ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Mike Trout smiled into the postcard-perfect Orange County sunlight and said exactly what every Los Angeles Angels fan has spent years hoping to hear.
“I know there was a lot of talk about going back East, but I enjoy every minute being here,” Trout said Sunday. “This is my home. I love it. I think the direction of the franchise, if it was going the other way, I would have had to consider going. But it never crossed my mind. I was going to be an Angel for life, sure.”
The crowd around the main entrance to Angel Stadium burst into raucous cheers, and so did Trout’s dozens of teammates and coaches in the audience below the podium.
The $426.5 million, 12-year contract for the two-time AL MVP is an extraordinary reward for a singular homegrown talent who never wanted to leave. After returning from spring training with their franchise cornerstone firmly in place, the Angels paused on the final weekend before the regular season to celebrate Trout being home to stay.
“I want to bring a championship back to Anaheim. Let’s go, baby!” Trout said.
Trout got the biggest contract in North American sports history last week, securing his future with the Angels instead of waiting to entertain offers from the Phillies, Yankees or any other likely suitor when he reached free agency in two years. The native of southern New Jersey has been linked to Philadelphia for years, but Trout remained devoted to the organization that drafted him in 2009 and fostered his development into a superstar.
“He was born an Angel, and he was raised an Angel, and he represents this organization better than anybody,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “He’ll be the first player to go into the Hall of Fame like that for the Angels.”
Trout is a seven-time All-Star who has finished in the top two of AL MVP voting six times. Among the innumerable jaw-dropping numbers posted by the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year are a career .990 OPS, 240 homers and 64.9 wins above replacement since he reached the majors in 2011.
Eppler said the parameters of Trout’s long-term deal have been on his mind ever since he got the job in late 2015. The Angels have been talking about getting a deal done since 2017, and their talks with agent Craig Landis picked up last month when everyone decided a quick agreement could wipe out two years of uncertainty.
With remarkably little drama, Trout and the Angels got it done. The deal includes no opt-out clauses to allow Trout to renegotiate because neither party wanted the options.
“It’s a historical contract,” Eppler said. “But as far as historical contracts go, it was a pretty smooth one. … Mike wants this to be his last contract, so we checked that box right from the get-go.”
Eppler was 100 miles outside Phoenix on a flight back to spring training last week when Landis texted him with confirmation that Trout would accept the Angels’ deal, saying he wanted to be “an Angel for life.” Unlike last winter, when he got the news that Shohei Ohtani had chosen the Angels, Eppler didn’t fall out of his chair this time.
“I was wearing a seatbelt,” he said.
Angels owner Arte Moreno had a one-hour, heart-to-heart conversation with Trout early in the negotiations. Moreno emerged with a measure of confidence that Trout was willing to tie his future to the franchise, even though the Angels have yet to win a playoff game during Trout’s career.
The Angels also secured Trout’s commitment despite three consecutive losing seasons. Manager Brad Ausmus has taken over for Mike Scioscia, but the Angels made only a handful of moderately priced free-agent additions to their roster.
But Moreno believes Trout’s commitment will help the Angels’ pursuit of teammates to help him in their World Series quest. With Moreno’s willingness to run a big budget and Eppler’s thorough revitalization of the farm system after years of neglect under the previous front office, the Angels likely are in their best position in years to achieve Trout’s dream of October success.
“He told us this is where he wanted to be, and we really wanted to make that happen,” Moreno said. “He’s everything you want as a leader and a player in your organization.”
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