From the moment the news broke that Angels RHP Garrett Richards needed Tommy John surgery, the baseball world has been abuzz with Mike Trout trade talk.* It’s easy to understand why. The Angels are bad. How bad? They remind me a little of the 2015 Reds. Going into the season the talk was that the Angels could contend if everything went right – a sentiment similar to what most of us said a year ago about our beloved ball club. Well, like the 2015 Reds, things haven’t gone right and, again, like the 2015 Reds, the Angels are falling apart fast. In fact, the Angels look so bad that it’s unfathomable how they won 85 games last season. They have the 6th worst offense in baseball and are the worst base running team in the game. Their pitching has been middle-of-the-pack, but losing Richards (and Andrew Heaney) – far and away their best pitcher – was a big blow. Their rotation right now is Hector Santiago, the ghost of Jeff Weaver, some guy named Nick Tropeano, and two TBAs.

(*This blog post was written hours before Andrelton Simmons was put on the DL with a fractured thumb, an injury that could keep him out the entire year. Fire, meet fuel. Fuel, meet fire.)

As bad as the big league team has been, the bigger problem is that there is no help on the way. The farm system is capital “B” barren with ESPN’s Keith Law writing that, “this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” The Angels desperately need a talent infusion. Unfortunately, it appears the front office isn’t going to do that until (at least) they shed the bloated contracts of CJ Wilson and Weaver after the 2016 season. But they still have to pay Josh Hamilton nearly $30 million to not play for them in 2017 and then there’s the Albert Pujols albatross that they’ll be paying until time immemorial. In short, it looks like the only way to bring in talent is to shop the one piece of talent they have: Michael Nelson Trout.

Half of the talking heads say the Angels should trade Trout. The other half vehemently disagrees. Of course, it’s pure conjecture. The Angels have gone out of their way to tell anyone and everyone that they are not trading Trout…but that doesn’t mean we can’t do a little bit o’ conjecturing ourselves! So put on your pleated khakis and polo shirt, it’s time to play GM.

Is Mike Trout Worth Trading For?

Yes. That was easy. Next question.

Mike Trout is so good that we don’t realize how good he is. Last year a friend had the gall to suggest that Trout was as good as Mickey Mantle. I hemmed and I hawed and then, after spending a day or two lusting over Trout’s baseball-reference page, I realized that my friend was wrong. Mike Trout is not as good as Mickey Mantle. He’s better. Trout is Mantle if Mantle hadn’t blown out his knee in the 1951 World Series. Check out this list of the best players in baseball through their age 24 season. Trout is 3rd, behind Ty Cobb and The Mick. Pretty good, right? But here’s the catch: This year is Trout’s age 24 season. He’s got nearly five full months to add to his WAR total. He’ll easily pass Mantle and there’s a good chance he’ll pass Cobb.

And just for fun, I pulled up a list of the best players through their age 25 season. Trout is already 7th. (And he’s still in the top 25 for best players through their age 26 season.)

Even better, Trout is under team control through 2020. He is only getting paid $16 million this season but that jumps to $20 million in 2017 and then $34 million each year from 2018-2020. In this day and age, $34 million for Mike Trout is, frankly, a bargain. But it’s still a pretty hefty price for one player – especially if you are, say, a small market team on the Ohio River. (No, not you Pittsburgh. Go away.) More on that later.

Who should the Reds trade?

The Angels aren’t picky; they need everything – and they need a lot of it. The majority of the scuttlebutt focuses on the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, and (gulp) Cubs as possible trade partners because each of those teams has both high-end talent and depth. But so do the Reds. In fact, the Reds have arguably the best overall collection of young arms in all of baseball. MiLB.com ranked them as the 4th best going into the season and just about every arm has exceeded expectations so far. You know which team desperately needs young arms? That’s right. The Angels were dead last in that prospect pitchers list. And while the Reds might not have as many blue chip offensive prospects as pitching prospects, they have enough to talk.

The hard part is finding a good comparison to use as a baseline. Established superstars who are young and under team control just don’t get traded – primarily because they are, well, young superstars under team control. I think the best comp is Miguel Cabrera who was traded after his age 24 season for Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin – two consensus top 10 prospects. But as good as Miguel Cabrera was in 2007 (and he was very good – he shows up at 52nd in that list of best players through their age 24 season) he wasn’t Mike Trout good. Not even close. Nor was he under team control for four more seasons.

