The Los Angeles Angels defeated the Oakland Athletics in a 7-3 win on Sunday, and while it ended the regular season slate, it also could potentially be the final time Shohei Ohtani is a member of the club.
Striking gold on one generational player within a 10-year block is usually enough to build a franchise around, the first of which was Mike Trout. When the Angels selected him in the first round with the 25th overall pick, it took him just two years to reach the big league level at the age of 19.
Trout’s rise to Major League Baseball during the 2011 season was for a 40-game stretch, a quick taste of the highest level. The following year, he needed just 20 games in Triple-A to show he was well-equipped to handle the speed of the game.
He’s since become a pillar of the organization, the epitome of what a big league star should be in terms of talent and competitiveness. His 11 All-Star selections, three American League MVP’s, and nine Silver Slugger Awards are who he was, but a myriad of injuries in recent years have cut his time on the field.
The front office has failed miserably in building up the farm system, which would then allow the team to create a pathway for young, controllable players to fill out the roster.
That Angels good fortune but bad business continued through the signing of Ohtani prior to the 2018 season. The two-way star was another blue chip addition, and for the production he poured out, was for pennies on the dollar.
With his second MVP on the way, the three-time All-Star has been vague on his future with the Angels. He’s stated that his clear focus is winning, and even Trout has expressed the uncertainty of Ohtani’s next move.
Speculation of Ohtani’s next contract are expected to be for record numbers, and with his ability to both pitch and hit an elite-level, he’s worth every penny. The incentive for Arte Moreno to be in line with the highest bidders is there, but Ohtani may not want to be a part of a franchise that is amongst the league’s most poorly operated.
At this year’s trade deadline, general manager Perry Minasian shocked everyone by being the most aggresive team. Trading away the thin upper-tier of free agents for Lucas Giolito, C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, and others was all for naught.
The Angels posted a 28-43 record in the second half of the year, and they wound up again with a bottom barrel farm system, and an even slimmer chance to rebound in the next few seasons. Minasian set off a snowball effect that has left the team in a difficult spot, and the possibility of losing one of their blue-chip players with nothing in return.
Fans and those around MLB wondered if Ohtani would be on the move at the Trade Deadline, but the all-in approach was their Angels last shot at making a postseason with him.
Hindsight always wins out, and the inaction on looking towards the future has opened the door for the question if trade Trout should be a topic of conversation. The likelihood of Ohtani leaving are high for very obvious reasons, and for that, the Angels need to consider everything.
The team does have young talent in the Major League ranks, and out of necessity, they needed them to become heavy contributors on the everyday roster. But purely having Zach Neto, Logan O’Hoppe, Chase Silseth, Nolan Schanuel, and other rookie pieces won’t bring in the fan fare that Ohtani and Trout will.
But for the sake of the success in the future, trading Ohtani should have been a legitimate option, and now the most they’ll receive is a compensatory pick in the 2024 MLB Draft after he’s slapped with the qualifying offer.
Having Trout on another team that finishes in the bottom of the standings in the future would just be for marketing purposes. Because without the ‘fan lense’, the Angels don’t have a consistent model of winning, and the window of their two blue-chip guys is all but over.
With all the aforementioned negatives of how the Angels have operated, why would Ohtani want to re-sign here? It’s not an impossible task, but to blindly say they have a leg-up just because it’s where he began his MLB career would be a weak leg to stand on.
Should the Angels trade Trout? Probably. Could the Angels trade Trout? Possibly, if the receiving team decides that gambling on a 32-year-old making a base salary of $35.45 million a season until he’s 38 would be a wise investment.
But even if they should and can, will they? To trade Trout would be a complete shift, not just with their on-field captain, but the only major marketable piece on their roster.
The return for Trout would depend on how much money the Angels would be willing to eat, to sweeten up the deal for their trade partner. The Mets used that to trade away Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer at this year’s deadline, but their contracts weren’t anywhere like this.
He hasn’t played more than 140 games since 2016, but when he’s been on the field, he’s as good as advertised. Trout has continued to evolve as the game changes, becoming more of a home run threat in recent years.
Saying that the Angels would be better off trading him away would also be reckless, because they’d be void of any star talent, and the return for him would be a drop in the bucket for an impatient owner. However, the smart thing to do would be to shop him around, and see if there’s any team that could meet them halfway on both cash and prospect return.
But with Ohtani likely to have played his last game in an Angels uniform, if fans were to watch them trade the only franchise player left — they might not have any faith in where they’re headed. Moreno could have been smarter, perhaps he could’ve sold the team, should’ve sold the team, or even been more of a hands-off owner.
Trading Trout is a thing that non-Angels, MLB fans have wanted for years, because of him playing in just one postseason series. But because he signed the 12-year, $426,500,000 contract, he knew that the front office was a volatile player at the table when he put pen to paper.
Teams are getting smarter about whom they hand their superstar money to, and teams like the Mets and San Diego Padres, it can go wrong in a hurry. The hope now is that they either find a suitor for Trout, or they suck it up and build for the future in a manner that rebuilds them in top-to-bottom fashion.
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