It’s hard to find anyone who believes the Angels trading Mike Trout is a legitimate possibility, but when you think about all of the great young players who have been traded over the years, it’s not far-fetched or crazy.
The Angels are a transitioning team with a less-than-stellar farm system, and they could obviously land a haul for one of baseball’s top players. They haven’t won with Trout, their pitching staff is in shambles, and some roster reconfiguration is necessary.
But do the Angels do it with a once-a-decade type player, in a market that lends itself to Hollywood type personalities and talent?
That’s the challenge facing owner Arte Moreno and general manager Billy Eppler. Eppler has said he has no interest in moving Trout, but that could change as teams start strengthening their offers. One would think it would take a combination of prospects and established veterans to get into the conversation. The Angels would have to get pitching to replace the expiring contracts of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson and the injured Garrett Richards.
There aren’t many teams with the personnel and financial capacity to compete for Trout, who is earning $15.25 million this season, $19.25 million next year, and $33.25 million each season from 2018-20.
But here are 10 teams that could pull it off:
1. Yankees — Eppler has a history with Brian Cashman, serving as New York’s scouting director and assistant GM. The Yankees also shed the contracts of Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira after this season and CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez next year. But Cashman doesn’t want to give up his young players, and certainly any package would have to include pitcher Luis Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo, or reliever Dellin Betances.
2. Red Sox — Things are just groovy for the Red Sox right now. They have a high-scoring offense. Do they need Trout? The Angels would look to grab Eduardo Rodriguez, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez, Brock Holt, Travis Shaw. Trout would play center field and have a field day with the Green Monster. The Sox have the pieces and the finances to do it. Dave Dombrowski made that type of deal with the Tigers in landing Miguel Cabrera when the slugger was just 24 — the same age as Trout.
3. Dodgers — This one makes complete sense, though the Angels may not want to make the Dodgers stronger in a shared market. The Dodgers have all the pieces, especially positionally with Joc Pederson and Corey Seager. They would have to include some of their young pitching in any deal.
4. Phillies — They are trying to build around their young core, but at some point they must spend after recently completing a lucrative TV deal. Trout would be huge in Philly, which isn’t far from his hometown in New Jersey. He would thrive at Citizens Bank Park.
5. Nationals — It’s fun to imagine Trout and Bryce Harper on the same team. It would require Washington to make some tough choices, such as giving up Joe Ross or Trae Turner — but the Nats have always been a splashy team. Of course, Harper could sign some insane free agent deal in 2018, but think about that outfield.
6. Astros — At some point, owner Jim Crane is going to go for it. The money is there. The prospects and positional players are there. Carlos Correa is untouchable, but you could see a package of George Springer, Lance McCullers, and A.J. Reed as part of a deal for Trout.
7. Rangers — Their system was depleted a bit by the package they sent to the Phillies for Cole Hamels, but they still have Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar, and Martin Perez to offer. It’s an intra-division trade, yes, but teams care less about that than they used to.
8. Mets — They would have to give up one of their top pitchers — Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, or Steven Matz — to make it happen. They also have Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery in July. The Mets would have to give up a little more, too, like outfielder Michael Conforto. With Yoenis Cespedes only under a three-year deal, you could see the Mets taking on the remainder of Trout’s contract.
9. Giants — They haven’t had a big-name position player roam the outfield since Barry Bonds, as they’ve devoted most of their money toward pitching. It would be tough for them to come up with a package to satisfy the Angels, but the Giants have ways of being creative when they want something.
10. Cubs — With their arsenal of talent, there’s nothing the Cubs can’t do. Kyle Schwarber (even injured), Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant. I mean, who’s not available in a Trout deal? And Trout in Chicago would be pretty big, don’t you think?
Extending pitchers is risky
Stephen Strasburg gave up free agency to sign a seven-year, $175 million extension with the Nationals that ties him up through 2023. It certainly brings back the debate of whether these deals are worth it for the teams.
David Price’s seven-year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox last offseason, the largest free agent contract for a pitcher, comes with fingers crossed. John Henry was right to question the risk/reward aspect when investing in a 30-year-old pitcher. When you study recent long-term deals for pitchers, you find that many suffered some injury that impacted the team’s return on investment.
Which ones have worked out? Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million contract (2014-20, with opt out after 2018) has so far yielded a Cy Young Award and MVP season in 2014 and 16-7 record and 2.13 ERA last season. Yet his postseason record for the Dodgers remains ugly: 2-6, 4.59.
