If Philadelphia Phillies fans plan to shift their attention towards Mike Trout in the event that the club doesn’t sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, they may be waiting for quite a while.
Trout was in attendance at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday, with Eagles running-back Darren Sproles handing him the football after a first quarter touchdown. His relationship with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is well-documented. He tweeted a picture of himself wearing a full Sixers uniform last year. Heck, he’s said on multiple occasions that every kid dreams of playing for their local team some day.
But while the Millville, NJ native may not hide his love for Philadelphia sports, he’s probably not going to end up in red pinstripes anytime soon. In fact, Buster Olney of ESPN gave perhaps the most strong indication of the Los Angeles Angels plans for Trout in a weekend column:
The Angels love Trout — and for good reason, because what’s not to love? He’s a great player, revered and respected inside and outside the organization, and is a model teammate and face of the franchise. They intend to keep Trout; they have no interest in trading him. They understand that in the long history of superstar trades in pro sports, teams almost never replicate the value of what was lost — the Bucks dealing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Mets trading Tom Seaver, etc.
The Angels find themselves in a very difficult situation with Trout. The 27-year-old is a seven-time All-Star and a two-time American League MVP, which is even more incredible when you consider that he’s finished as runner-up for American League MVP on four different occasions. In just seven plus seasons, Trout has blown away the WAR7 and JAWS of the average Hall of Fame center fielder. The term generational talent is thrown around far too often, but Trout quite literally is a generational talent.
However, despite perhaps the greatest start to a career in baseball history, the Angels have reached the postseason just once during Trout’s tenure with the team. They were swept in the divisional round in 2014 by the Kansas City Royals.
During Trout’s tenure, the Angels haven’t been shy about spending money. After Trout’s rookie season of 2011, the Angels splurged in free-agency, signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year/$254 million and C.J. Wilson to a five-year/$77.5 deal. A year later, the Angels reeled in former league MVP Josh Hamilton, signing him to a five-year/$125 million deal. While Wilson was serviceable during his time with the Halos, the contracts of Pujols and Hamilton will go out as two of the worst in sports history.
Last offseason, the Angels made a renewed effort to build a contending team around Trout. They re-signed Justin Upton to a five-year/$106 million deal. They acquired veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers. Most notably, they signed two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. Upton was productive in 2018, topping 30 home runs for the second time this season. Kinsler, still a very effective fielder, continued to see offensive regression and was eventually traded to the Boston Red Sox. And while Ohtani dazzled when he was on the field – he ultimately won the American League Rookie of the Year – he needed to have Tommy John surgery in October, putting into question how sustainable being a two-way player is. And the Angels, well, they won just 80 games for the second consecutive season, leading to manager Mike Scoscia stepping away after 19 seasons at the helm.
So while the Angels have signed both Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey, along with acquiring former Phillies Justin Bour and Luis Garcia, the clock is ticking. Trout can become a free-agent after the 2020 season, and while he may be very fond of Los Angeles, it’s difficult to imagine him staying with the Angels if something doesn’t change.
But for the time being, the Angels have little motivation to move Trout. As Olney noted, there’s no package of prospects or even established major league talent that will be a fair return for Trout in his prime. A player as accomplished as him, that’s still this young, has never been traded. There’s a reason for that.
At the same time, it would be irresponsible for general manager Billy Eppler to allow Trout to reach free-agency. It probably doesn’t even make sense for them to carry him into the 2020 season. So while a trade for Trout may have seemed like a pipe dream three years ago – and probably still is currently – there may come a day where it becomes more realistic.
Still, while Trout’s local connections may make him interested in the idea of joining the Phillies, it will probably always be a pipe dream to think that he’ll force his way into Philadelphia. Nearly every major market team would be interested in Trout if the Angels started listening to offers. That means the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, the New York Yankees, the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago White Sox and so on. Trout does possess a full no-trade clause, but if one of these teams agreed in principle to acquire Trout and then offered him a record-setting extension (probably at least $400 million), he probably wouldn’t block the deal. If he did, it would be more because he wanted to test free-agency than because he was trying to force a trade to Philadelphia.
General manager Matt Klentak, who was the assistant general manager for the Angels prior to coming to Philadelphia, would certainly have to check in if Trout was made available. It isn’t especially easy to see how the Phillies would match up in a trade, though, assuming they would be unwilling to part with All-Star right-hander Aaron Nola. Rhys Hoskins has elite power potential, but he probably would be a DH in the American League, something the Angels don’t really need. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have interest in Hoskins, but it’s hard to imagine him headlining a deal for one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.
No. 1 overall prospect Sixto Sanchez, who has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez, is the type of prospect that could headline a major deal. The problem is that elbow inflammation limited him to less than 50 total innings at Single-A Clearwater in 2018. He’s a top 50 prospect when healthy, but it would take a hell of a 2019 season for him to headline a trade for Trout in the next year or so. No. 2 pitching prospect Adonis Medina would be of interest to any team, but the Baltimore Orioles ultimately found a better offer for Machado, just a few months from free-agency, than the one the Phillies were reportedly willing to build around Medina.
If there comes a day that the Angels admit defeat and shop Trout, the Phillies should certainly place a call. But we’re not entirely sure that day will come. Nor do we know if the Phillies will be able to put together the best trade offer for Trout – right now that seems like a stretch. Maybe Trout will block any trade in the coming years so he can reach free-agency. That may be the Phillies best path to landing him, though it would involve waiting two more seasons. In the meantime, two elite 26-year-old talents, Machado and Harper, are free-agents. Trout may be the best-case scenario, but either of those two probably wouldn’t be a bad fall-back.
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