The Los Angeles Angels agreed to a record $1 million, one-year contract for 22-year-old center fielder Mike Trout on Wednesday, setting a positive tone for their ongoing conversations regarding a massive long-term deal.
The $1 million figure is the most for a Major League Baseball player who has not yet qualified for arbitration, according to the Major League Baseball's website (mlb.com).
Trout, with just two full seasons in the majors, is considered by some already to be the best all-around player in the game.
"I think Mike's earned that," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said about the salary for Trout. "He's certainly been an extraordinary player, and we have no doubt that he'll continue to be that player."
The previous high-salary mark for players who have yet to qualify for arbitration was $900,000, received by Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard in 2007 and then-Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in 2003.
Players with less than four seasons in the majors can have their contracts renewed by their clubs at a minimal increase, potentially saving the team considerable money.
For most players with less than three years of Major League Baseball service time, clubs can determine their salaries, as long as it's at least the 2014 minimum of $500,000.
Trout, however, has been so sensational, the Angels were running the risk of alienating the power-hitting speedster, who they hope to lock up with a long term contract.
A recent report by Yahoo! Sports said the Angels and Trout's representatives were working on a possible six-year, $150 million contract.
Last spring, the Angels gave Trout only a $20,000 increase from his American League Rookie of the Year season in 2012, in a contract totaling $510,000.
Asked why the Angels paid above and beyond what was required this time, Dipoto said: "Honestly, because I think we felt like his performance was exceptional.
"There are players that force you to break a rule, and what Trout just did for two consecutive years forced us to break our own rule."
Trout finished second to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera for the American League Most Valuable Player Award in each of the past two years. Last season, he batted .323 with 27 home runs, 97 runs batted in and 33 stolen bases.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry)