Mike Trout laughed at the suggestion, and he should. Trade him? What sort of insanity would have to seize a general manager to even contemplate such a thing?
Billy Eppler’s not that crazy, that’s for sure.
“No chance,” the Angels GM told mlb.com. “You do not move superstar players.”
Especially a player who hasn’t even turned 25 yet, who has finished first or second in AL MVP voting all four years he’s been in the league, and who is signed through the 2020 season. Trout, on a Hall of Fame track, is the type of player that last-place teams are desperate to acquire, not deal away.
And yet, the idea was floated by baseball analysts across the league last week, so much so that Trout felt compelled to respond to the speculation.
“I’ve seen it. I just laugh about it,” Trout told mlb.com. “I love where I’m at. I love Anaheim, the stadium, the organization, and obviously the teammates.”
But the idea isn’t as insane as it seems. All but impossible, perhaps, but not crazy. The Angels entered the weekend with a worse record than every AL team but the Twins — and their long-term future arguably is much less promising than Minnesota’s. When Garrett Richards, the ace of L.A.’s rotation, was told last week that he needs Tommy John elbow surgery, the outlook grew even bleaker.
Garrett joins Andrew Heaney, who reportedly might also need Tommy John surgery, on the disabled list for this year and probably next year as well. C.J. Wilson and Huston Street are hurt, too. The Angels’ farm system is the victim of misfortune, trades and neglect, and could take years to recover. Ranked as the worst farm system in baseball by far, the Angels don’t have a single player on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list; the Twins have six. And the offense, which ranks 12th in the AL even with Trout, includes three players who rank among the worst hitters at their positions — catcher Carlos Perez, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and second baseman Johnny Giavotella.
The payroll is at its upper limit at $165 million, according to owner Arturo Moreno, and is burdened by the contract of Albert Pujols, which expires after the 2021 season — or $140 million from now. Pujols, 36 this season, is batting .194, with an on-base percentage of .266.
The Angels could try to buy their way out of their predicament, and they’ll have $40 million to work with when the contracts of Wilson and Jared Weaver expire this fall. But bad news arrived last week from Washington, too, where Stephen Strasburg, a southern California native who had been believed to be interested in pitching closer to home, instead signed a seven-year extension with the Nationals. Strasburg was the class of next winter’s crop of free agents by far, and leaves L.A. with few options for upgrading. You can’t trade prospects for veterans, after all, if your farm system is empty.
And that leaves … Trout. Don’t laugh.
Trouble is, it’s almost impossible to get enough in return for a deal to make sense, given that Trout is close to a sure thing and prospects are inherently risky. Not that it’s remotely feasible, but if the Twins were to get involved, would Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Tyler Jay be enough? Probably not, yet that’s so much of the Twins’ foundation, they probably wouldn’t make the trade, either.
Some wealthy and prospect-rich teams — think Cubs, Red Sox or Dodgers — might be willing to send an enormous package to Anaheim. It’s unlikely to happen any time soon, given that it would undoubtedly alienate a fan base that expects to see Trout wear the first Angels cap in Cooperstown someday.
But if the downward spiral continues? It may be time for the Angels to go fishing with Trout.
Injuries always play a big role in sorting out the standings, and they’re having an effect already in the AL Central. A look at recent developments:
Indians: Carlos Carrasco’s hamstring injury has forced Cleveland to keep Cody Anderson in the rotation, and that hasn’t gone well; the righthander has a 7.56 ERA as a starter. Carrasco threw in the bullpen Friday but is still a couple of weeks away from returning.
Royals: First Mike Moustakas fractured his left thumb, weakening K.C.’s lineup and defense, and then the Royals, already without Jason Vargas this season, lost two-fifths of their rotation in one day Thursday when Chris Young (forearm strain) and Kris Medlen (inflamed rotator cuff) went on the disabled list.
Tigers: After suffering a broken wrist in spring training, Cameron Maybin was working himself into playing shape when he dived for a ball at Class AAA Toledo, injuring a shoulder. He could return next week, and the Tigers are desperate for their center fielder to heal: In his absence, Detroit center fielders (mostly Anthony Gose) have hit a combined .181, worst in the majors.
White Sox: Faribault High grad Jake Petricka is Chicago’s most reliable eighth-inning setup man behind closer David Robertson, but nagging pain in his hip has sidelined him for at least two weeks.
More than three-fourths of the 2016 season remain, and Byung Ho Park is already on the top-10 list for home runs by a Twins rookie:
33: Jimmie Hall, 1963
24: Marty Cordova, 1995
18: Miguel Sano, 2015
15: Dan Ford, 1975
14: Oswaldo Arcia, 2013
13: Eddie Rosario, 2015
12: Bernie Allen, 1962
10: Chad Allen, 1999, and Butch Wynegar, 1976
9: Byung Ho Park, 2016, Kennys Vargas, 2014, and Jacque Jones, 1999
One big problem with the Twins’ offense in 2016: They no longer take advantage of full counts. Brian Dozier entered Friday 1-for-20 (.050) on full counts. Only Cleveland’s Mike Napoli (.042) is worse.
Twins hitters on full counts
2015: .236 avg. (2nd in AL), .891 OPS (1st in AL)
2016: .180 avg., .682 OPS (both rank 14th in AL)