Don’t the Angels Kind of Have to Trade Mike Trout?

What?
I don’t envy Billy Eppler right now. Imagine getting your dream job – general manager of a major league baseball team, and one with the best player in the game, no less – only to quickly realize you’re going to have to trade said player.

That’s where we are right now. A team with some of the deepest pockets in the game is eventually going to be forced to trade Mike Trout, who is maybe having the greatest beginning to a career of any player in baseball history.

Why?
More than halfway into the season, the Angels sit at 35-50. 2016 is already a lost cause, Trout’s supporting cast isn’t any good, nor is it getting any better, and nearly every member of the team’s “stockpile” of young pitching has succumbed to major injury.

To make matters worse, the Angels farm system is not only considered the worst in baseball, it’s been evaluated by nearly every scouting outlet as being one of the worst in years. There ain’t much hope on the horizon.

Aside from attendance (I guess?), there’s absolutely no point in having Mike Trout if you know you’re not going to be able to win with Mike Trout. That’s the case in Anaheim, and, to my mind, that leaves Eppler with only one choice.

When?
Do it now. Mike Trout is never going to be more valuable than he is at this moment. Take advantage of it before one of the greatest assets the game’s ever seen begins to lose value. If you get the right kind of franchise-altering offer, you have to take it.

Who?
Acquiring Trout is going to require an understandably massive haul of talent, so Eppler doesn’t even have to take phone calls from teams without high-end minor league talent. We can pretty much eliminate any team that doesn’t have a top-10 minor league system and/or one or more young major league stars.

For the sake of expediency, let’s use the Top 10 farm system rankings from MLB.com:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. Minnesota Twins
  6. Boston Red Sox
  7. Philadelphia Phillies
  8. Pittsburgh Pirates
  9. Milwaukee Brewers
  10. Houston Astros

The Cubs’ farm system that should have been on that list, and most of their top minor leaguers have been performing all year. That farm system, combined with their young talent at the major league level and financial resources, means they have to be in the discussion.

Otherwise, I couldn’t find another team that had a combination of talent, need (i.e., are in contention), and money, which somewhat logically narrows our initial list down to 11 teams.

Where?
Let’s try to whittle that list down a little further. We can eliminate any team that’s out of contention this year, especially those without a positive outlook in the near future. Goodbye; Braves, Rockies, Twins, Phillies and Brewers.

I don’t always subscribe to the maxim about not making trades inside your own division, but you CANNOT trade Mike Trout inside your own division. No way you want him to come back and kick you in the teeth 19 times a year. Nix the Rangers.

The potential repercussions are similar if you ship him a few miles up the I-5, which makes Chavez Ravine an unsavory destination.

Trout is making $16 million this year, $20 million next year, and $34 million a year from 2018-2020. Although the Pirates might match up well on paper, I doubt they’d be willing to dedicate such a large percentage of their relatively meager resources to one player.

Houston spent a lot of its prospect capital acquiring Carlos Gomez and Ken Giles, so they would need to include at least one of Correa, Altuve, Springer, McCullers. Upgrading from, say, Springer to Trout, is a nice leap, but is it worth stripping your system, especially when you have a major league team that still has plenty of holes to fill? Probably not.

That leaves the Red Sox and the Cubs.

How?
For the Red Sox, the math is pretty simple. You start with Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, then go from there. I assume you’d see names like Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez included as well.

The problem is, the Red Sox real need is pitching. If they’re going to make a big move, it almost has to be on the pitching side, leaving one clear frontrunner…

Cubs?
The Cubs have a slew of MLB-ready young players, many of whom are blocked at the major league level, and they should be willing to part with almost any of them. Anyone whose last name isn’t Rizzo, Bryant, Russell or Contreras should be on the table.

The exact trade combination would obviously depend on each team’s internal evaluations, but just for fun, here’s my “offer Eppler couldn’t refuse deal”:

Heyward (yes, Jason Heyward – you must even out the financial cost, and the Angels can gamble that he turns it around), Schwarber, Baez, Soler, Almora, Jeimer Candelario, Dan Vogelbach (probably redundant on the Angels roster, but they could easily flip him), Victor Caratini, Gleyber Torres or Ian Happ and Carl Edwards, Jr. for…

Trout, Kole Calhoun and Joe Smith.

That’s 10-for-3. And if I’m the Cubs, I would be willing to throw in another prospect or two to get this done. Their lineup could look like this:

  1. Fowler (LF)
  2. Zobrist (2B)
  3. Trout (CF)
  4. Rizzo (1B)
  5. Bryant (3B)
  6. Calhoun (RF)
  7. Russell (SS)
  8. Contreras/Montero (C)

How is anybody going to stop that?

 

 

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