Max Scherzer’s seven-year, $210 million deal (2015-21) has produced a 16-strikeout one-hitter, a 17-strikeout no-hitter, and a 20-strikeout game. He’s 18-14 with a 3.05 ERA and 0.966 WHIP for the Nats.
Felix Hernandez, who has a seven-year, $175 million contract (2013-19), is working on his ninth consecutive 200-inning season for the Mariners and is 48-27 with a 2.82 ERA since signing the extension.
Jon Lester’s six-year, $155 million pact (2015-20, plus a 2021 mutual option of $25 million) produced an 11-12 record and 3.34 ERA in Year 1, but the Cubs gave him very little run support. In his first seven starts this year, he’s 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA.
Cole Hamels’s six-year, $144 million contract (2013-18, plus 2019 club option of $20 million) has held up nicely. Hamels pitched the first 2½ seasons of the deal for the fading Phillies, and since being acquired by the Rangers is 11-1 with a 3.30 ERA, receiving far more run support.
But there are many long-term deals that haven’t worked out.
Justin Verlander was signed to a seven-year, $180 million deal (2013-19, plus 2020 vesting option for $22 million) at age 30. He’s 35-35 with a 3.95 ERA since signing the extension. The longtime Tiger is 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA this year. Masahiro Tanaka’s seven-year, $155 million contract (2014-20) with the Yankees has produced a 26-12 record with a 3.15 ERA, but he has dealt with a partially torn UCL that affected a portion of his 2015 season (3.51 ERA in 24 starts).
Matt Cain’s six-year, $127.5 million deal (2012-17, plus 2018 club option for $21 million) with the Giants hasn’t been good. He’s been slowed by injuries, and he’s 0-5 with a 6.69 ERA this season. CC Sabathia’s five-year, $122 million contract (2012-16, plus 2017 vesting option for $25 million) has had some rough spots the last three years between knee issues and alcoholism. Once a great workhorse, he’s worn down. Sabathia has won 11 games in his last 42 starts.
Homer Bailey’s six-year, $105 million pact (2014-19, plus 2020 mutual option for $25 million) hasn’t been good for the Reds. Bailey first dealt with arm fatigue and then had Tommy John surgery last May. The hope is he can begin to salvage something when he returns in June, at the earliest. Adam Wainwright’s five-year, $97.5 million deal (2014-18) produced a 20-win season in the first year, but then Wainwright tore his left Achilles’ last April and missed five months for the Cardinals. This season he is 3-3 with a 6.80 ERA.
Jered Weaver’s five-year, $85 million contract (2012-16) is in its final year. Weaver won 20 and 18 games for the Angels early in the deal, but has also had back issues and fractured his elbow, and his velocity has decreased. His teammate, C.J. Wilson, has a five-year, $77.5 million deal (2012-16) but has yet to pitch this season because of shoulder tendinitis. Wilson was good for the first two years of the deal but gradually declined.
The Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez signed a five-year, $80 million contract (2013-17, plus 2018 club option for $16 million) but has not pitched 200 innings or made 30 starts in a season since the beginning of the deal. Injuries have occurred too often and he’s off to a rough start this year (3-3, 5.89).
Apropos of nothing
1. The next goal for the Montreal Baseball Project is to get some regular-season games there next season. The preseason games have been a smashing success in testing the market for Major League Baseball’s return to Montreal. Would Toronto or a team like Tampa Bay be willing to give up a three-game homestand to play at Olympic Stadium?
2. We’re told to watch for the Astros limiting their starting pitchers to five innings. They want to avoid having them face a lineup for a third time.
3. Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan recalls catching a 106-mile-per-hour pitch from Aroldis Chapman when they were teammates in Cincinnati.
4. Seen on back-to-back nights at Fenway Park: Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens.
5. Former Yankees and Astros player Brandon Laird, now playing for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japan Pacific League, hit the jackpot last Tuesday when he hit a home run off the Kirin Ichiban beer sign at the Tokyo Dome. His reward: a year’s supply of beer and $10,000.
6. Guess we can no longer say Scott Boras likes to take his players to free agency. Within a month’s time, two high-profile clients signed extensions — Adrian Beltre, two years with the Rangers, and Stephen Strasburg, seven years with the Nationals. Could Bryce Harper be far behind? It’s also becoming more likely that Boras clients Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. sign deals that tie their arbitration years.
