Angels: When does trading Mike Trout become an option?

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: A Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan holds up a sign as Mike Trout (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: A Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan holds up a sign as Mike Trout (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Mike Trout is undeniably the best player in baseball. However, the Los Angeles Angels have not been able to give Trout any playoff wins.

There can only be one “best player in baseball.” And when there is, that tenure is often short-lived. Bigger and better talents emerge yearly, proving that baseball really is a revolving door. Since his first full season in 2012, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout has been the best player in baseball. It hasn’t even been close.

Trout is leading in FanGraphs WAR for batter since 2012. With 53.7 WAR, Trout best second place, Josh Donaldson, by 16.6 WAR. Although it is calculated differently, the best pitcher on Earth, Clayton Kershaw, has a 40.3 WAR in that same span.

Trout has played 885 games since 2012. It takes Trout on average 16.5 games to earn one win above replacement. Babe Ruth, who is the all-time leader in WAR, earned one win above replacement every 14.9 games. Trout is progressing faster than Barry Bonds (18.2 games/WAR), Willie Mays (20.0 games/WAR) and Ty Cobb (20.3 games/WAR).

This is just cracking the surface of who Trout has been better than. He is only 26 years old. Last year’s AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge is 25.

2017 was Trout’s first full season in which he did not finish as an AL MVP candidate. The two-time MVP finished fourth, but he also only played 114 games. Trout has played at least 157 games from 2013-2016.

Trout easily could be a three or four-time MVP as well. He was held back in 2012 as he only played 139 games. The following year Miguel Cabrera won the triple crown; it is hard to beat that. Then in 2015 Trout was hindered by his team’s record as the voters sided with the red-hot Josh Donaldson and the playoff-bound Blue Jays.

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The bottom line is that Mike Trout is phenomenal. We have not seen a player this head and shoulder above the rest since Barry Bonds. With that talent on the roster, you would expect the Angels to be one of the best teams in baseball.

Except they aren’t. The Angels have made the playoffs once in Trout’s career, 2014, before being swept by the Kansas City Royals. Mike Trout does not have a playoff win. Since 2000 nine teams have missed the postseason despite having the player with the best WAR in baseball.

Barry Bonds and the Giants missed in 2001 and 2004. Albert Pujols and the Cardinals in 2008. Ben Zobrist and the Rays in 2009. Jacoby Ellsbury and the Red Sox in 2011. Bryce Harper and the Nationals in 2015. Mike Trout and the Angels in 2012, 2013 and 2016.

This raises the question that seemingly is the most counter-productive move possible: when do the Angels finally enter rebuilding mode and trade Mike Trout?

It’s really unclear.

It is hard to gauge what exactly the Angels should do with Mike Trout. Realistically, the team should be able to string a decent group of guys around Trout to make a decent run to the postseason. The Dodgers did it with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in 2013 and 2014.

However, in the same breath, it is hard to see the Angels having the moxie to improve the team. With no farm system to pull from trades are hard to come by. Thus, the team cannot pull up talent either. Free agent spending is going to be hard with the Angels spending $88 million on Trout, Pujols, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons.

While the Angels can extend Trout past 2021, he may need to take a pay cut that season if the team is going to upgrade around him. Pujols and Upton are both owed a combined $53 million that season. Although it is doable, if the Angels acquire other big pieces than that salary cap is just going to expand.

Unless a radical change in the farm system happens, the future is bleak for the Angels. Of course, the team can ride with Mike Trout as long as physically possible, but that has not gotten them anywhere thus far.

Trout is set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2020 season en route to the biggest payday in baseball history. The Angels have three seasons to figure it out or risk losing Trout for nothing.

Because of this, we could see Trout speculation rising after this season. With two seasons left under contract, it may be the Angels last chance in trading Trout. We actually developed a formula to see how much Trout would really be worth and it would change the tide of the franchise.

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While trading the best player in baseball is a hard thought, the Angels are filled with veteran talents past their prime and young pitching that cannot stay healthy. Although Trout is keeping jersey and ticket sales alive, come the 2019 offseason, the speculation around trading Mike Trout could begin.