Nats Have Treated Their Young Stars Right

Mike Trout and his agent aren’t thrilled about the current state of his contract, according to this post from Yahoo’s Big League Stew. Trout is scheduled to make just over league minimum the year after he was the runner up for AL MVP, while guys like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Vernon Wells are making unbelievable gobs of money for the same team. The Angels seem to be committed to paying players for past performance, not for future output, especially considering the size of those big deals.

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals have decided to treat their young, future stars right on the young side of their contracts. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Anthony Rendon were all signed to MLB contracts. Strasburg signed an historic $15.1 million deal, Harper signed a $9.9 million deal, and Rendon signed a $7.2 million deal. It’s a philosophy in which Nats GM Mike Rizzo clearly believes strongly: pay players for future potential, not necessarily for past performance.

While Trout barely makes make more than league minimum as one of the league’s brightest young stars, Strasburg, Harper, and even Rendon, who hasn’t appeared in a big league game in his career, all have nice guaranteed contracts with sizeable signing bonuses between $6 million and $7.5 million. Mike Trout’s signing bonus was a small fraction of that at $1.215 million.

Teams around the league haven’t looked kindly upon the Nationals for setting this precedent, either. Most GMs don’t like the idea of giving young guys huge amounts of guaranteed money before they’ve done anything at the MLB level. In fact, the Nationals huge deals to recent first round picks was part of the reason the new Collective Bargaining Agreement adopted a firm slotting system in the draft so teams can’t do what the Nats did by giving Strasburg, Harper, and Rendon huge signing bonuses without paying huge penalties.

Another factor worth noting in this situation is the agents who represent these players. Strasburg, Harper, and Rendon are all represented, or advised, by superagent Scott Boras, but Mike Trout is not. Boras is known for getting his players paid, and this may just be another example of his prowess.

Rizzo has a philosophy that treats a star player well when negotiating his first contract, which hopefully earns some good will during the next negotiation. The Angels’ philosophy pays veterans big money while young stars are pinched until free agency. Trout did agree to this contract, so it’s hard for me to say he’s getting swindled, but you better believe he’ll remember this when he’s eligible for free agency or is offered an extension. When you have true young stars, I’ll take Rizzo’s approach to contracts any day of the week.

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.