7. Tough time for former Red Sox minor leaguer Anthony Ranaudo, who walked five batters last Tuesday in relief for the Rangers and on Thursday was traded to the White Sox and then optioned to the minors.
8. Steve Russo, a good guy and longtime educator, is celebrating his 50th year working part time at Fenway. Steve has done it all, but in recent years he’s been the lunchroom attendant at media dining. Last weekend, he saw his first non-Fenway game live, at Yankee Stadium, a gift from his son.
Updates on nine
1. Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies — Ruiz and Ryan Howard are the last two pieces of the Phillies’ championship roster, and Ruiz is now tradeable because he has performed well offensively (hitting .288) and he’s done a nice job catching the Phillies’ young staff. “He doesn’t have the arm he once had, so that aspect of his game won’t come back, but young pitchers love throwing to him. He’s a cheaper alternative to someone like Jonathan Lucroy,” said a National League scout.
2. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Yankees — There’s already a buzz around the league that Chapman will be available come late June if the Yankees don’t turn things around. Chapman can be a free agent after the season and the Yankees could try to seize on Chapman’s success and trade him to a contender. The teams that really wanted Chapman before the Yankees got him were the Astros and Dodgers.
3. Mark Trumbo, RF/DH, Orioles — Give Dan Duquette credit. Who thought Trumbo, acquired from Seattle last offseason, would be one of the top hitters in baseball at this juncture? Trumbo has a chance to have a Nelson Cruz type spark to his career. At the moment, the Orioles haven’t opened talks with Trumbo, a free agent at the end of the season, but it’s a subject that may gain some steam later in the year if Trumbo keeps it up.
4. Trey Mancini, 1B, Orioles — The prospect has 10 homers in 35 games between Double A Bowie and Triple A Norfolk. Outfielder Christian Walker has knocked in 24 runs for Norfolk. Both righthanded hitters could land in Baltimore before the year is over.
5. Ben Cherington, former GM — Were the Red Sox too impatient with Cherington? The core of the team is made up of guys Cherington refused to trade. Hanley Ramirez and Rick Porcello have come around. Losing Jon Lester was more about ownership drawing the line on his salary. Are we down to Pablo Sandoval being Cherington’s only real blunder? As one AL GM put it, “There’s no patience in Boston. Sometimes guys going to big markets take a year to get going. That was the case with Porcello and Ramirez.”
6. Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers — There’s concern about Fielder’s struggles at the plate. He went into Friday hitting .198 with a .298 slugging percentage. He had gone 79 at-bats without a homer.
The Rangers don’t think it’s health related, though Fielder’s weight has always been an issue.
7. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees — His offense has slipped, but Teixeira remains a fantastic first baseman. One AL scout said, “It wouldn’t be a bad thing to have Teixeira and Hanley Ramirez share first base and DH next season. It may be a pretty effective situation with [David Ortiz] gone.” One fly in that ointment would be trying to find a spot for Pawtucket first baseman Sam Travis, who could be ready for a promotion.
8. Torii Hunter, retired — Twins officials admit that losing Hunter has left quite a leadership void. It may not be a big reason for the Twins’ poor start, but Hunter had something special that lifted up his teammates.
The other blow was David Murphy retiring just before the Twins were about to call him up. The Twins saw Murphy as a strong, veteran player who could have helped their young guys.
9. Jose Reyes, SS, Rockies — Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Reyes through May, retroactive to Feb. 28, for his part in a domestic incident with his wife. Reyes, who gives up $7 million in salary, will adhere to a treatment program and donated $100,000 to a domestic abuse charity. Trevor Story will remain the Rockies’ shortstop and Reyes will be available in a deal. And there seems to be interest.
From a bag of Bill Arnold’s goodies: “Coco Crisp joined David Ortiz (610 runs), Dustin Pedroia (427), Jacoby Ellsbury (267), Xander Bogaerts (103), and Alex Rodriguez (103) as the only active players to have scored 100 or more runs at Fenway Park; through Thursday, the A’s outfielder had crossed home 102 times at the Fens” . . . Happy birthday to Josh Beckett (36), Steve Woodard (41), and John Smoltz (49).
Power and control
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has three games this season with double-digit strikeouts and no walks, giving him 16 in his career, the most among active pitchers. He has a ways to go to catch the all-time leader — Randy Johnson has 36 — but he’s only 28. Where Kershaw stands on the all-time list and among active pitchers: