The agent for Angels star Mike Trout was not happy over the weekend when the team renewed the contract for its star center fielder. Trout was given a salary of $510,000 - just $20,000 over the big league minimum - for the 2013 season.
“During the process, on behalf of Mike, I asked only that the Angels compensate Mike fairly for his historic 2012 season, given his service time,” agent Craig Landis said in a statement. “This contract falls well short of a ‘fair’ contract and I have voiced this to the Angels throughout the process. Nonetheless, the renewal of Mike’s contract will put an end (to) this discussion.”
Sweeny Murti, who covers the Yankees for WFAN Radio in New York, pointed out that Alex Rodriguez earns $518,000 every three games. Yes, that is a ridiculous disparity, but it is also that way because of the economics of the game.
An economic system where young players, some that are emerging stars and some that become stars almost instantly like Trout, have to wait their turn to earn some of the millions to be had in the game.
But that is just the way it is and the players’ own union was involved in the negotiations that produced this economic system. Players who come up short of the service time for arbitration get at or near the minimum and that is just the way it is, no matter their stats or contributions. But Trout knows his payday is coming.
While players usually have their deals renewed in those early seasons, when they do have enough service time for arbitration, the bucks start to add up - and fast. Look at the case of former Orioles pitcher Brad Bergesen to see how the arbitration system escalates salaries rapidly.
Bergesen went 2-7 with a 5.70 ERA in the 2011 season for the Orioles, a season where his salary was listed as $434,000. After that year, he got a raise through arbitration to $800,000, an increase of 84.3 percent. And guess what? Bergesen lost his arbitration case to the Orioles. He sought $1.2 million and went to a hearing with the club last February.
If you want to say clubs take advantage of the system to hold down the salaries for young talent, OK, maybe they do. Just as players take advantage of the system during the arbitration process and free agent process when teams can create bidding wars for their services.
During the 2010 season, young Dodgers star pitcher Clayton Kershaw went 13-10 with an ERA of 2.91. It didn’t gain him much of a raise as his contract, which was $404,000 in 2010, was renewed for $500,000 the next season.
The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton hit .290 last season with 37 homers, 86 RBIs and an OPS of .969 - all while making a salary of $480,000. That was renewed for $537,000 last season.
Some felt the Orioles were being cheap when Matt Wieters’ deal was renewed for $500,000 for 2012. In his first arbitration-eligible season this year, Wieters and the club recently agreed to a $5.5 million contract for the season.
You hear some wonder if the teams are ruffling the feathers of their young stars by renewing the contracts. No, they are just playing by the rules of the game.
If the players are truly upset at anyone, which I doubt they are, they need to take it up with their own union, which negotiated the salary rules they have to play by.
It’s still fun to look at: It won’t matter in a few weeks, but for now, the Orioles lead the Grapefruit League standings. In case we needed a reminder that this doesn’t mean much, CBSSports.com took a look back at the standings from last March.