We’re about six weeks into the 2016 MLB season. We’ve seen teams like the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox take the league by storm. On the flip-side, the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins have yet to even create a storm of their own, as they currently bring up the rear. If you look down towards the bottom of the standings, though, you’ll find a very interesting situation going on. The Los Angeles Angels currently hold the third-worst record in baseball, at 13-21.
Normally, the Angels wouldn’t be of much interest. However, when you’re an organization that has the best player in baseball on your team, then you’re always going to have intrigue surrounding you. To this point, there has never been any question about where Mike Trout‘s talents will be. He’s always been an Angel, no bones about it. Well, the Angels’ sluggish start this year has led to rumors surrounding Trout’s security in the City of Angels.
In the past 10 days or so, there have been rumblings that the Angels could auction off the 2014 MVP winner to the highest bidder, in hopes of replenishing their farm system. Just to clarify, none of these reports have been confirmed by well-known sources, as it’s purely speculation at this point. Immediately as speculation began, the team that jumped to the front of the line was the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs are currently enjoying a renaissance in their quality of play, as they are atop the baseball world with a 27-8 record. Over their last 12 games, they are 10-2, including a four-game sweep of the Nationals. Additionally, they’ve got three of baseball’s hottest bats in Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, and Anthony Rizzo, to pair with three of the hottest pitchers in baseball in Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and Jason Hammel. Simply put, the Cubs are raking right now. To make matters even better, they have one of the deepest and most talented farm systems in baseball. It’s actually a little scary with how much young talent they have. Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Gleyber Torres are just a few of those talents. Clearly, the Cubs are in a great position to acquire just about any talent that they wish … including Mike Trout.
That’s right, I believe that the Chicago Cubs have the assets to acquire Trout, if the opportunity was to present itself. Before you start thinking of clever insults to let me know how stupid this claim is, allow me to explain how it would make sense.
First off, the Cubs are going all-in to end the streak. It has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs have last seen a World Series. Since then, their counterparts on the south side have seen two world championships. Cubs fans are desperate to see one, and let’s be honest here … 95 percent of baseball fans would like to see the Cubs end their streak. Management made it abundantly clear that they want a world championship with their spending spree this offseason. Things started off small with the signing of John Lackey, but quickly heated up with the addition of Ben Zobrist. The Cubs made a huge splash in February, though, by reeling in their big fish in Jason Heyward. Adding Zobrist and Heyward to a lineup that already includes Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber made them more dangerous than ever. However, things turned sour as Schwarber’s season ended abruptly during this outfield collision in early April.
That injury actually brings me to my next point.
As seen in the above video, Schwarber suffered a nasty, season-ending knee injury in early April. Since then, the Cubs have rolled with Jorge Soler in left field. Soler has been very underwhelming thus far, hitting almost 20 points under the “Mendoza Line.” He has yet to display the skills that the Cubs hoped he would when they signed him as an international free agent back in 2012. For that reason, the Cubs would welcome Mike Trout with open arms. The acquisition of Trout would allow them to shift Dexter Fowler to left field, placing Soler on the bench. It would also leave the Cubs with one of the most talented outfields in baseball. Fowler, Trout, and Heyward could be a trio that cause nightmares for opposing pitchers. It would put the Cubbies one step closer to National League domination.
With Chicago back on the upswing (both teams, actually), they’re likely going to become a much-more attractive destination for free agents. The 2018-19 free-agent class is primed to be super-stacked with stars. Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and more could all be on the market in a matter of three years. There will almost certainly be players that are extended between now and then, which will take them off of the market. Of those players, it’s expected that Kershaw, Donaldson, and Machado are three of the most likely to be extended by their current teams. That would leave Harper as the top target. As NBC Sports columnist Joe Posnanski points out, Harper has the chance to become MLB’s first $500-million man. Prior to his extension with the Angels, it was thought that Trout would land the largest contract in MLB history. Now, it’s Harper. If Harper was to hit the market, the Cubs would almost certainly have interest. The level of their interest depends on Trout, though. Should the Cubs decide against dealing for Trout, then Harper would be their next logical target. Chicago would really have to consider whether it would be worth it to pay Harper what he wants. When making the comparison to Trout’s contact (six years, $144 million), it would be smarter for the Cubs to target a trade with Los Angeles. Economically, it would just make more sense.
The main question in any potential Trout trade is in regards to compensation. What could one team possibly give for one of the best players in baseball history, who isn’t even 25 years old yet? The Angels would be more than justified in asking for a package centered around either Bryant or Rizzo. I get that to have successful ticket sales, you need to have a superstar. However, I could see the Angels taking a different approach to trade negotiations. It’s not a secret that the Angels’ prospect pipeline leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, they were ranked as the worst farm system this year. Couple that with an aging team of deteriorating veterans, and you’ve got the 2016 Los Angeles Angels. They’re not going to compete any time soon, so I highly doubt they would waste Trout’s best seasons by holding him captive on a less-than-mediocre team. Instead, they could opt to move Trout for a monster package of star prospects that would not only fill needs but help keep or raise the excitement level of the fans. Should both parties decide to explore a trade, a package consisting of Kyle Schwarber, Gleyber Torres, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Duane Underwood should be able to get the job done. This would give the Angels a loaded package of young talent to rebuild for the future, while cementing the Cubs as having one of the best lineups in baseball.
A few days ago, both Trout and Angels GM Billy Eppler publicly addressed the speculation. Trout refuted any speculation saying, “I’ve seen it, I just laugh about it. I love where I’m at. I love Anaheim, the stadium, the organization, and obviously the teammates. Teams go through injuries. That’s the way it is.”
Eppler later confirmed that the team has no plans to trade Trout, simply saying, “No chance, you do not move superstar players.”
While it’s not a definite when it comes to trading Trout, I’m simply saying that it can’t be ruled out. The notion of not trading superstar players is good in theory, but it doesn’t always work out. It was always said that Wayne Gretzky would never be traded, but he was eventually dealt to the Los Angeles Kings. Everyone insisted that Brett Favre would never play for anyone but the Green Bay Packers, but he ended his playing career with the division-rival Minnesota Vikings. Many believed that Julius Erving would be the face of the New Jersey Nets, but he was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers during financial troubles.
It’s not impossible to believe that Trout stays put and plays a long, successful career as a Los Angeles Angel. However, if the Angels ever feel that they can’t compete and the right offer comes along … well, I think you know where I’m headed.