Baseball / MLB

Joe Torre weighs in on blockbuster contracts, wages in minors, pace of play

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The numbers in the deal the Los Angeles Angels and Mike Trout have reportedly agreed to, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, are eye-catching.

Twelve years, $430 million.

“Livable wage,” MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre quipped during a wide-ranging appearance at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Wednesday morning.

“There are probably fewer than a handful of players that I know who you would trust with a long-term contract. Mike Trout, he’s one of those players.”

Torre, who guided the New York Yankees to four World Series titles during his time as manager, also said deals like that come with some risks, such as injury.

“With what the players got, of course Bryce (Harper) with the most recent contract with the Phillies and (Manny) Machado of course with San Diego, you’re banking on somebody showing up for work every day. I think Trout has already really gained that trust early on. I don’t think a 12-year contract, knowing Mike Trout and watching Mike Trout, is going to affect what he does on a daily basis.

“If anybody is worth giving a 12-year contract to, Mike Trout is that guy.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Torre was asked about the pay situation in the minor leagues that has left many players struggling. The issue was most recently in the news after a comprehensive piece by Emily Waldon for The Athletic on March 15.

“We have the same issue with minor league umpires, as far as pay scale,” Torre said. “There’s certain incentive to be in the big leagues. Sometimes you have to understand, this is what it is. I really don’t have much of a comment as far as what’s going to be done about it.

“Our game is special. When you realize the minimum we’re at right now, half a million dollars (in the majors), that’s a pretty good living wage in a lot of areas. In all likelihood, the next CBA (collective bargaining agreement) it’s probably going to be addressed. Whatever the result will be, I don’t know.”

The Toronto Blue Jays announced a 50 percent salary increase for their minor leaguers this week. Torre said he didn’t know if other clubs would follow suit.

“But the minor leagues, teams have control over players for so long,” said Torre. “Then once they go to arbitration, they sort of, even though they have control so to speak, what they’re paid is out of their hands.

“So I’m not sure where we’re going in the minor leagues, and I’m only giving you my take on it. But it hasn’t been in a lot of conversations in my area at MLB. But again, that’s a team decision on what they want to do, an organization decision.”

As for the pace of play, an issue MLB has been trying desperately to solve, Torre said one of the big problems is the amount of strikeouts in the game today.

The former player and Hall of Famer thinks more balls in play could help with both the pace of play and the excitement of the game.

“What’s been great about the exhibition games we’ve seen here, there’s been a lot of stuff going on, players on the bases, running the bases,” Torre said. “That’s exciting to me. That is when the game is going to pick up pace, when we dare the hitters to hit the ball instead of trying to keep them from hitting the ball.

“You pitch to contact, you have guys playing out there in the field to help that situation to catch them. I just think we’re too into trying to hit home runs. Home runs are great, but I don’t think that’s action on the field. We need players to run the bases, going first to third. Managers have the safety of putting a runner in motion when he knows that the hitter at the plate is going to make contact in some way, or the chances are that he’s going to make contact.

“But more strikeouts than hits, sorry, that’s not the kind of game that I think we should have and I know we’re capable of improving in that area.”

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