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Let’s talk about trading Mike Trout

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While everyone is asking ‘‘should” the Angels trade Mike Trout, I feel like we’ve left an important question behind. “Could” they trade him?

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Angels lost 21-3 yesterday to the A’s. The loss brough their season total to 75-78, 20.5 games back of the division, and officially eliminated from postseason. It’s another lost season.

Mike Trout hit a home run yesterday. For the season, he’s now hitting .317/.423/.629 with a 193 wRC+ and 9.3 WAR. It’s another MVP-level season.

For Trout, the above scenario has become all too familiar. Producing at a rate history has never seen before, while his team falls short of making the playoffs. Or even competing for a spot.

So far, in his 8 year Hall-of-Fame career, Mike Trout has been to the playoffs exactly 1 time. And they got swept in round 1. Arguably the game’s greatest all-time player (at least by the time it is all said and done) has never won a playoff game. Baseball isn’t like other sports where individual greatness can carry a team. You need quality teammates for team success in this sport.

And so every time we get to this point of the season, where Trout is awesome and the Angels aren’t, a question starts getting asked. And every year, it gets louder and louder.

Should the Angels trade Mike Trout?

It’s a legitimate question, and one that has, and will be written about exhaustively. But that’s not the question we’re looking at today. We’re looking at slightly different question that has been asked less but, honestly, needs to be answered first.

Could the Angles trade Mike Trout?

Putting aside whether or not LA wants or needs to trade him — they’ve never shown any indication they do — could they trade him if they wanted to?

On the surface, this might seem like a silly question. Normally this is asked when there’s a question whether a specific player has any surplus value to trade. Whether it’s because of declining skills or inflated salary, or usually a combination of both, there are players who can’t be traded. Trout’s teammate, Albert Pujols, comes to mind. Trout obviously doesn’t fall into this category, which is why this question may seem silly.

But there’s another reason a player may be impossible to trade.

The reason for this piece is, as all the Trout-trade pieces started coming out like they do every year at this time, I asked myself a question. And while answering this question as logically and reasonably as I could, I arrived at the conclusion that Mike Trout can’t be traded. Not ‘shouldn’t be traded.’ Can’t be traded. So I’m going to ask you guys the same question and see if you arrive at the same conclusion.

Mike Trout makes 34 million dollars the next two years. That price is high, but nothing prohibitive considering he’s still probably under paid. And those two years are the last 2 years of team control any trading-team would be guaranteed. That’s important to keep in mind.

So here’s the question I asked myself and am now asking you:

What would be more valuable to acquire, Mike Trout at 2 years/68M or Christian Yelich at 5 years/58M?

Those were Yelich’s contract details when Milwaukee acquired him last winter. 5 years and 58 million total. So which would you rather have? Which is the most value?

Trout is Trout. You’re probably buying two 8-WAR seasons. So at 16 total wins for 68 million, you’re paying 4.25 million per win over two years. Fantastic value.

Yelich is also awesome. Not on Trout’s level (who is?) but you can probably comfortably say you’re getting five 4-WAR seasons. So at 20 total wins for 58 million, you’re paying 2.9 million per win over 5 years. Even better value.

Most people, I think, would take 5 years of Yelich at his price over 2 years of Trout at his. But even if you would take Trout here, I think you would agree it’s very close. And that’s the realization I came to. It doesn’t matter which you choose, just the fact that it would be close makes it impossible to trade Mike Trout.

Why?

What package of players was Christian Yelich traded for?

Milwaukee sent OF Lewis Brinson, OF Monte Harrison, INF Isan Diaz, and RHP Jordan Yamamoto.

Now ask yourself, what if Milwaukee had called and offered this exact package for Mike Trout? Is it even close to getting a deal done?

No. LA probably doesn’t even respond to this offer.

And that’s the rub. We’ve already shown 5 years of Yelich is, at the very least, close to being as valuable as 2 years of Trout. If not outright more valuable. So the package to acquire Trout should be relatively close to what Miami got for Yelich. Or if you believe Yelich is more valuable, the package should actually be less.

But LA would want more. Much more. Because it’s Mike Trout.

And it’s not like Miami got fleeced by Milwaukee. Baseball America had Brinson as the 18th best prospect in all of baseball when that trade was made. And because he’s a position player, he had more value than most of the pitchers ahead of him on that list. Fangraphs put a 60 FV on him. By every measure, he was an elite prospect. And it wasn’t just throw-ins after that. Brinson was Milwaukee’s top prospect but Monte Harrison was ranked their 3rd best(Fangraphs). Diaz was ranked their 6th best. This was a legitimate deal.

And it would be nowhere near enough to get Trout. Teams use comps for moves like this and the comp says Trout is worth x. But, in my opinion, that number isn’t anywhere near what Angels value him at, or more importantly, would need to actually move him.

And that’s the problem. Trout holds a much higher perceived value because, well, he’s Mike Trout.

For a team to make this move, they’re going to have to put down the comps or the trade value charts, and price Trout at a level that would almost certainly uncomfortable. Or probably better stated, impassable. In a sport driven by analytics, I really can’t see it happening.

Should the Angels trade Mike Trout? I don’t know, I’ll let others answer that one. But the chances of another team and the Angels arriving at an agreed value seems almost impossible to me.

He’s just worth so much more to LA.