Mike Trout and the $400 million question 

December, 16, 2013
During the winter meetings last week, general managers rotated through the ESPN workroom to answer thematic questions. Their responses are used going into and coming out of commercials during "Baseball Tonight," and one of the questions posed was: Who is the best player in the game?

I was unable to eavesdrop on all the answers given to Jennifer Chafitz, the producer in charge of that project, but the GMs I did hear stepped around that question -- maybe out of respect for their own players, and maybe to honor the general MLB rule that you shouldn't speak about another team's player.

If you gave the GMs truth serum, their answer would be unanimous, or almost unanimous, because the vast majority of executives view Mike Trout as the best player in the game -- and not by a small margin.

He is 22 years old as he wakes up today, at the outset of his career, and over the past two seasons, he has reached base 564 times. How does that stack up? Zachary Jones of ESPN Research dug this out for me:

Most times on base 2012-2013
Mike Trout: 564
Miguel Cabrera: 562
Shin-Soo Choo: 556
Prince Fielder: 542
Andrew McCutchen: 541
Joey Votto: 541

And here is how Trout stacks up in a few other key stats over the past two seasons.

Runs: First (238)
Extra-base hits: Sixth (140)
Stolen bases: Second (82)
WAR: First (20.1)

As you'll note, the stats mentioned above are all counting stats, and Trout's standing is all the more impressive when you consider that he didn't get called up until four weeks into the 2012 season. In terms of WAR, the No. 2 player is Robinson Cano, a full 4 WAR (16.1) behind Trout.

And in the divisional era (since 1969), just two players have had a higher two-year WAR than Trout.

Barry Bonds: 23.7 (2001-02)
Barry Bonds: 21.0 (2002-03)
Joe Morgan: 20.6 (1975-76)

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that Trout is fast approaching that time when he will be in position to wreck the Angels in arbitration, setting new records, given that his case argument will be: He is doing stuff that no player in the history of baseball has ever done before.

The Angels have three distinct paths to take with Trout: