The Los Angeles Angels may be getting ready to say goodbye to Shohei Ohtani this off-season, but the guy that helped lure Ohtani to Anaheim in the first place, Mike Trout, plans on sticking around for the duration of his contract.
Trout told reporters this week, “I’m doing the same thing I’ve done the last 13 years. Going into the offseason, clearing my mind and going into spring wearing an Angels uniform.” He has seven years remaining on his 12 year, $426.5 million contract. But despite the speculation, Trout said nothing has changed.
There is going to be speculation this winter over whether or not Trout could waive his no-trade clause and end up on another club. While this is the norm for superstar players, this winter, with Ohtani hitting free agency, Trout not getting any younger, and the Angels not getting any better, the rumor mill will be swirling, despite what he said this week.
With those remaining seven years, Trout is owed around $260 million. That’s a lot of money to move in a potential trade. Funnily enough, after the modest payouts from the Miami Marlins when they traded Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, he was owed $265 million.
Should Trout want out of Anaheim? Where could he end up if he were traded? Let’s take a look at this from a few different angles.
The Giancarlo Stanton trade
Stanton was moved for Starlin Castro, José Devers, and Jorge Guzmán. Castro reached free agency after two seasons with Miami.
Devers had just turned 18 when the deal went down after the 2017 season and is still just 23 years old. He debuted with Miami back in 2021, getting into 21 games and batting .244 with a .304 on-base percentage (OBP). He has spent the last two seasons in Double-A and has one option remaining.
Guzmán made quick appearances out of the Marlins bullpen in 2020 and 2021, tossing a combined 2.2 innings and gave up eight runs leading to a 27.00 ERA. He signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants following the 2021 season and was released in June of this year. He was the Marlins’ third-ranked prospect in 2018 with a power fastball and plus slider.
Not exactly a great return for a premier player. Granted, while Stanton is a great power hitter he isn’t quite on the same level as Trout, who has been in the discussion as the best player in baseball across numerous seasons.
The one big caveat here is that Trout hasn’t been able to stay on the field much the last three seasons, missing large chunks of time each year. In 2021, he played in just 36 games, followed by a fairly healthy 2022 where he was in 119 contests. This season he’ll finish up playing in 82 games, or just over half of the season.
Despite the injuries, when he has been on the field he has been the same outstanding player baseball fans have grown accustomed to. If you take the stats he has put up and roll them across a 162 game season, he’s on pace for 47 homers and 97 RBI while batting .283 with a .382 OBP and a 162 OPS+. Over that three year stretch, his 163 wRC+ (FanGraphs version of OPS+) is tied for second in MLB behind Aaron Judge’s (178), who hit a record-breaking 62 homers in 2022, and is tied with Yordan Alvarez. Injuries have taken him out of the discussion for best player in baseball, not production.
What would a trade look like and where could Trout end up?
There are two main questions that we don’t have answers to that would help us form a better understanding of the answer to this question: How much money would the Angels kick in, and is this something Trout would actually approve?
If we follow the Stanton trade and the Angels throw in $30-50 million, then the return would look pretty similar, but with slight upgrades. If they are willing to eat up about half of that contract in an effort to rebuild their team, however, then we could be looking at a massive swap. Still, with Trout’s recent injury history and with him heading into his age 32 season in 2024, he’s not exactly a slam dunk acquisition, either.
If a team were to feel that their training staff could put together a plan to keep Trout healthier than he’s been, and address injuries in a more effective manner than the treatment he’s gotten with the Angels, then that could be one big reason to push some chips into the middle of the table and make a play for his services, especially with a partial discount. Trout at $20 million a season, down from just over $37 million a year, would be a steal.
One team that could be in play here is the Giants, who have played the role of bridesmaids in numerous free agent flirtations, but have never landed that big fish. Trout is a fish, and the big one that has eluded the Giants. BetOnline has the Giants as the second-most likely team to land Trout if he’s traded this off-season, with only the Dodgers ranking ahead of them.
MLB Pipeline has the Giants farm system ranked 14th in baseball, but they could include a top 100 prospect like Carson Whisenhunt (No. 75) and a collection of other decent prospects that could make a deal work since they’d also be offering salary relief to the Angels. The package in question would depend on whether the Angels want to rebuild the entire team, or shoot for the next big star for the bright lights of … Anaheim. The latter would prove to be more difficult.
One sneaky team could be the Seattle Mariners, whose fans have been lobbying for Ohtani since the All-Star break, but getting Trout away from a divisional rival and having him play for them instead of against them would be a masterstroke. Seattle’s system ranks 19th in baseball, but they still have enough talent to make a deal possible. In 92 career games in Seattle, Trout has hit .333 with a .435 OBP and 33 home runs.
Those are just two potential landing spots, but again, how much money the Angels would be willing to take on would play a big role in exactly who was in and who was out of the sweepstakes, if it happens.
Why would Trout approve a deal?
The answer to why Trout would waive his no-trade clause seems pretty simple: He wants to win. The Angels have made the playoffs exactly one time since his rookie season in 2012 and they were swept out of the playoffs by the Royals in that lone appearance in 2014. He has one career hit in the postseason.
It doesn’t help that the Angels are likely losing Ohtani this winter, which means that their chances of competing in the ever-improving AL West would be difficult barring some huge moves that the Angels don’t have the farm system to pull off. It won’t be a quick turnaround.
Trout also has the advantage of picking where he wants to play. He doesn’t have to waive his no-trade clause for a deal to go just anywhere. He could go wherever he pleases. Literally. Every team in baseball would love to have Mike Trout, and there are enough permutations of a deal that could work that could make any destination feasible to some degree.
If Trout wants to jump ship and chase titles for the remainder of his career, that is what he is going to do.
What could make Mike Trout stay with the Angels?
This one also seems fairly straightforward.
Trout seems like a fairly loyal guy, and sticking with the Angels and being the face of their franchise for eternity could be what he’s more interested in. Maybe he believes in GM Perry Minasian and the work he’s been putting in to make the Angels a better team. Sure, they’ll take a step back with the loss of Ohtani, but Minasian has focused on team needs in recent seasons rather than flashy signings. The end result wasn’t quite there this year, but the process was an improvement over years past.
He could also be fairly comfortable with the Angels and the amount of sway he has in that clubhouse and with the front office/ownership. He may not get that anywhere else immediately.
Does he want to be the guy with the Angels and hope to return the team to prominence, or does he want to go after some of the October milestones that have eluded him? That’s going to be what his decision comes down to.
The Angels, on the other hand, will have to make a decision of their own. Do they want to stay loyal to Trout and continue to try to put together a winning team around him, or would they rather use a fairly valuable trade chip to save a little money, restock the farm system, and hope for brighter days in the future?
There will be a lot of chatter this winter on the Trout trade front, but these are the decisions that will need to be made in the coming weeks.
Jason Burke covers MLB for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.