat in a lifetime!!!

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  53. me says:

    I just don’t believe in putting all my eggs in one basket. If he goes too hard into a wall, if he gets into a collision in the outfield, if he breaks his arm in a fight, if he’s suspended for failing a drug/steroid test, if he’s hit by a drunk driver, if he gets a DUI, if his charter plane goes down in the Caribbean… you’re cooked.

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  54. Robert M says:

    A frequent comment has been that there is much less risk to a 1-yr deal than a long-term contract, but I think that’s being overblown. Sure, it’s better to have a 1-yr, $50M deal blow up than a 10-yr, $250M deal, but you expose your team to a lot of season-level “idiosyncratic” risk with a 1 year deal. Especially for a very young hitter, who is more likely to suffer a temporary injury over the next 5 years than a career-ending injury. Take the last 5 years of Evan Longoria for example. If starting in 2009 you had signed him to a huge 5-yr, $150M deal you’d have basically gotten your money’s worth (+29.5 WAR so far, probably +30-31 by the end of the year). But if you had signed him to a 1-yr, $40M deal in 2012, you’d have been devastated with only 2.5 WAR. I think that when you’re dealing with a very talented young player you would actually be better off “diversifying” with a several year deal than facing the season-specific risks associated with a 1 year contract.

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    • Professor Ross Eforp says:

      Why use Evan Longoria instead of Grady Sizemore? What kind of contract could have have goten in 2008 after a four year run of 26.9 WAR? He was 26 years old and arguably the best player in baseball.

      Would you rather have signed him to that 1 year $40MM deal or a 5 year $150MM deal? Kind of a crazy question, too, because Sizemore on the free agent market would have been looking at something like 8 years $200MM minimum.

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      • Bob M says:

        I’m sorry, when was Sizemore even in the conversation for best player in MLB? $25 million per season, especially back in 2008, is simply ridiculous.

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        • Professor Ross Eforp says:

          Really? It shouldn’t be that hard to type “Grady Sizemore” into the search function at the top there.

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        • Professor Ross Eforp says:

          Sizemore was 4th in WAR over the four year period to begin his career. He was behind Pujols, Utley, and ARod. He was at least two years younger than all of them, and seven years younger than ARod. You may not have been paying attention because it was baseball not being shown on ESPN every night, but Grady Sizemore was awesome at baseball, and yeah, I’m pretty sure he would have gotten a monster deal after 2008.

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      • Professor Ross Eforp says:

        2005 (12th)
        2006 (2nd 0.4 behind Pujols)
        2007 (12th)
        2008 (5th)

        Those are his ordinal rankings amongst hitters by WAR. In 2008, the Yankees signed 28 year old Mark Teixera (4 year war of 20.2) to an 8 year contract worth $180MM.

        Yeah, I would definitely call it “simply ridiculous” that a younger, better, player might be able to squeeze an additional $20MM out of them over the course of 8 years.

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  55. Professor Ross Eforp says:

    $50MM

    Dave says that the contribution from the Boston crew is overly optimistic for Trout, and it is, but it’s also overly optimistic for the Boston crew. Is Shane Victorino really a +4.1 player at this stage? Maybe, if you believe he is really 22.2 runs better than average in the field. He produced half of that one time 6 years ago.

    Is 38 year old Koji Uehara really a +2.2 win player? Can Mike Napoli be expected to post a +7.9 in the fielding runs category? Don’t get me wrong, Boston deserves a ton of credit for turning around the ship really fast with a group that has performed way above expectations, but why is the Boston crew an appropriate baseline? Why don’t we compare it to what Toronto did? If we can use this type of hindsight, then I say do the following:

    Trout $50MM (+8.6)
    Raburn $1MM (+2.7)
    Kazmir $1MM (+1)
    Byrd $700M (+3.5)
    Melancon $525M (+1.9)
    etc.

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  56. Ryan says:

    I had the winning bid on Mike Trout in my Fantasy league. I spent $89 of a budget of $260 million. That is ~35% of payroll. The average MLB team payroll is ~$105mm so $35mm would be about the floor I’d say for trout’s deal. BTW despite spending half my money on two players (the other being Cano) I’ve been on top of my league the whole year, so Trout was worth every penny.

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    • Professor Ross Eforp says:

      There are innumerable holes in this line of thinking, but here are severa:

      1) Every player in the league was a free agent. The teams that didn’t win Trout still had the opportunity to win all of the other great players.

      2) I am guessing you were dealing with something well short of 30 owners.

      3) Real money is actually involved in paying Mike Trout. If he blows out his knee, you’re out $50, not an actual $89MM.

      4) Your analysis is post hoc. It’s nice that you’re winning your fantasy league, but that’s based on what has already happened. If a team were guaranteed Trout’s production from this year, then the answer is that you spend the entire $60MM on him. Even if your team is still no good, his trade value is going to be absurd (even with the price tag).

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  57. Don says:

    The question has too many variables even with the controls posed in the question. How good is your current OF and how weak are your other position players? If you have 5 WAR players throughout your OF, but crappy infielders, then allocating the money makes more sense. Also, depends if there are enough other upgrades available to spend a chunk of your $60M on something better in the FA market.

    All that being said, I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t get at least $35-$40M. The Dodgers would probably offer it and just eat Eithier’s money with the way they have been printing money.

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    • Professor Ross Eforp says:

      Players are fungible enough that you can trade them for other players.

      If you have a 3 win outfielder, it is reasonable that there is a trading partner out there that you can trade that OF for maybe 2-4 wins.

      The question for me has less to do with your starting lineup, and more to do with the guys that will be filling the other holes on your roster.

