Go ahead, admit it you Phillies fan. You’ve thought about it. You’ve daydreamed about it. You wonder how it could someday happen.
Superstar local product Mike Trout, who grew up a Phillies fan and tailgated at the 2008 World Series, patrolling the Citizens Bank Park outfield wearing the uniform of the Fightin’ Phils.
The subject has popped up yet again today thanks to a series of unfortunate developments involving the pitching staff with Trout’s current team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
It was just announced that the Halos, already four games back of the lead in the AL West with a 13-15 record, will lose starting pitcher Garrett Richards to TJ surgery. 24-year old lefty Andrew Heaney is on the DL with pitching arm trouble that could also result in a TJ surgery before all is said and done. He is out at least until the All-Star break.
Veteran starter C.J. Wilson is on the DL with trouble in his throwing shoulder. He will be out at least until next month, and reality is that no one knows if he will ever return as an effective starter.
The presumed ace of the Angels’ rotation, Jered Weaver, has been losing velocity on his fastball over the last few years and his results have become mediocre at best. Closer Huston Street is also on the DL, out at least through the end of May with an oblique injury, which we all know could turn into something more long-term if not handled properly.
In their lineup, the Halos have 36-year old former superstar Albert Pujols struggling along with a horrendous .198/.280/.387 slash line and making $25 million this year…and scheduled to make another $140 million over the next five years. And you thought the Ryan Howard contract was bad?
Aside from Trout and whatever Pujols supplies once in a while, the Angels have no real consistent offensive threat anywhere else in their lineup. Bad hitting. Injured and thin pitching. Those are tough problems to begin with. Sometimes teams can reach into their minor leagues for help.
Another problem for the Angels is that they have one of the worst minor league systems in the game today. Back in February, Baseball America ranked the Angels as having the #30 organization in baseball. That’s 30th out of 30 Major League Baseball teams.
In short, the Angels are in serious trouble as an organization despite owning one of the greatest players of this generation. They have nothing of note to help him win, nothing coming along over the next few years from their system, and he cannot do it alone.
At some point, the Angels and owner Arte Moreno simply must entertain the previously unthinkable – trade Trout for a massive package that could inject multiple talented pieces into the organization.
Here is where the Phillies step in.
Trout was born in Vineland and raised in Millville, New Jersey. Anyone from Philly who drives down to the South Jersey shore knows that Millville is right along route 55, about 30 miles inland from Sea Isle City. He grew up a fan of the Phillies, as would the vast majority of kids in that area. It’s Phillies country.
Trout turned 10 years old in the summer of 2001, when the Phillies made their first run at the NL East crown under manager Larry Bowa. He became a teenager in the first summer of Citizens Bank Park. He basically grew up with the Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels crew that became regular contenders and world champions. He has Phillies blood coursing through his veins.
Phillies fans, the majority who didn’t know it previously, have had fanboy love for Trout ever since he became a star and they learned of his roots.
When he played at Citizens Bank Park back in 2014 it was like a rock concert. No visiting player, at least none who had never previously played for the team and left a favorite, has ever been cheered as loudly.
He only played in two games down in South Philly two years ago, going 2-9 with a triple and a walk over 10 plate appearances. While the Angels will undoubtedly return at some point in future seasons, Phillies fans are hoping that not only are those not his last appearances here, but many are actively running the scenarios through their heads as to how he can have thousands more, only in the uniform of the home team.
There are two ways that the Phillies could acquire Trout – as a free agent, or via trade. The free agent route is the cleanest, but it is also the longest wait. Trout has a contract that runs through the 2020 season, after which he will be 28 years old. That is four more seasons after this one, and by then the Phils hope to already have again emerged as a contender, hopefully for a couple of seasons.
There is no way to know what is in Trout’s mind. He is likely just a young ballplayer enjoying playing the game and living life at this point. But at some point, it might interest him to realize what had to be a boyhood dream to patrol the outfield in South Philly.
He has certainly set himself and his family up for life. For many lives, assuming some disastrous financial decisions are not forthcoming. His total career earnings by the time his current contract expires will have reached roughly $146 million. So if he wants to wait it out, play it out, and come home, that is completely his decision. He will be set forever financially already, no matter what happens.
However, perhaps the Phillies don’t want to wait. Certainly the Angels might not want to wait through the half-dozen years that it is likely going to take at this point to build enough of a team around Trout to make keeping him worthwhile.
Trading Trout, however, could bring back 4-5-6 legitimate pieces or more across a number of positions to make the Angels drastically better. Different without Trout, certainly. But perhaps better as an overall team.
The Phillies have put together one of the best minor league organizations in baseball, and have a handful of legitimate young studs on the big league roster. If they wanted to, they could likely put together an offer that would bring Trout home to play for the Phillies, assuming the Angels actually wanted to entertain offers for their young superstar.
What would such a Phils offer have to look like? Well, just as a starting point, think about the price that the club received in return for Hamels last July. The Phillies received five prospects (and took on the contract of broken down starter Matt Harrison) in that deal: pitchers Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, and Jake Thompson, outfielder Nick Williams, and catcher Jorge Alfaro.
To get Trout, you have to go at least 5-6 quality prospects deep. In fact, you might have to flip most of that same package on to the Angels. Sending immediate starting pitching help in Eickhoff, along with near-ready pitcher Thompson. Williams is the Phillies top outfield prospect, and takes Trout’s place this summer in the big leagues. Alfaro has to go as well, possibly the biggest upside bat in the Phillies’ system.
In addition to Eickhoff, Thompson, Williams, and Alfaro you would probably have to toss in two more prospects. My guess would be another top pitcher, possibly someone like Mark Appel, and then a highly valued lower-level prospect, perhaps someone such as last year’s top draft pick, outfielder Cornelius Randolph.
Would the Angels take a package of Eickhoff, Thompson, Appel, Williams, Alfaro, and Randolph in exchange for Trout? Would the Phillies basically trash much of their rebuilding plan to do such a deal? Would you?
Let’s say that the deal went down in just that way – what is left for the Phillies future? Well, you have Trout, first of all. At age 24, he is a superstar right now, and you figure he will be for the next decade here in Philly.
You still have Maikel Franco at 3rd. You still have J.P. Crawford coming at shortstop. You have Odubel Herrera at one outfield spot, and have Roman Quinn coming at another. Your left side infield is set for years. Your outfield is set.
You would still have Vincent Velasquez and Asron Nola fronting the rotation – unless you had to include one to get Trout. Would you do that? What if it had to be both instead of Eickhoff?
Maybe you can deal Herrera for a mid-rotation arm, and sign a bigger bat for right field. With Trout as your only big-ticket salary, the Phillies would still have plenty of payroll flexibility to take on another big bat, and a big starting pitcher. That is what free agency is for, and that is why you cleared salary off the books and signed that big Comcast TV deal.
As hard as it would be to make such a major deviation from the current rebuilding plan, I say that if you could pull off a Trout deal for that type of package, you have to do it if you are the Phillies. Trout is a generational talent, and because of his local hero status, he would be the biggest drawing card possible.
The Phillies have not traded for Trout – yet. But if they have an opportunity, they have to make it happen. They simply cannot let any other team, and that includes the Yankees, Dodgers, or any other deep pockets organization, beat them out should he really come on the market. What do you think?