So far this offseason there have been four big teams making deals. The New York Yankees have made the largest splash this offseason by jumping into the water and snagging themselves a whale in the Marlins feeding frenzy. STOP. WAIT. Okay. Back up. This is not a piece about the Yankees or Marlins. As a Mets fan, I am over the Yankees surge and the Marlins dirge. My Christmas gift to myself is a non-Yankees/non-Marlins Offseason discussion. Merry Christmas, you filthy animals. This is about two other teams who have stepped into the limelight this Offseason: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Philadelphia Phillies. And that’s because of Mike Trout.
Let’s start in California.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The big news of Shohei Otani‘s signing came as a surprise to most people. I’m not going to get too deep into what the Otani signing actually means for the Angels for a few reasons, but mainly this: there’s still so much up in the air.
At first, the Angels stated that they would be playing the Japanese Phenom as a pitcher and position player, forcing Yahoo to create two Shohei Otani’s for the 2018 Fantasy Season. Now the news has broken that Otani has a damaged Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his throwing arm, and further damage could require him to have Tommy John surgery.
There are just too many questions about Otani to put him into the equation right now, and quite frankly, the Angels Front Office seems to be making moves without Otani’s bat in mind. That’s a good thing, considering last season’s issues at the plate.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were middle of the road in the 2017 season, in every sense of the word. No matter which Halo Lineup combination it just seemed like they couldn’t get any kind of production from anyone not named Mike Trout. So when you’re team loses the most prized possession in all of professional baseball, every game seems feels like you’re trying to get water from a stone, going 17-19 during that span.
The Angels also saw their big 2012 signing of Albert Pujols rise to historic highs while also sinking to historic lows. Pujols cranked his 600th home run in front of a light crowd at Angel Stadium. He also would top the leaderboard of most double plays grounded into in a career. So… it’s going well for Albert Pujols.
Another very silent bat this year was Kole Calhoun, who struggled to get his average north of .230 for the first two months of the season and then battled to get it above .240 the rest of the way. These are the supposed offensive juggernauts of the Angels offense, the guys meant to produce with both in front of an behind Mike Trout. The failure to do so is unacceptable and the Angels management has taken notice.
Why do I say that?
Well, if you haven’t noticed, the Angels are making it rain this offseason. Even before the 2017 season came to a close the Angels made a move to bring Justin Upton into the fold. Upton, who has vastly underproduced in his two seasons as a Detroit Tiger, has progressed from Offensive Centerpiece to Middle of the Lineup bat. You can attribute this to a few things.
1) Justin Upton was an offensive powerhouse in San Diego, and then you bring him onto a team with Miggy, V Mart, and J.D. Martinez? He’s bound to struggle.
2) For those of you unfamiliar with my baseball musings, I am a firm believer in contracts and expectations weighing on players. This contract was not going to be good for anyone in Detroit. The second Upton began underperforming the insanely high expectations set for him, it was only a matter of time before he was shipped out. We’ve seen this before. It happens every year. The Yankees are trying to figure out what to do with Jacoby Ellsbury’s awful, awful, awful (Red Sox Fan Translation: AMAZING, WONDERFUL, BEAUTIFUL) contract, instead of paying him $20+ million to ride the bench.
Great… What does this mean for LA?
What Upton brings to the table is a relatively moldable bat in the lineup that you can use to take the pressure off of Calhoun and Pujols. Ideally, your lineup looks this:
2 – Calhoun
3 – Trout
4 – Pujols
5 – Upton
Now, let’s say this pairing isn’t working or Pujols is slumping, what you have now is a “mix and match” lineup situation. All three of these guys could hit behind Trout, you could even move Trout up to the 2 spot and have this lineup fall together. Mike Scioscia can play the hot-hand without the fear of messing with his chemistry. He doesn’t have to do much to make this work.
Going into the offseason, the Angels had a set outfield with Upton, Trout, and Calhoun. The infield was the next problem to solve.
The signing of Zack Cozart and the trade for Ian Kinsler give the Angels the kind of solid infield they could’ve only dreamt of. Seriously. An infield of Pujols, Kinsler, Simmons, and Cozart is a thing of beauty and this should excite Angels fans everywhere.
… but this all means that the Angels will not be signing Mike Trout after his contract ends.
More on that in a bit. Let’s head to the East Coast.
The Philadelphia Phillies
Just straight out of the gate signing Carlos Santana. Can’t really hate the Phillies for making that move. When the Marlins essentially claim the bottom spot in the NL East before a pitch has been thrown in 2018, you have to put forth a little effort if you’re Philly. This move doesn’t surprise me in the way you would think.
Tommy Joseph now becomes excellent trade bait. Over two seasons, Joseph has belted out 40+ homers, not terrible for a guy who just began playing in the minors. Joseph is fully formed prospect that the Phillies are willing to part with for potential and promise. I’m sure teams would pounce on that. That’s the interesting part of all this: The Phillies are stocking up for something.
Even the smaller move of sending Freddy Galvis to San Diego has an air of stockpiling. Enyel De Los Santos is a very solid right-handed pitching prospect, who is tearing up AA at the age of 21. I love this move, especially considering that the Phillies have Cesar Hernandez at 2nd and J.P. Crawford waiting in the wings to take over at short. It’s a small deal that can get lost in the shuffle of a Hot Stove season, but it’s a big one.
The biggest piece adding to the environment of promise and hope are the rumors of Jake Arrieta joining the fighting Phils. The rumored long-term multi-year deal is an interesting one, considering that the Phillies have essentially no pitching staff. But the 7 or 8-year mark is an interesting one.
Arrieta’s agent, Scot Boras has been shopping the long-term deal around to any team who’ll listen, reportedly sending a 75-page binder to teams. Arrieta is coming off a tough year in 2017, but when you’re a Cy Young winner and a World Series Champ in the last two years, anything less is an off year, right? Why would the Phillies be looking to sign Arrieta for 7 or 8 years?
… Because the Philadelphia Phillies are going to sign Mike Trout in 3 years.
The Angels and the Phillies are making moves three years in advance of Mike Trout’s free agency, and that should excite you or devastate you depending on where your allegiances lie.
Mike Trout in Los Angeles
So the Angels will have some decisions to make before the 2021 season, the main one being whether or not they can re-sign Mike Trout. Spoiler alert, they cannot. If the Angels have not won a World Series in the next 3 seasons, their chances of rehooking up with Trout diminish significantly. Why? Because Mike Trout is the Lebron James of Baseball. He’s going to go where he can win a championship.
After the 2020 season, the Angels will lose Cozart, Trout, Simmons, and possibly Calhoun. Imagine the current Angels without those guys and you have Otani, Cron, and Maldonado as your rocks. In order for the Angels to be competitive in the Mike Trout Free Agent market, they need to pull in some big names, but they’re almost operating at capacity, and they still have questions about their rotation.
The fact of the matter is this: the Angels are going all in over the next 3 years in order to win a championship so that they can easily let Mike Trout walk away from Anaheim. If they can’t do that, they’ve wasted one of the greatest baseball talents to ever play the game and will be remembered for doing so.
Mike Trout in Philly
The Phillies have been a big mess for the past… ever. A lot of this has to do with Ryan Howard. The Big Piece was the signed to a $125 million dollar extension in 2010, which was thought to be a deal considering that it allowed them to keep players like Jayson Werth and Jimmy Rollins. This deal was thought to be a home run that came with home runs. Instead, it was bust.
Over the course of the 6 years after signing the rotten deal, Howard amassed a WAR of -4. That’s $33.75 million per negative win! You did it, Philly! It’s oddly similar to the deal that the Angels are still under with Pujols. Well, except Pujols was able to contribute day-to-day.
Since then, the Phillies have been relatively out of whack. Just when Vince Velasquez looks to be solid he goes into a funk. When Hellickson is the guy, he gets lit up. Maikel Franco is spanking the ball in his first two seasons, then goes silent in 2017. Tommy Joseph, in general. The list goes on and on. They lack stability. There’s no clear leader on the field and off. The Phillies lack a star.
That’s where Trout comes in… kinda.
Before the Phillies can sign Trout they need to get a solid base of talent. Rhys Hoskins seemed to be that guy last year. He was electric. ELECTRIC. Carlos Santana will also bring some star power. But once Chase Utley left town there wasn’t anyone to really take the reigns in Philly. This cannot be a team without a star. Frankly, you need a star on your squad to make it in this league. The Phillies don’t have that.
But they will.
All the Phillies have to do is bring on some talent from the Free Agent market and supplement it with homegrown talents like Hoskins, Williams, Alfaro, and Crawford. They need to find the Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to get Mike Trout to come to Philly. And it’s something they can easily do.
The Angels have been making strong moves, but they should be looked at and celebrated with caution. With the abundance of talent they have signed in the last month, it’s obvious they want to win. That winning comes at a cost. The price for a World Series will be Mike Trout’s time as an Angel coming to a close.
The Phillies are sitting pretty now that the Marlins have decided to tank for the foreseeable decade. The Phillies are no doubt going to invest their newly found lack of retained money into prospects and building blocks. No one is expecting the Phillies to hit it big in the next 3 years, and that’s HUGE. All they have to do is stock up for the second coming. After that? It’s all downhill.