TEMPE, Ariz. - The Los Angeles Angels risked alienating their best player last March when they unilaterally renewed Mike Trout's contract for $510,000, a salary the outfielder's agent called "well short of fair" after Trout's historic 2012 season.
Trout, 22, responded with a monster 2013, batting .323 with 27 home runs and 97 RBIs and finishing second in American League MVP voting.
There's a good chance the Angels will renew Trout's contract again in March, but it won't have the sting of last spring's renewal because it will be done amid negotiations for a multiple-year extension that is expected to make the Millville, N.J., resident one of baseball's highest-paid players.
The sides hope to reach a deal after the season starts. Any disappointment over a renewal should be erased by the prospect of what could be a record-setting contract likely to include a signing bonus far exceeding Trout's 2014 salary.
Trout would not be eligible for arbitration until next offseason. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2017 season, according to baseballreference.com.
The Angels' pitchers and catchers reported to training camp Thursday.
The Angels' 2013 season was doomed from the start. They were 18-25 and eight games back in the American League West by mid-May 2012 and 15-27 and 12 games back by mid-May 2013.
After lavishing $240 million on Albert Pujols before 2012 and $125 million on Josh Hamilton before 2013, the Angels spent modestly this offseason, their only free-agent splurge on reliever Joe Smith for three years and $15.75 million.
Expectations are lower for 2014 - most projections have the Angels finishing third in the division - but if they are to contend, they must hit stride opening day, a mission they hope to accomplish by infusing spring training with a keener focus and greater sense of urgency.
The full squad is due Tuesday, and the position players will focus more on situational hitting - bunting, hit-and-run plays and advancing runners with grounders to the right side.
"Guys are going to get after it more, absolutely," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've talked to them about being more aggressive. Spring training will be more about guys putting their best foot forward and getting their game together than trying to make the club."