We've known the Golden Rule of Free Agency for a long time now. It's a lesson that, given the collective hot stove behavior over the past two winters, seems to have taken root in front offices across baseball. The GRFA is simply this: Pay for what you're going to get, not for what has already been done. The tricky part of this truism is that in sports, past behavior can be highly suggestive of what is going to happen. That's what projections are all about.
When the Los Angeles Angels agreed to a 12-year, $430 million extension with Mike Trout, it was a no-brainer from the team's standpoint. The game's best player will now almost certainly be a career Angel and would eventually add his name to the exclusive list of one-team Hall of Famers. The Angels are now the franchise of Mike Trout and it might be that way for generations.
Is Trout worth $430 million? Did he deserve it? The language at times like this tends to be fairly loaded, as we lose perspective in our fantasy world of sports fandom. Sure, Trout undoubtedly deserves the money. He is absolutely worth the commitment the Angels have made to him. But these statements are true only in the context of the inflated economics of professional sports. Given some of the rhetoric on both the players' and owners' sides over the winter, it's important to maintain some perspective.
On the baseball front, there are two key questions: Have the Angels violated the Golden Rule of Free Agency? And what does Trout have to do to end up as what he seems to be on pace to become: recognized as the consensus best player of all time. The questions are completely intertwined.