About the time it was revealed that the front two-fifths of the Anaheim Angels’ rotation – the two the Chicago Cubs faced in the opening series, in fact – had damaged pitching elbows, the world started wondering if they were toast this year. More than that, the world started wondering whether it was time for the Angels – a cash-rich, formerly talent-loaded franchise – to consider rebuilding. Aging, bloated contracts now eat up most of the team’s payroll, the farm system is beyond barren, the rotation is in shambles, and the team is already four games under .500 and 4.5 games out in a competitive AL West.
But, of course, the Angels have one thing going for them. They just happen to have one of the two best baseball players on the planet roaming the outfield at age 24 and signed to a lovely contract through 2020. In a situation like that of the Angels, an organization must sometimes force itself to consider the asset value of even the most otherwise untouchable player.
So, yes. Against that backdrop, I do think it’s fair to consider the possibility – at least in the abstract – that Mike Trout will be available in trade at some point in the future.
It’s exciting. Trout, even at age 24, has already cemented himself as one of the best players of this generation, and has been so unthinkably productive in his early career that his 41.0 career WAR is already two-thirds of the way to a Hall of Fame caliber career. HE’S 24!
Should a guy like that seriously be shopped by the Angels, the feeding frenzy would be delicious. I would like to see that.
If something like that did come to pass, then, yes, of course, the Chicago Cubs would be among the teams checking in on things. I can’t fault anyone for getting excited and doing some mental gymnastics trying to concoct a plausible trade, but there’s a relative ocean between here and there right now.
Still, I’ve been asked about this topic enough over the past few days that it became increasingly difficult to not say anything at all.
There was a specific mention or two of the Cubs and this Trout business over the past week, though I’d rather not breathe life into them by even calling them “rumors”. They were simply a series of words strung together, more or less in sentences, among which you’d find “Cubs” and “Angels” and “Trout” and “trade.” If you troll the web for all manner of Cubs craziness, you probably saw them. If you didn’t, you needn’t worry about that.
Whether those words have any actual meaning or basis in reality, you’re not going to read any credible rumors about Trout being traded to any team, let alone a specific team like the Cubs, for quite a while. The Angels aren’t going to give up on this season just yet – they are trying to sign Tim Lincecum after all! (said with only a dash of irony), and both Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney are going to try and rehab their elbow injuries and return this season. And, even if the Angels were ready to throw in the towel on this season, Trout is 24 and under contract for four more years. There are future seasons to consider.
Which, of course, cuts both ways.
I do think it would behoove the Angels to listen on Trout at this time, and, when midseason rolls around, maybe they will. And, if they listen, I do think it would behoove the Cubs to lean over and whisper, “Hey, what’s up?” I also do think there are but a handful of teams in all of baseball that could realistically put together a package for a player like Trout, and the Cubs are one of those teams (though the lack of big-league-ready pitching will always be an issue in these situations). The price would be painful, to say the least, but the extent of Trout’s excellence and unique value can almost not be overstated.
The chances that the Angels trade Trout – or even come close to trading Trout – in the next two or three calendar years (i.e., before he’s in his walk year) is very low. I don’t want to create any illusions otherwise.
But this situation is not entirely a flight of Internet fancy. There are genuine reasons for the Angels to consider it, and there are several teams – I would speculatively include the Cubs among them – that would be interested, and would have the wherewithal to pull off a deal.
For now, that’s as far as I can responsibly go. If something more concrete should come up, I’ll be among the first to want to excitedly discuss. We just aren’t there yet.