Monday night, Brian Dozier hit his 40th home run of the season. Remarkably, there’s been very little fanfare on the topic, despite Dozier being the first Twins player to hit 40 since Harmon Killebrew nearly 50 years ago and the first second baseman since Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
Despite this production—production that places Dozier ninth in the FanGraphs’ WAR leaderboard—the Twins are on-pace for a 100-loss season, woefully in last place of the AL Central.
But is a 100-loss season really that much worse than, say, a 91-loss season? What the Angels are currently on pace for?
To answer that rhetorical question, of course. Nine extra losses are measurably worse—five percent of the season to be more precise. However, teams with either win percentage easily miss the postseason and were likely out of contention for the past two months of the season. On August 15 for instance, the Angels were just two wins better at the time than the Twins.
With all that considered, the only thing that really seems to separate the two teams is perennial MVP-candidate Mike Trout. If the season were to end today, the Angels would have 10 more wins and one more game played than the Twins. Meanwhile, Trout would have accounted for 8.3 of those wins by FanGraphs’ WAR calculations. Beside Baseball Reference though, that estimate seems low with Trout worth 9.8 wins according to their calculations.
That means, if Trout were to be removed from the Angels’ roster in lieu of a replacement level player, the Angels would have won between 8 and 10 fewer games. Of course, a lot of that comes down to what a replacement level player is though. The Angels would surely have more to offer than a replacement level player, right?
According to their depth chart, the Angels have Shane Robinson as the backup centerfielder. A quick look at his WAR profile on FanGraphs and the 31-year old has been worth 1.1 wins over 748 career plate appearances. However, almost all of that productivity came in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Over the past 362 plate appearances, Robinson has been worth -0.1 wins with his bat being the biggest detriment to his value. In other words: replacement level.
Next on the depth chart is 29-year old Nick Buss. A career minor leaguer, Buss has earned major league work in 2013 and 2016. In 88 career plate appearances, Buss has been worth -0.2 wins. To be fair, he is trending in the right direction and his defence has proved valuable. Still replacement level though.
Let’s assume though that, with the team out of contention, the Angels front office has opted to keep their best centerfield assets developing in the minors. After all, surrounding prospects with losing can’t be good for morale, right?
Problem: the Angels don’t have a single prospect in Baseball America’s Top 100 or the MLB Pipeline. Plenty of players surface from outside the top 100 into more-than-serviceable major league careers, but that’s not a great position to be in.
Their top outfield prospect—the second overall prospect in their system—is 2015 second-rounder Jahmai Jones. At 19 years old, Jones is a long way from the majors and is currently with Class-A Burlington but does seem to have the tools to manage centerfield eventually.
The next outfielder is 18-year old 2016 second-rounder Brandon Marsh who may be promising but is also raw.
At the very least, the Twins have three top-100 prospects in Tyler Jay, Nick Gordon, and Stephen Gonsalves. And that’s not including the young talent they currently have on their major league roster, including Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Jose Berrios. Even though some of them have disappointed this season, that’s still a better base on which to build than the Angels can muster.
If you simplify to just offensive value by FanGraphs, the Angels batters have been worth 18.3 wins. That’s just over five more than the Twins who sit at 13.2. Without Trout though, the Angels batters have generated just 10 wins above replacement. With little in the way of replacements, it’s not difficult to imagine that the Angels offense would be fourth-worst in the majors next to only the Padres, Braves, Phillies, and Athletics.
With an opening day payroll of $164 million, that is—to put it lightly—less than ideal. Trading away a player like Trout is certainly a difficult proposition for a general manager to rationalize. His skills are undoubtedly generational, and the likelihood of getting a fair deal for him—as we discussed back in May—is next to nil.
Furthermore, none of this takes into account the profitability of Trout; the marketing and merchandising value as well as the box office draw of having a genuine Hall of Fame candidate play his best seasons for your team is incalculable.
That all being said, the Angels can’t possibly afford to surround Trout with Twins-like talent at a Yankees-like payroll anymore. With Trout under team control through 2020, the Angels have a limited amount of offseasons to try and turn this trend around.