Rumors

Phillies expected to make “big play” for Mike Trout after 2020


Mike Trout can become a free-agent after 2020. (Keith Allison)

The Philadelphia Phillies, per Matt Gelb of The Athletic, have suggested to relevant parties during any contract discussions that while they are individually interested in both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, they don’t plan to sign both 26-year-old superstars. That may be because general manager Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail don’t believe the best way to build a championship team is to tie $60-$75 million annually in two players. It may also be because they want to save a significant chunk of money for another major investment in the future.

Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports suggests that the latter may be the case, saying the Phillies may have their eyes on seven-time All-Star Mike Trout, who can become a free-agent after 2020:

Regardless who they sign this winter, Phillies will make a big play for Mike Trout in 2 years — provided he hasn’t signed an extension, of course. LA Angels will try to extend Trout this winter, but while he likes it there, the whispers are that an extension now is unlikely.

There are two ways of reading this. Way one is that the Angels have broached the idea of an extension with Trout and his representatives this offseason and after said discussions, they don’t feel good about their chances of retaining the two-time American League MVP. The other – and probably correct – way of reading this is that Trout and his inner-circle don’t feel motivated to sign an extension two years before his current contract expires, especially if the Angels haven’t yet proven to be able to build a winning team around him. In that scenario, though, the door certainly is far from closed on Trout remaining with the Halos past 2020.

Of course, most don’t concentrate on nuances in any talk about Trout’s future. Sure, the Phillies would probably love to sign the 27-year-old if he became a free-agent. So would every major market team – even ones like the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants who have sat out or only shown tepid interest in Harper or Machado this offseason.

It’s also unthinkable to believe that Angels general manager Billy Eppler would allow Trout to reach free-agency. He’s 27 and if he retired today, he would be a Hall of Famer. He’s too valuable to watch walk away in free-agency. Trout does possess a full no-trade clause, but if the Angels presented him with his choice of major market teams interested in trading for him and signing him to a record-breaking extension, it feels likely he would at least consider accepting a trade.

Any hopes of the Phillies acquiring Trout are likely contingent on him becoming a free-agent. Unless the Phillies are willing to include All-Star RHP Aaron Nola in any trade, it’s difficult to imagine them putting together the most appealing trade package for the Angels.

Rhys Hoskins has elite power, but would be best-suited to be a DH for an American League team, a position the Angels certainly have covered with Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani. Even if they didn’t, a DH – even one with tremendous offensive upside and a clear desire to be a team leader – couldn’t realistically headline a trade for Trout at his peak.

A year ago, you could have made the case that No. 1 overall prospect Sixto Sanchez could be a very appealing trade piece. But elbow inflammation in his throwing arm limited the 20-year-old right-hander – who has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez – to 46.2 innings in 2017. He’s certainly capable of putting together a bounce-back campaign in 2019 and elevating through the Phillies system quickly, but a year from now if the Angels have five or six major market teams calling on Trout, will Sanchez be the best piece they can get in return?

For the time being, all of this is a moot point. The Angels employ one of the greatest players in baseball history and they’ve been pretty active this offseason, a sign they still hope to build around Trout. ESPN‘s Buster Olney reported in December that the Angels have “no interest” in trading Trout at this juncture. That, of course, won’t stop us from going through this exercise ad nauseam in the coming years.

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