The Angels entered the season with some uncertainty surrounding their roster, and though we’re only a week into May, the 13-18 Halos may be facing an uphill battle to get back into contention. Injuries have ravaged the pitching staff, and the loss of ace Garrett Richards to Tommy John surgery is a particularly crushing blow that will hurt the Angels both this season and next, as Richards likely won’t return until late in the 2017 campaign. With closer Huston Street also on the DL and the lineup producing middling numbers in most offensive categories,
Compounding the problem for Anaheim is that the club is spending a lot of money (an Opening Day payroll of roughly $164.67MM) for this underwhelming performance, and the Angels’ farm system is widely considered to be by far the weakest in baseball. Some payroll relief will come when C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver are off the books this winter as free agents, though the minor league system is in such dire straits that the Angels will realistically need a few years of strong drafts to replenish their stock of prospects.
The rumor mill is already beginning to swirl around the Angels as a possible trade deadline seller, and perhaps inevitably, there has been speculation that the Halos could completely shake things up by dealing Mike Trout. Needless to say, a Trout trade would be a milestone transaction for baseball as a whole, there’s almost no limit to what the Angels could demand in return for a player whose early-career exploits have put him alongside some of baseball’s all-time greats.
Trout would fetch, at minimum, a multi-player package of several blue chip prospects and slightly more developed talents who are close to the big leagues. A deal could also includes one or more established Major Leaguers. Could the Angels even look to move Albert Pujols’ increasingly-burdensome contract by attaching it to Trout’s services? That last scenario may be perhaps a bit too far-fetched, though it’s hard to really gauge what a Trout market would look like given how rare it is for a superstar player in his prime to be shopped.
Angels owner Arte Moreno and GM Billy Eppler, unsurprisingly, have both flatly denied that the Angels have any inclination of dealing Trout. Even if this season goes completely off the rails for Anaheim, you would think that it would take another rough year in 2017 for the Angels to even begin considering a Trout trade given his importance to the franchise…and even then, the Angels are free of Josh Hamilton’s contract after 2017 so they’d have even more available funds for a reload rather than a rebuild. Furthermore, Trout’s six-year, $144.5MM deal that runs through the 2020 season contains a full no-trade clause, so the superstar would have the final say on whether or not he left for another team.
Even the vague idea of Trout being swapped has inspired quite a bit of debate amongst pundits. Sports On Earth’s Brian Kenny and ESPN’s Buster Olney argue that the Angels would be foolish to deal such a once-in-a-generation talent, with Olney adding the caveat that the club might reconsider if Trout were to tell the Angels that he wasn’t going to re-sign after his current contract is up. Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron and ESPN’s David Schoenfield, on the other hand, think the idea isn’t completely absurd given how dire Cameron feels the Angels’ long-term situation is and (as Schoenfield illustrates) the incredible potential trade packages Anaheim could command.
While trading Trout is a complex question, let’s boil it down to a simple yes or no question. Is Trout the definition of an untouchable player, or are the Angels’ problems severe enough that they need a drastic move like a Trout deal to reinvigorate the franchise? (MLBTR app users can weigh in here)