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  58. Rob in CT says:

    $30 million. That’s 1/4 of the total payroll. I recognize this would probably not be enough to get him. It’s hard to go for more w/o knowing the specifics of the rest of the roster. Who are the other OFers on this team and what is their contract status? What are the teams weaknesses and strengths? What’s the rest of the FA market look like? Who is available in trade?

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  59. Urban Shocker says:

    For the purposes of this exercise, I assumed I was a team that’s relatively close to being competitive AND has current OF issues. 2 teams jumped to mind pretty quickly Seattle and Toronto, neither of whom has an OF as a top 5 prospect.
    $45 million.

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  60. hildebeast21 says:

    There are 2 teams in baseball that wouldn’t replace their current CF with Trout–Pirates and Brewers. Trout is likely a defensive upgrade over every other CF out there who can hit a lick. Since this is a 1-year deal, the issues of him wearing down long-term don’t apply, but maybe he gets to DH every 8th game to rest his legs for the anticipated playoff run. That would mean roughly 0 positional value. Assume that another year of gained muscle and lost fast-twitchiness and some bad reads/paths in his (potentially) new stadium reduce his defensive abilities in CF to league average. Meaning, 0 fielding value added. Also assume 600 plate appearances, despite his being young and very healthy. Then depress (because regressing still wouldn’t drop his rates this low) his stats across the board so that he is something like a .300/.375/.500 hitter with ~30 stolen bases in ~37 attempts (3 stolen base runs added) and 7 other base running runs added. So that’s about 35 hitting runs, 3 stolen base runs, 7 base running runs, 0 positional runs, and 0 fielding runs, which gives 45 runs above replacement. Factor in the standard 20 replacement runs, and you have a 65 total run player, or 6.5 WAR. Then be ridiculously conservative with your WAR dollars and assume $5million per, and you have a $32.5 million value as his floor.
    Now assume that the 22-year old continues to develop physically and mentally while avoiding injuries. You’re looking at a .340/.440/.570 guy and 65 batting runs, 5 stolen base runs, 10 base running runs, 2.5 positional runs, 7.5 fielding runs, and 20 replacement runs. There you have 11 WAR. Now assume WAR value is $6million per, and you have a $66million guy. Make it easy and split the difference, you have a $49.25million value.
    Since nearly everyone prefers round numbers, that’s $50million.
    I think the Toronto Blue Jays would gladly pay $50million to Mike Trout for one season.
    I responded with $47, because I like prime numbers.

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  61. Dan Ugglas Forearm says:

    I think the fact that it’s a one-year contract makes the situation a bit more flexible. I think ownership wouldn’t mind splurging for a year, knowing that their investment couldn’t burden them for any longer than a season. Could the ownership of the Nats be talked into paying $13 million a year for Dan Haren over 3-4 years instead of one? Or $14 million over 4-5 years rather than two for Soriano? Will the players that are offered (and accept) qualifying offers be worth $13-14 million? Probably not. But the fact that it doesn’t morph your teams future makes it more manageable, even if it’s somewhat of a placebo effect. I guess it goes back to the question of whether it’s better to win a World Series once every 10 years, but only win the division twice in those 10 years, or consistently make the playoffs without winning a World Series.

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  62. Mister says:

    I think I would have more interest in paying for him if I were already a 90-win team. 81-81 and adding Mike Trout could easily still not be enough to make the playoffs. I guess I’d want him if I was 81-81 and in a terrible division, but otherwise I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for 1 year unless I thought I was locking in a 100-win team.

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  63. FeslenR says:

    $1 million dollars (pinky to lip)

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  64. Nick C says:

    It’s hard to say because Trout is doing what he is doing in real life right now for the Angels, and they still suck. Unless Trout can pitch no hitter after no hitter on no rest for 162, I think you have to pay him a lower amount like 30-40 million with still enough room to bring in guys to protect him in the line-up. It is a team sport after all.

    Sure you could hope you could Billy Beane it or something, but let’s be realistic you’re probably not going to.

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  65. chief00 says:

    Easy: $30MM for Trout and $30MM for Cano. Play ball.

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  66. billy bob thortain says:

    Who’s Mike Trout?

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  67. Matt says:

    I went with $36 million. I was thinking a lot about keeping just enough money aside to get a couple of players who could reasonably bump the team up to the +95 win range.

    The reason I don’t go to the $45 million and up range is that I still see the team as being fringy to make the playoffs, and ultimately the purpose is to win a WS, not to have the best player on Earth on your team. If paying Trout $50 million means you miss the playoffs, then under the circumstances here I think you paid too much.

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  68. Spa City says:

    When you take into account the near certainty that you would offer a qualifying offer after the one-year contract, you could recoup some value in the draft next year. Also, if your team under-performed you could treat Trout’s salary as a suck cost and trade him for a significant return mid-season (i.e. imagine what playoff contenders would offer for a half season of free Mike Trout). The only way you would lose everything is if Trout suffered a major injury, but in that case (presumably) you would have insurance. But still – there would be some degree of dice rolling involved. It would be an all-in scenario.

    I would bet on Trout being worth 9 WAR (assuming he cannot maintain a BABIP over .370 for three straight years), and I would discount my offer a little bit for injury risk… I would offer him $40 million.

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  69. Ven says:

    But a lot of Trout’s value is in his age so I don’t think the One year deal really captures his true worth. If I had to pick a one year price, I would pick something lower than Cabrera.

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  70. Jim says:

    A consensus building here (http://the-mike-trout-sign-o-meter.com/) is that Trout will sign with the Yankees for 10 years and $320MM+. The Angels will find a way to not sign him.

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