What would happen to a GM if he decided to trade a player who has a Rookie of the year award, five straight top-two finishes in the MVP voting including two wins, five silver sluggers, five all-star appearances, a triple slash line of .306/.405/.557, 168 career homeruns, and 497 RBI’s? He’d probably get fired and take a few years off until he found a new team to work for. Now what would happen to the GM if the player was just entering his age 25 season, and already has a 47.7 career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) rating, which puts him above Lou Brock and Jim Rice’s entire career WAR, is universally considered the best player in baseball today, and already seen by many to be the one of the best players in baseball history? That GM would be fired and never allowed to work for an MLB team again.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about the great Mike Trout. The center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels is a once in a lifetime talent, potentially a one time ever talent. Through five-plus seasons, Trout has established himself as THE superstar. His WAR rating, per fangraphs.com would be the highest ever before the age-25 season. That means that Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez and every other legend in baseball history never started out as well as Trout has.
I don’t need to sit here and tell you how good Mike Trout is, it’s as obvious as the color of the sky. The real question on everyone’s mind is, should the Angels trade Mike Trout?
“Are you kidding? Who in their right mind would ever trade Mike Trout? Even suggesting it as a possibility is absolutely ridiculous,” most people would say and it has a lot of logic behind it.
Here’s the thing: The Angels have no use for him. At best this season, they’ll win about 82-84 games, but everyone knows that the perfect scenario very rarely actually happens. Their starting rotation is full of question marks and their bullpen isn’t strong enough to think a game is over when you hand them a lead. The offense actually looks pretty strong, but not strong enough to bring them to the playoffs without an upgrade in the pitching department. This is what the future of the Angels looks to be as well, considering the Angels have the worst farm system in baseball, per Bleacher Report.
Here are the Angles win total since Trout’s rookie year in 2012: 89 in 2012, 78 in 2013, 98 in 2014, 85 in 2015, and 74 in 2016. Without 2014, the Angels average 81.5 wins a year, which means they are exactly a .500 team with him.
So, the question remains, should they trade Mike Trout? It depends on who you ask. Without Trout, the Angels will most likely lose 100 games a year for a very long time. With him, they keep achieving this middle ground where they play to an 81ish-win season.
Everyone will give a different opinion based on how they think a winning team is put together. You can model a rebuild after Houston or Chicago and lose 100 games a year for five season, or you can model it after the Yankees and continue to be competitive but trade important pieces that bring back huge returns.
Let’s think about the Yankees for a second. Here’s what the Yankees got for Andrew Miller: OF Clint Frazier, SP Justus Sheffield, RP Ben Heller, and RP JP Feyereisen. Now imagine the return the Angels could get for possibly the greatest player ever to step on the diamond, with four more years on his contract remaining, at an almost reasonable cost based on the current free agent market (24 million AAV). If the Angels want any future after he’s gone, they must trade him before he leaves and they get nothing.
There are only a handful of teams that could truly pry Trout away from the Angels. These teams include the Yankees, White Sox, Braves, and possibly a few more teams. Now let’s just put together a fake trade between the Yankees and Angels that might be enough to ship Trout out of Los Angeles:
LA receives: OF’s Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Blake Rutherford; P’s Luis Severino, Chance Adams, James Kaprielian; INF Jorge Mateo, Rob Refsnyder.
NY receives: OF Mike Trout, possibly some salary eaten but highly unlikely.
If the Angels do that trade, their farm system immediately goes from last to top 10, plus they get up to four MLB ready players, depending on how you view Judge, Sev, and Ref. The Angels will surely have a dark period, but they would have a solid future that isn’t topping out at winning 81 games.
On another level, the Angels are wasting an all-time legend. Imagine how many RBI’s Trout would have if he was with the Cubs or the Red Sox. His numbers would take him from possibly the best player ever, to definitely the greatest player of all time.
If we are all honest with ourselves, a trade like this will never happen. The Angels GM, Billy Eppler, has stated multiple times that he does not want to go down in history as the GM that traded Mike Trout, and he’s right to not want to have that trade on his record. I’m sure Bob Scheffing, the GM of the Mets in the early 70’s, would go back in time and stop himself from trading Nolan Ryan if he could. However, that was a little different, as the Mets traded Ryan before he became the Hall of Famer we all know and love. The Angels, as well as everyone else, already know who Mike Trout is, so Eppler wouldn’t get the backlash in the same way.
Despite Eppler saying he won’t trade Trout, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t. If the Angels want any kind of future, now is the time to work towards that future. With the weak free-agent market, his return would be legendary, and Mike Trout would probably only get better.