I can already imagine the backlash.
"You're crazy, Devan!" (I am.)
"Mike Trout is a one in a generation type talent!" (He is.)
"Prospects mean nothing compared to Major League players!"
"You'll never be a general manager!"
Sometimes, you've got to be bold in order to win. And thus, if I'm the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels, I'm trading outfielder Mike Trout.
Trout, granted, is the best player in Major League Baseball. He's been to the All-Star Game every year he played in more than 40 games (all five of them), and he's just 24. Trout is signed through 2021 on a six-year, $144.5 million extension.
Trout is one of the reasons the dismal Angels still draw fans to the ballpark. Ranking 7th in average attendance thus far this year (ESPN.com), the Angels have done well, despite their 43-55 record, good for third-worst in the American League.
Trout sells jerseys. He ranked fifth in the Major Leagues in jersey sales prior to the All-Star break and was the only Angel on the list.
All that in mind, Mike Trout is exactly the type of player you want to build your team around.
But could Mike Trout be the type of player to build your team?
In baseball, you're not going to win anything with the best player in the league. Every guy, in theory, is worth 11% of your team's total success (1/9) every night. But this number becomes even smaller when you realize that a hitter only comes to the plate once every two to three innings and cannot control whether the ball gets hit to him on defense.
Trout has been worth 5.9 fWAR this season, so I guess we could say that he has been worth about 14% of the Angels' total success.
But in a sport like basketball, one player can make all the difference.
In 2013-14, the Cleveland Cavaliers went 33-49. Then, they signed LeBron James and Kevin Love. In 2014-15, Cleveland went 53-29. Basketball not only plays fewer games, but with only five guys on the court, each player is in theory worth 20% of their team's total performance.
This holds true once you realize that LeBron himself took 19% of his team's total field goal attempts over the course of the 2014-15 season, despite only playing in 69 games.
Baseball has more games than basketball, making each win less important. And the way the game is played forces teams to build actual teams. One star player cannot just sign with a baseball team and change the entire fortune of the franchise.
Mike Trout has been the best player in baseball since 2012. In that time, the Angels are 393-353. (Not bad.) But when you take 2014 out of consideration (The Angels went 98-64 that year.), the record turns into a 295-289 mark. Generally speaking, the Angels have been an average team during Trout's tenure there.
How many playoff wins do the Angels have since Trout has come up to the Major Leagues? Zero. Ziltch. Nada. Nothing. Trout, the type of player that wins you championships, and the Angels were swept in his only playoff appearance in 2014.
And you know how one player cannot make all the difference in baseball, as I already said? Trout batted .083 (1-for-12) that series, his only hit being a home run.
Now it's not Trout's fault he has only been to the postseason once. And with a sample size that small, I really don't want to knock him for one bad three game stretch. Because, honestly, Trout has had worse three game stretches over his career. And that's what makes baseball such a compelling game: every player has to overcome their challenges year in and year out.
Anyway, the Angels probably won't be getting back to the playoffs anytime soon.
They have an aging roster, with the 13th-oldest roster in the Majors. And they're not getting any younger anytime soon.
This brings me to my No. 1 point. The Angels have the worst farm system in baseball. So bad, in fact, that this is how the Baseball Prospectus staff referred to it before the season started:
"Lack anything with even remote projection" was an actual quote. The Angels farm system, if that was not clear enough, is so bad that this team is going to be terrible for a while.
If the Angels traded Mike Trout, I'd be willing to bet that their farm system would rank in the top 10 of all farm systems, perhaps even in the top five. Teams, especially contenders, would salivate over the chance of having Trout, when, in reality, he can only do so much.
The Angels, if they played their cards correct, could get a team's top eight to ten prospects. And if they somehow managed to get a three-team deal here, the Angels could be looking at perhaps even two top 15 prospects overall.
One other interesting angle here is that the Angels' Major League team would become so bad that they'd contend for a top 3 pick. A the moment, Los Angeles is looking at the No. 6 pick, even with Trout. Without him, they'd contend for the No. 1 pick, and with it, the No. 1 bonus pool for both international signings and draft signings.
The Angels would be the most dominant team in the Major Leagues if they traded Mike Trout.
If I was the general manager of the Angels, I would literally go out and tell the fans that I made this move for the future of our organization. They'd hate me at first, but when the Angels are the 2022 World Series champions, every little thing is going to be alright.
By trading Mike Trout, the Angels will finally get what they do not have: a team.