I think you’re looking at a minimum of three top tier prospects just to get the Angels to answer the phone. Chances are the Angels would ask for a handful of second and third tier guys as well. So, hypothetically, a Reds offer could look something like: Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Jessie Winker, Nick Travieso, and Tyler Stephenson. That’s Baseball America’s 1, 3, 5, 6, and 8 prospects. (MLB.com has them as 2, 4, 1, 7, and 9 respectively.) We might not be able to match up with the top, top tier that the Dodgers could offer, but we can match them on depth.

That is a haul – but it doesn’t deplete the system. The Reds still have Cody Reed, Jose Peraza, Rookie Davis, and several other quality prospects. Plus there will be the massive number of players acquired via the upcoming draft and international free agent period. The Reds could add another player or two to the above proposal and still be okay. You know what, LA? We’ll throw in Yorman Rodriguez. And JJ Hoover. You’re welcome. No, really. We insist. Take Hoover. All we ask is for a couple of Disneyland passes, a gift card to In & Out, and, you know, Mike Trout.

Or maybe the Angels want established MLB players + prospects. If you were a GM for another team, which young Reds big leaguer would be the most tantalizing? My guess is that we’d all say Raisel Iglesias, even with the DL stint. (Eugenio Suarez is a distant 2nd with…um…Brandon Finnegan 3rd? I really don’t know. Layne Somsen?) So, trade option #2 is Iglesias, Suarez, Robert Stephenson,Travieso, and Tyler Stephenson. (I’ll throw in Yorman on that one too. And JJ Hoover, too. I’m a nice guy.)

Personally, I think the Angels should use Trout as a way to get out from under Pujols’ contract. Of course, that would kill any chance of the Reds being involved.

Should the Reds trade for Mike Trout?

A 1-2 punch of Mike Trout and Joey Votto is the stuff that dreams are made of. No, really. I’ve had those dreams. Mike, Joey, and I are all best friends and we spend our days eating ice cream, playing Risk, and talking about what we want to do when we grow up. We even have a nickname: The Three Fishes – Trout, Carp, and the elusive Vottofish. It’s stupid, but that’s what best friends are for, right? Right?

Fish.JPG

Anyway…

A little before he’s attacked by a T-Rex in Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcolm smolderingly criticizes the amusement park, telling Dr. Hammond that, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Time to stop the proverbial velociraptor genome sequencing and think about if we should be trading for Trout.

We’ve been burned by this whole trading-for-a-star-outfielder thing before. 16 years ago the greatest player on the planet (and #9 on that best player list before the age of 24, by the way) was traded to Cincinnati. That didn’t turn out so well. The 2000s should have been the greatest decade in the Queen City since the 1970s, but baseball is a strange game. Having the best player doesn’t guarantee you anything. (Case in point: Bryce Harper is the other player mentioned as “best” in baseball today. The Cubs pitched around him last weekend and swept the Nationals.) Barry Bonds never won a World Series. Neither did Ted Williams or Ty Cobb. And sadly, neither did Ken Griffey Jr. If we’ve learned anything the last 16 years, it’s that depth is incredibly important when putting together a baseball team. You have to have good pitching, good hitting, good defense, and depth. Trading a ton of talent for one player is an extremely risky move. Oh, and it’s kind of silly to compare 24 year old Mike Trout (who has played four full seasons in the majors) with 30 year old Ken Griffey (who had played 11).

Plus there’s the contract issue. If we traded for Mike Trout and kept Joey Votto we would be paying two guys approximately $60 million. That would be more than half of the 2015 payroll, which, by the way, is the largest payroll in franchise history. It’s hard to fathom a way the front office could add a piece like Trout without shedding money elsewhere. Where’s that money coming from? Brandon Phillips won’t be happy until he’s rejected trades to every team in baseball. (Which is his right as a 10/5 guy. Sigh.) No one apparently wants Jay Bruce, at least not yet. Homer Bailey is coming off of Tommy John surgery. And Joey has a no-trade and has mentioned multiple times that he has absolutely no interest in waiving it. There’s the mythical television contract that is “supposedly happening very soon” but am I the only one who fully expects the TV bubble to burst just when it’s time for the Reds to sign on the dotted line?

“Okay,” you say, “but what if the front office does add payroll. Would you do it?”

Yes. Yes I would. And that kind of caught me by surprise. When I started this little blog post assignment I thought it was kind of pointless. The Angels aren’t trading Mike Trout. And you don’t trade five top prospects (and Yorman and The Hoov) or two budding star players and three top prospects (and Yorman and The Hoov ) for one guy, right? (Side note: Yorman and the Hoov sounds like an awesome buddy cop TV show.)

But it’s Mike Trout! Mike Freaking Trout!  And he could be ours! I started looking at our prospect depth (which is really, really strong) and the upcoming draft/international free agency pool. And then I imagined Trout patrolling centerfield. And how in a couple of years our prospect depth would be ready to contribute and we could add them to a strong nucleus. And then I thought about how BP and Bruce’s contracts would be off our payroll in the next year or two which would give us a little flexibility. And then I started thinking about ticker tape parades and how I would have to get a second job in order to buy all of the 2018 World Series Champions paraphernalia that I was going to have to buy. And then I started thinking about The Three Fishes and how Mike would always try to take all of Asia and Joey would just hunker down in Australia and…well, I may or may not have purchased a custom ordered Trout Reds jersey-tee.

Go Reds.

Join the conversation! 54 Comments

  1. “Ah, now eventually you do plan to have dinosaurs on your, on your dinosaur tour, right? Hello?” — Dr. Ian Malcolm

  2. Speculating about trade possibilities can be fun, but this borders on cruelty. This is the same organization that refused to trade for a decent outfielder, or even a decent bench player, when it was fighting for a playoff spot.

    • Truthfully, I don’t think the Red’s front office has the *alls to make a blockbuster deal, involving anyone.

  3. Why not toss in Hamilton too? He’s obviously not going to play in center with Trout out there and at least the Angels can tout that they have the fastest guy in baseball (when he gets on base).

  4. If Trout is such a difference maker then why are the Angels so bad? Trout on the Reds would be A-Rod on the Rangers…a great player who’s cost would prohibit them from fielding any sort of competitive team.

    The Twins had amongst the best records in baseball from 2002-2010…..then Joe Mauer became extremely expensive ( and often injured) and they’ve lost 90 plus games 4-5 years and have one of the worst records on baseball this year. Trading for Trout makes no sense.

    • The Angels are bad because they have the worst owner in baseball… well, 2nd worst… sorry, Mr. Loria.

    • The scenario I thought of was also A-Rod and the Rangers

    • I agree with you, Chuck. Mike Trout is great, but the Reds, after nearly gutting their system of prospects, would not be great, even with Trout. Griffey didn’t lead the Reds to the promised land in part because the Reds had no pitching. Why replicate that scenario?

      • I don’t even see why the Reds would contend with Trout. We have so many holes, have we been 1-2 good at bats from winning any more games? We could afford to give up prospects (imagine what we could have if we traded Aroldis, Bruce and Frazier last July) but the major league team is still weak and with no payroll flexibility.

      • To be fair, Griffey wasn’t 1/4 of the player Trout is (during the comparable times in question).

    • I agree. A small market team just can’t tie that kind of money up into just a couple players. They have already put their money on Votto as their franchise player. They can augment him with at least 2 and perhaps up to 4 good to very good players for the price of one Mike Trout. They wouldn’t need to trade to do it either.

  5. With Strasburg locked up, starting pitching looks increasingly thin in the upcoming off season or so. The Reds depth and breadth of pitchers looks increasingly more valuable by the month. Maybe this FO’s rebuild plan wasn’t so short sighted.

    Watching Trout play in a Reds uniform would be amazing, but it doesn’t seem like the best way to build a contender. I’m really looking forward to see which pitchers get traded and what is received in return. Given Reds recent focus on speed/defensive, I hope they achieve balance by obtaining a few high OBP and legitimate power bats.

  6. That was a great read, Rob. Thanks!

    Vottofish… classic.

    “Dotson! We got Dotson here!! See, nobody cares.” 😉

  7. Well that was fun.

  8. Would love to see Trout patrolling CF at GABP in a Reds uni, but having to give up Jesse Winker and Robert Stephenson (plus more) is too high a price for a team that isn’t already stacked at the MLB level and is counting on those very prospects in order just to realistically compete.

    It’s a beautiful dream, though…but, not real, much like Hammond’s flea circus…

    “Oh, I see the fleas, mummy! Can’t you see the fleas?”

    • If you value WAR that much, it’s interesting to think that there’s almost no chance Winker + Stephenson is better than Trout. He’s a lock (barring injury, which is true of anyone) to be an 8+ WAR player for the next 4-5 seasons.

      There’s a very good chance neither Winker nor Stephenson hit half of that (4 WAR) in a season, let alone do it in the same season.

      • Very true, but the issue is not WAR, it is WAR per $. Trout’s 8 WAR will be earned at $18 to $34 M, or $2 to $4 M per WAR. Winkler+Stephenson? Let’s say they combine for 4 WAR; that is still about $700k per WAR, at most. . .

        • Maybe the Angels will give us a discount?

          “Well, we’ll have a, a coupon day or something.” — Donald the blood-sucking lawyer

        • Let’s look at this from Trout’s surplus value. One WAR is worth around 7.5 MM ( not sure what the exact number is in 2016) Trout’s 8 WAR would mean he is worth $60 MM. Subtract out his salary let’s split the difference and say $26MM and his surplus value is around $34MM. $34 MM is a little more than 4.5 WAR. So a trade of Stephenson and Winkler, assuming they pan out to be a little better than average, would seem to be a fair price to pay for Trout from a WAR standpoint. This also assumes that Sephenson and Winker are free.

          Realistically, it would take a lot more than Stephenson and Winkler to get Trout. You’d probably have to throw in Reed and/or Peraza, since none of them are sure bets to be at least average.

        • Good point, David. Money always comes into play, but i was just assuming we were in “win at any cost mode” since trading for Trout makes no sense otherwise! 😉

      • Patrick: Does WAR take into account the other players on the team? What I’m getting at is that I question whether a great player surrounded by poor players will be enough to make a team win. We have a reasonable facsimile of that situation with Mr. Votto, not that everybody else on the Reds is poor, but I expect that you get the point.

        • No WAR is independent of teammates, and is adjusted for league performance. For example, a 50 HR season now is worth much more than a 50 HR season in 1997-2002.

        • What Gaffer said.

  9. After thinking about this a bit more, I think one of your ideas may be right. If the Angels were to trade Trout it’ll almost certainly come with the “Take Albert” clause. That limits potential partners quite significantly, as you allude to.

  10. Nice article but no.

  11. +100 for the write up (and the dream) and another +250 for all the Jurassic Park references.

  12. Let me propose a slightly different option. How about R. Stephenson/Reed, Hamilton, Finnegan, Ervin, Travieso, Davis? This way, we are able to hold onto one of Reed/R. Stephenson, as well as keeping Winker and Tyler Stephenson. The additions of Finnegan, Ervin, and Davis should provide enough upside to make up for Winker and Tyler Stephenson, plus we wouldn’t need Billy if we had Trout anyways. Perhaps a change of scenery might help him.

    The biggest issue with trading for Trout is his salary. He is making well over $100 million through 2020, and it would be near impossible for the Reds to sign him beyond that. While we can all dream about the idea of Trout being a Red, it’s very unlikely.

    • No. We just got LH pitching and you are now trading 2 of them in this deal.

      We have 4 LH pitchers and one ML reliever. 3 of those pitchers we got in a trade last year and one is dominating at AA.

      I will pass on Trout as it will gut our system. There will be others available that will fit better and cost less trinkets

  13. I don’t give away all that quality talent for one player, even Trout. He may be historically good, but the depth we would lose is too much for me.

  14. If I was going to call LA….it would be for Puig! Shoot for a Edwin Scissorhands trade in reverse this time!

  15. Putting trout on the Reds team is like putting Mickey Mantle on the 62 Mets team. Keep our prospects.

  16. I sure hope he doesnt land in Cubbie blue

  17. Very entertaining reading Rob. Honestly if the Reds could somehow keep either Stephenson or Reed and Winker I’d love to see this deal. And I have no problem taking Pujols because… It’s not my money I’m spending. Fun fantasy stuff but longer than the longest long shot.

  18. Good article. IF it were to happen, I’d like to find a way to keep Tyler Stephenson. It seems we may need him.

  19. I think you have to wait until Hoover’s value is higher to pull off something like this.

  20. These sorts of decisions are where GMs earn their cash. If it were me, I’d go for it and gut the system. Trout is on a hall of fame trajectory. He’s exactly what you hope to draft and his best years are still to come. Imagine what a Mike Trout age 27 year would be!

    Maybe Big Bob can bring in another investor or two to cover the payroll? The Reds can reload their system with this year’s draft.

  21. While I would not be excited about a trade like this, I would be very happy about watching him play everyday. I rarely get a chance to see him live and it is certainly frustrating. As long as he comes to the eastern time zone, I will be happy.

  22. Great Read. The picture of the “Three Fishes” has just made my day.

  23. Stephenson or reed
    Finnegan or lamb
    Pensacola starter not named Garrett
    Winker
    Aristides

    Don’t know if it is enough but would certainly ask

    • I like this better than some above that gave up 2 of 3 Stephenson/Reed/Garrett
      Could always give them a 2nd from the litter of starters in Pens. as a sweetener.

  24. Stephenson, Finnegan, Travieso, Cozart and Ervin is what I would offer. Reds would still have Cody Reed, Amir Garrett, Rookie Davis, Lamb and Iggy. We’d also hold onto Winker and T Stephenson. Trading Cozart would fill the Simmons hole, free up salary and open up a spot for Peraza. It won’t happen, but its fun to think about.

  25. The load on Trout is $119M for 2017-20 plus any remaining portion the $15.25M owed him for this year,.
    Bailey is under contract through 2019 (plus a $5M buyout on a mutual option at $25M for 2020). His remaining load is $68M counting the buyout money, plus the remainder of his $18M salary for 2016.

    Seems to me from the Reds point of view they would have to try and include Homer, even at the cost of adding a couple of extra mid level prospects, to have any hope of making the deal work financially.

    Oh, and while I was running down these figures. I ran across this, Trout has full no trade protection which can only make a deal for him more expensive in either cash or prospects, depending which team antes up to buy out his protection.

  26. Mike Trout

    for

    Raisel Iglesias
    Robert Stephenson
    Billy Hamilton
    Jesse Winker
    Homer Bailey
    Tyler Stephenson

    Anything less and the Angels look elsewhere. They might not even take that offer really.

    2017 Reds

    1. Jose Peraza, SS
    2. Brandon Phillips, 2B
    3. Joey Votto, 1B
    4. Mike Trout, CF
    5. Eugenio Suarez, 3B
    6. Jay Bruce, RF
    7. Adam Duvall, LF
    8. Tucker Barnhart, C

    BN: Ramon Cabrera, C
    BN: Ivan Dejesus, Inf
    BN: Tyler Holt, OF
    BN: Yorman Rodriguez/Scott Schebler, OF
    BN: Vet FA

    1. Cody Reed
    2. Anthony Desclafani
    3. Brandon Finnegan
    4. Dan Straily
    5. John Lamb

    LR: Tim Adleman
    MR: Wandy Peralta
    MR: Layne Somsen/Drew Hayes/Blake Wood/Jumbo Diaz/Chad Rogers/Stephen Johnson
    MR: Zach Weiss
    MR: Tony Cingrani
    SU: Neftali Feliz (3 year, $12 million FA contract)
    CL: Michael Lorenzen

    Top Prospects:
    Amir Garrett, LHP (AAA)
    Rookie Davis, RHP (AAA)
    Nick Travieso, RHP (AAA)
    Alex Blandino, 2B (AAA)
    Sal Romano, RHP (AAA)
    Phillip Ervin, OF (AAA)
    Tyler Mahle, RHP (AA)
    Nick Senzel or Kyle Lewis (A+ or AA)

    The crux of that trade relies on 2 of Disco/Garrett/Davis/Romano taking a good step forward. Maybe gamble and take Alec Hansen at 35 or 43 and hope he finds control.

    A fun exercise, but you know it’ll never happen.

    • Have a lot of time on your hands to go through this exercise?

      This is absolutely nuts and a waste of time. No way would I even think of trading that group of 6 players for 4+ years of Mike Trout. Cincinnati is a SMALL MARKET team. The main reason that guys like Peraza and Winker and Stephenson are not here already is that now we will have another year of team control on them before they hit free agency. Now that we have that extra year for each, we are supposed to just give it to the Angels. No way!! I wouldn’t give up 6 years of team control of these players for anyone in the league.

      In all honesty, I would rather trade to get Johnny Cueto back before Mike Trout. Money would be close to the same, (6 yrs $130MM vs roughly $130MM for 4 .5 yrs for Trout) and wouldn’t cost near the level of prospects listed above.

  27. The only way the Reds will ever be consistently good is to rely on a strong farm system. They simply do not and will never have the payroll of the the Dodgers or Cubs. They MUST have multiple young players who are cost-controlled if they ever hope to compete.

    A trade like this, while nice to think about, would almost completely gut the farm system. No thanks.

  28. It seems like to me this would just be exchanging places with the Angels – having Trout, but a very bad minor league roster, and not a championship level major league team. Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t need to add high price pieces until we have the other pieces in place and are ready to make a run for championships.

  29. Would I seek a trade for Trout? Yes. On two contingencies: 1) if I can get the Angels to eat a lot of that contract, and 2) That I agree with the compensation package. What would I include on my part? Possibly 2 of my young pitching studs and an outfielder, taking the place of Trout. Maybe 1 player more or less I could understand. But, I would think it would involve something like that.

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