The Angels are a disaster.
No one had the Angels as playoff-locks heading into the 2016 season. The Angels were not a complete disaster though. They had Albert Pujols, not the player he was with the Cardinals five years ago, but still a legit power threat. They had added defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons to shore-up the shortstop position.
Garrett Richards would be back and healthy and ready to guide a rotation that included veteran Jered Weaver, and a few promising younger starters.
The Angels had Kole Calhoun in the outfield and they also had one other guy. That guy was named Mike Trout.
The same Mike Trout that won rookie of the year in 2012, and should have won the MVP award as well. The same Mike Trout that followed up that season with another MVP-caliber one in 2013, but still finished second in the voting.
The same Mike Trout that won the MVP in 2014, and then finished…you guessed it, second in the voting yet again in 2015.
Mike Trout is only 24 years old, he won’t be 25 until August 7, 2016. He’s younger than most of the young players that Red Sox fans are so fond of.
Trout is about as close to a sure-thing as Major League Baseball has. He’s a five-tool miracle. The glove, the bat, the power, the speed, hitting for average, running the bases… you name it, Trout can do it.
About the only thing Trout can’t do, is keep his teammates healthy.
Garrett Richards is done for the season, so is promising young starter Andrew Heaney. Veteran starter C.J. Wilson won’t be back until June. Closer Huston Street is also on the disabled list, and last week Andrelton Simmons tore a ligament in his thumb and he won’t be back for at least two months.
The Angels are currently 13-20. They’ve lost five in a row and are now 7.5 games back from first place Seattle.
As bad as that sounds. Things are actually worse.
ESPN.com’s Keith Law is tasked with evaluating and ranking major league prospects and the organizational systems from which they originate.
Back in February, Law released his annual rankings of all 30 Major League Baseball Farm Systems.
The Atlanta Braves were No.1, the Boston Red Sox checked in at No.10, and the Los Angeles Angels were No.30, dead last. Not only that, but Law was unusually harsh when assessing the organization.
“I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen. They traded their top two prospects in the Andrelton Simmons deal and had no one remotely close to top-100 status. They need a big draft this year to start to restock the system or we’re going to start talking about whether it’s time to trade Mike Trout.”
At the time the prospect of trading Trout, who is unquestionably either the best or second best (Bryce Harper) all-around offensive player in Major League Baseball seemed ludicrous.
Trade Mike Trout? Are you kidding? What are you getting in return, a 20-year-old Mickey Mantle?
But then the Angels weren’t that good to begin with, and the injuries started to pile-up. Last weekend, FanGraphs.com’s Dave Cameron and ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield both wrote columns suggesting that just maybe trading Trout could somehow make sense?
A few columns was all it took.
ESPN.com’s Buster Olney filed his own opinion piece on the proposal. Olney took the time out to thoughtfully consider the theory, and came down on the side of absolutely not.
“So they should never, ever, ever seriously consider trading him, unless he informs the Angels he will not, under any circumstances, re-sign with them when he becomes a free agent after the 2019 season”
Wednesday Chad Finn of The Boston Globe opined about a possible Mike Trout trade, and what it would potentially cost the Boston Red Sox to acquire the five-tool superstar. Finn concluded (probably correctly) that if the Red Sox were actually able to acquire Trout, the cost would be so high that it might not even end up being the type of steal most fans would correctly assume it would be.
“The payoff comes with pain. Xander and/or Mookie would be too much, and yet the moon is not enough.”
All of this is fun. The names of various prospects, from various teams, all bundled together in exchange for one of, if not the best all-around position player to come around in over 20 years certainly makes for fun speculation. This is even more true for fans of the teams being thrown around as potential Trout destinations.
There are however a few problems with all the speculation.
There are two key parts to any Mike Trout trade, and that’s not even including the team that ends up acquiring him. There’s the Angels, who currently have Trout signed through the end of the 2020 season at what inexplicably feels like a bargain-basement total price of $144.5 million.
The other is named Mike Trout. Trout’s contract comes with a full no-trade clause. In other words, not only is it theoretically impossible for the Angels to receive fair value for Trout, even if they could find a suitable package, they’d still have to get Trout’s approval. If that didn’t happen then the Angels leverage would be significantly reduced, as would their already miniscule chances of getting anywhere near fair value for their superstar.
As of now Trout hasn’t made a peep about the Angels struggles. He’s been a good teammate and he hasn’t voiced the type of grumblings that would suggest he has any intention of trying to leave the team or force them to trade him.
The Angels? They’re also dead quiet.
Back in February, not long after Law’s column was published, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez asked Angels owner Arte Moreno about the prospect of dealing Trout. Moreno was anything but vague.
“One hundred percent we are not trading Mike Trout,” Moreno said. “We’re not trading Mike Trout. It’s not even in the thought process. Yes, we want to win. But we’re not going to give up any part of what we’re going to do in the future by making economic mistakes right now.”
That quote feels rather definitive. Sure things can change, but trading Trout less than three months after issuing a 100 percent not-trading-him proclamation wouldn’t make too much sense.
Baseball fans, especially fans of the Red Sox and Yankees seem to have a way of tricking themselves into believing that just about every great player not currently wearing one of those uniforms will inevitably end up in either Beantown or the Bronx.
Felix Hernandez (still in Seattle,) Giancarlo Stanton (signed with Miami for over $300 million,) and Stephen Strasburg (signed 7-year, $175 million contract extension with Washington this past Monday,) have all at one time or another been destined for either Boston or New York.
Aside from some road games, not one of those three players is likely to ever play for either the Red Sox or the Yankees.
Add Mike Trout to that list. He’s not going anywhere, no matter what any baseball columnists say. Until you hear something from both Angels ownership or Mike Trout himself, Trout will remain on the Angels.