What might be the market for the Angels' superstar outfielder?
By Jim Duquette
It's no secret that the Angels have run into a buzzsaw of bad injury luck. Ace Garrett Richards is headed for Tommy John surgery that could keep him out through next season, Andrelton Simmons needs left thumb surgery and is out for two months, and promising young lefty Andrew Heaney is out for the foreseeable future with a left flexor mass strain.
This puts the organization in a tough spot. The Angels have been in "win-now" mode for years, which has meant a lot of trading away of prospects and forfeiting Draft picks to sign free agents. That course of action leaves them with a shallow farm system that is not currently equipped to make up for those pitching injuries, so it would not be surprising if they decide to trade several pieces and hit the "reset" button for 2017. During those conversations with other teams, it's more than likely that general manager Billy Eppler will be asked about the organization's appetite to trade superstar Mike Trout.
Yes, it seems crazy to even think about trading a 24-year-old superstar who has finished in the top two in American League MVP Award voting in each of his four full seasons and is signed through 2020 at an average of a little less than $27 million per year. But it's obviously not that crazy, because Eppler has already been asked about it and told Fox Sports over the weekend that he has no "intent or desire to consider moving" Trout.
But let's be real. Every player has a price. And if guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Miguel Cabrera, Mike Piazza and Alex Rodriguez could be traded in the midst of their Hall of Fame primes, any player can be dealt if the price is right. So let's have some fun with that idea. Here are five clubs that "could" swing a trade for Trout, and all of them fit a similar criteria: They are win-now teams that have cost-controlled depth that would allow them to improve their own club while jump-starting an Angels rebuild.
There are some other teams, such as the Braves and Phillies, who probably have the assets to do so as well, but they'd probably be stifling their own rebuilding efforts in the process by trading away the young depth they'll need to contend in the next couple of years. The five clubs below are all poised to contend for a World Series for the next few seasons.
They've already built a super team, so why not a super-duper team? The Cubs have more than enough young talent to turn the Angels organization around quickly in a deal for Trout, without completely abandoning their own plan of sustained success through player development. And because they are in the National League, the Angels won't have to compete with them for playoff positioning down the road, which definitely helps.
We'll start with Kyle Schwarber, who can clearly rake, but is a poor fit for a team that has a star first baseman and no DH spot. (For the purposes of this exercise, we'll assume that Schwarber comes back healthy from his knee injury, and there is currently no reason to think he won't be an impact hitter when he returns.) The Cubs would have to add another impactful Major League-ready piece like Javier Baez, who has 30-homer power like Schwarber. Chicago could also throw in outfielder Jorge Soler or Willson Contreras, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the best backstop prospect in the game. That package of three young, big league-ready, controllable players would make the Cubs a front-runner in any potential deal.
Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has a had a long history of making bold trades, having been in charge of the Marlins when they traded for Piazza from the Dodgers and then flipping him to the Mets a week later. He was also in charge of the Tigers when they traded Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller -- then two of the best prospects in baseball -- to the Marlins in the Miguel Cabrera deal. There would be no better way for Dombrowski to put his stamp on this Red Sox team for the foreseeable future than by bringing in Trout to lead the team just as David Ortiz says goodbye.
For the Red Sox to be included in this type of trade, they would have to include top prospects like Yoan Moncada -- the No. 5 prospect in MLB, per Pipeline -- and Andrew Benintendi (No. 22), and then also throw in the likes of outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who would help the big league club now. That package would get them in the conversation with the Angels while Sox fans could watch a dream lineup of Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Trout and Xander Bogaerts for the next several seasons.
Trout is from New Jersey, so there would certainly be some "local kid comes home" appeal here. Of course, to swing the deal, the Mets would probably have to part with southpaw Steven Matz, another local boy who grew up on Long Island.
New York would also have to include Michael Conforto, which would give the Angels two potential stars with less than two years of service time, while the Mets could put Trout in center and move Yoenis Cespedes back to left field full time. It would certainly hurt the Mets' rotation depth in the short term, but they could piece things together until Zack Wheeler returns in July.
Alternatively, the Mets could trade Wheeler and Conforto and add first baseman Dominic Smith (No. 47 prospect in MLB) and shortstop Amed Rosario (No. 75) to round out a robust package.
The Rangers' front office made a major trade at the Trade Deadline last July when they acquired Cole Hamels from the Phillies for four of Texas' top 15 prospects, including outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and right-handers Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff. Trading for Trout would require more overall talent than that, but the Rangers certainly possess the system and aggressive mindset to pull off such a deal.
Jurickson Profar, who is fully healed from shoulder issues, and top prospect Nomar Mazara, who just won AL Rookie of the Month honors for April, would both need to be a part of any deal. Profar would fit perfectly in Anaheim, as the former shortstop's arm woes make him better suited for second base at this point, and he would pair nicely with Andrelton Simmons in the middle of the diamond.
To complete the deal, Texas would need to include a third piece, either Joey Gallo (Pipeline's No. 7 overall prospect) or outfielder Lewis Brinson (No. 13). The Rangers certainly have the talent, and the biggest obstacle here might be the fact that these two clubs are division rivals.
The Dodgers have put a premium on acquiring top young players through the Draft and internationally, and they have the depth necessary to make a deal for Trout.
Now, a Trout trade between the two L.A. teams would take significant nerve and patience on both sides to pull off, but the Angels could certainly deepen their roster and reload with an eye toward the 2018 free-agent class, which could include the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.