What I’m hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale explains who could be next in line for a big pay day following Mike Trout huge extension.
It took 11 years, but three players this winter have agreed to contracts larger than the record-setting 10-year, $275 million deal Alex Rodriguez signed with the New York Yankees in the fall of 2007.
Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout will make $426.5 million over the next 12 seasons, the largest commitment in baseball history, just weeks after Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies set the new record.
At 27, Trout is a two-time MVP and has finished runner-up for the award in four of his seven seasons in the majors. He’s unquestionably the greatest player of his generation and could down as one of the best to ever play the game.
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With Trout now assured his payday, is there anyone else on the horizon who could approach this kind of money? Here’s a look at the most likely candidates:
Mookie Betts, Red Sox: The 2018 AL MVP broke an arbitration record with a $20 million deal this winter and will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. A better defender than Trout, Betts will only be 28 when he reaches the market – and it certainly helps that Boston always has cash to spend.
Kris Bryant, Cubs: Eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, the 2016 NL MVP is coming off an injury-plagued season and needs to build back some equity. He’ll be 30 on opening day in 2022, so his best hope for a mega-deal might be following the Trout-Nolan Arenado route should the Cubs preemptively offer a massive extension.
Francisco Lindor, Indians: Coming off a 38-homer season, Lindor is perhaps the top shortstop in baseball. Assuming Cleveland won’t give him a long-term contract, the 25-year-old is eligible to hit the open market after the 2021 season – he turns 28 that November – and could fetch more than Machado did this winter.
Aaron Judge, Yankees: One of the most marketable players in the game, Judge hit 52 homers as a rookie in 2017. He’s the Yankees’ biggest star since Derek Jeter and while Giancarlo Stanton is on the books, the Yankees chose not to make long-term commitments to Manny Machado or Harper this winter. Judge’s age works against him though, as he’ll be 30 by the time he hits free agency after the 2022 season.
Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves: The 2018 NL Rookie of the Year has six seasons before he’s eligible for free agency, but already produced 26 home runs and a .917 OPS as a 20-year-old. He may be the best current candidate to wrest from Trout the title of baseball’s best player.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays: The 20-year-old is yet to play a game in the majors, but is considered a generational talent and is the most highly-touted prospect we’ve seen in years. It’s way down the road, but expect him to get a huge payday.