Saturday, March 12, 2016

Trade Trout: Why the Angels Must Let Go


Danville, Kentucky -- I've written before about my beloved Basset Hound, Barry Goldwater. Barry is a wonderful dog. His authoritative and baritone howling keeps my humble Danville abode secure from intruders, giving me peace of mind. Ever-loyal, Barry has stayed at my side through many divorces and unfounded embezzlement allegations.


Mike Trout has been the Barry Goldwater of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. His All-American smile is the face of the franchise. Since sky-rocketing onto the major league scene in 2012, Mike Trout has loyally defend center-field with a tenacity reminiscent of my hound dog. Mike's a tough and gritty guy, even though he doesn't steal bases as much as I'd like these days.

Because of this, what I'm about to suggest might sound like a drunken fever dream, but hear me out.

The Los Angeles Angels should trade Mike Trout.

Reason #1: The Los Angeles Angels franchise -- from top to bottom -- is in a state of disrepair.

The Angels' 40 man roster is top-heavy. There are bonafide stars -- Albert Pujols, Johnny Giavotella, Al Alburquerque, and Trout -- but there are scrubs. The Angels' rotation will be counting on at least 150 innings from Jered Weaver and his 79 mile-per-hour fastball, and the rest of the rotation just had Tommy John surgery. Folks, I haven't pitched since 1972, but if I could pass a physical there's a chance I'd be an upgrade to the Angels rotation.

Angels fans when you suggest trading Trout
The Angels' left-field platoon (Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry) is reminiscent of a mid-2000's Moneyball roster constructed on the cheap by Billy Beane, hardly befitting a team with a $150,000,000 payroll.

Unfortunately for the Angels, there's no cavalry coming from the minors.

This is a farm system more barren, empty, and devoid of sentient lifeforms than a Marco Rubio rally. For all the holes in the major league roster, there's no plugs to be found here. If you spend enough time around the Angels' minor league affiliates, you might choke on dust like it's Oklahoma circa 1934.

live look-in at the AAA Salt Lake Bees
This is a serious crisis for the Angels. Big Bert Pujols can't be expected to swat 40 bombs forever. Their proven closer, Huston Street isn't getting any younger. C.J. Wilson has great hair, but the name on the back of the jersey now eclipses his actual usefulness to the team.

If the Angels don't move to replenish the farm system now, we're looking at 7 years of famine, à la biblical Egypt. Given the current holes in their roster and the stiff competition coming from the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, it might be a stretch to imagine this iteration of the Angels competing in the short-term. Without improving their minor league pipeline, they won't compete in the long-term either. A move must be made for the long-term health of the franchise.

Reason #2: Baseball is a Team Sport.

Upon hearing the suggestion that Mike Trout should be traded, the natural inclination of most Angels fans will be to insist that any team can compete for a playoff spot with a generational talent like Trout. Some Angels fans have an almost superstitious belief that Trout's presence will keep their team's window of contention open. Trout's merits aside -- I was relieved when he didn't win MVP in 2015, and didn't think he deserved it in 2012 or 2013 -- this argument is questionable.

Trout is a great player. He's hit 134 dingers the past 4 seasons. He's an athletic defender. But Trout alone will not take the Angels to the playoffs, not when his surrounding cast is scrubs and the Angels' rotation consists largely of batting practice machines. Let's also remember that the last World Series winner -- the World Champion Kansas City Royals™ -- won it all without a transcendent superstar talent like Trout. Team-wide balance and depth are far more important than Trout's 9.0 WAR in 2015. Art Moreno and Billy Eppler needs to take notes on the Dayton Moore theory of roster construction.


It's time to let go, Angels fans. You can't pin an entire city's World Series dreams on one man.

Reason #3: Trout's Value is High

Trout hit a career high 41 dongs last season, with a respectable 90 RBIs, and a .299 batting average (an improvement from his disappointing .287 average in 2014). He's a known commodity. Moreover, the analytics craze means you could probably get quite a few GMs to salivate in Pavlovian fashion once the Angels' front office makes it known that they are hearing offers for Trout. I don't put much stock in sabermetrics, and hope the Angels don't either. But, in the words of Philadelphia Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock:
Proefrock said the Phillies' primary use for sabermetrics is in determining how other teams may view players.
"From our perspective, it is important that we are aware of those things because there are other clubs that value them more than we do and look at them more than we do," Proefrock said. "So that can give us an indication of what they may think of some of our players and what guys they value maybe even more than we do because of the metrics."
(source: Philly.com, "Inside the Phillies: Who needs sabermetrics?")
If this strategy is good enough for proven winner Reuben Amaro, it's good enough for the Angels. Putting Trout on the market is opportunity to fleece the nerds who care more about BsR, BABIP, and wRC+ than winning ballgames.

The return on Trout could be Yuge -- Yuge enough to replenish that ghost-town farm system overnight -- perhaps a cross-town trade to send super-prospects Julio Urias and Corey Seager to Disneyland?

Conclusion

There comes a time when a man needs to let go. That time came all too soon for me, when I lost custody of Barry Goldwater in my last divorce. Consider yourselves lucky, Angels fans. I lost my best friend and didn't get any Baseball Prospectus Top 100 prospects back in the settlement either. I can still visit Barry on weekends, just like Angels fans might be able to see Trout after the Angels trade him, if they're willing to watch Trout wear Dodger Blue.