Tuesday morning, ESPN reported that Mike Trout—the Los Angeles Angels’ star center fielder and, by almost unanimous estimation, the best player of his generation—was preparing to sign a 12-year, $430 million contract extension. The deal is the largest in the history of American sports; its official signing on Wednesday, with two years left on Trout’s current contract, preemptively squashes an entire subgenre of drive-time-radio prognostication. Just weeks ago, the All-Star free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper changed teams and inked huge new deals of their own. But while Machado’s and Harper’s winters were festivals of promotion and public negotiation, Trout reached his record-setting terms with the same inconspicuous ease with which he compiles his record-setting seasons.
From the Angels’ perspective, this is the rare big-money signing that carries almost zero risk. At 27, Trout has proved himself to be the most roundly talented and consistently successful player in the sport. He has the strength of a linebacker and the speed of a sprinter. His swing looks reflexive and seems immune to slumps. He steals bases and takes flight for catches near the outfield wall. His statistics—a career on-base percentage of .416 and slugging percentage of .573, with 224 doubles and 240 home runs—resolve into a picture of dominance. In four of the seven seasons since his rookie year, in 2012, Trout has led the American League in wins above replacement, and on two occasions he’s been named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Albert Pujols, Trout’s Angels teammate and a three-time MVP, calls him “one of those players that come probably once every 50, 100 years in the game.”