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December 18, 2013

The Lineup Card

13 Trade Offers for Mike Trout

by Baseball Prospectus

1. The Orioles Deal Manny Machado and Kevin Gausman
There aren't too many organizations in baseball who can boast a pre-arb one-two punch strong enough to offer a duo for Trout and not get laughed out of the room. For the Orioles, the duo of Manny Machado and Kevin Gausman is plenty powerful to accomplish that goal (of not getting laughed out of the room, that is). With an outfield of Trout, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis, the fly ball pitchers on the Orioles' staff would giggle the kinds of giggles generally reserved for Leif Garrett and David Cassidy. They could then play a Ryan Flaherty/Danny Valencia platoon at the hot corner until top prospect Jonathan Schoop was ready. It would require picking up a second baseman to compete with Jemile Weeks for the job, but those are easier to find both in free agency and the trade market than a third baseman (or a Mike Trout, for that matter).

From the Angels' side, Gausman would become the future ace of the staff and would allow them to either keep Tyler Skaggs in the minors to start the season without having to subject fans to watching any more Joe Blanton starts or use Hector Santiago as a swing man. The presence of Machado would allow them to finally move Erick Aybar (who is only owed a reasonable $8.5 million per season over the next three years) for an outfielder or just slide David Freese over to DH and continue to play Machado at third. Of course, this trade idea would have worked a lot better before the Angels traded away Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos—as Trout's natural replacement in center is now gone and having Trumbo's thump in the lineup would slightly lessen the blow of dealing away Trout. As if that's even possible. —Bret Sayre

2. The Rays Trade Evan Longoria in a One-for-One Deal
Here’s a trade to really get you mad: The Angels trade Trout to the Rays for Evan Longoria, straight up, star for star. The Rays get four cost-controlled years of the game’s WARP leader from his age 22-26 seasons; the Angels get the game’s second-best third baseman, also cost-controlled via a potentially/arguably underpriced contract, from now until 2023, when he’ll be 38. Longoria gets to go home to Southern California, so he waives his no-trade clause. The Rays take the money they save on the Longoria contract and lock up David Price for seven years. The Red Sox win the World Series. —Adam Sobsey

3. The Rangers Cough Up a Mountain of Young Talent, and the Sandlot Crew Submits an Offer
The offer: Jorge Alfaro, Michael Choice, Luke Jackson, Rougned Odor, Matt West

Let’s compare this possible trade to the (in)famous Mark Teixeira trade of 2007, in which the Rangers received Jarrod Saltalamachia, Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, and Matt Harrison.

  • Salty-Alfaro
  • Feliz-West
  • Andrus-Odor
  • Harrison-Jackson

Now, throw in newly minted Ranger Michael Choice, because of the talent difference between 2014 Trout and 2007 Teixeira. In all likelihood, the trade would require the inclusion of Jurickson Profar. This would probably be the straw that breaks the camel's back on the Rangers' end.

A more fitting trade comes from the non-MLB sector, where the Sandlot crew is willing to part with Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, Wendy Peffercorn, a pouch of Big Chief Chewing Tobacco, and an autographed Babey Ruthey ball in order to acquire the talents of Mike Trout. —Ryan Parker

4. Red Sox Part with Clay Buchholz, Xander Bogaerts, and a Whole Lot More
Oh boy. Angels fans might think this isn’t enough. Red Sox fans might think it’s too much. I think it’s a semi-reasonable package for Trout—or at least as reasonable as any package for a generational talent can be.

The Angels land a player who could potentially recreate 60-70 percent of Trout’s value in Bogaerts, and there aren’t a lot of cost-controlled players with that type of upside around. They get a suitable Trout replacement in Bradley, and the type of no. 2/3 starter they’ve reportedly been looking for this offseason in Buchholz. Owens would sit atop the Angels prospect list immediately, and De La Rosa and Morales provide cheap bullpen arms with upside for now. It’s an exercise in diversifying risk, and it certainly makes the Angels a much deeper club.

The Red Sox gut their organizational depth, but they get Trout. Maybe they resign Stephen Drew to compensate for the loss of Bogaerts, and perhaps they look to Masahiro Tanaka to fill the void left by Buchholz. It doesn’t really matter, though, because they get Trout.

I’d miss you, Xander. But for Trout and Trout alone, I would move on. —Ben Carsley

5. The Blue Jays Export a Ton of Farm-System Crops, Plus Mark Buehrle
Los Angelheim’s “isn’t a very good system,” BP’s Angels Top 10 Prospects List sighs, so they trade Trout to Toronto for top pitching prospect Marcus Stroman, top young center field prospect D. J. Davis, top young shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto, and one or two of the 486 young pitching studs down in the low, low minors of the Jays’ system. The Angels try to get Colby Rasmus, too, so as to fill center field while Davis matures, but the Jays pacify them with Mark Buehrle because A) the Angels starting rotation isn’t convincing as-is and B) the Jays just want to see Buehrle get mad at being traded again. —Adam Sobsey

6. The Cubs Start with Jeff Samardzija and Add from Their Strength: Position Prospects

Trying to find a fit for Mike Trout proved more difficult than I expected, primarily because the acquiring team must not only have the young, cost-controlled talent to trade for the two-time AL MVP runner-up, but also a deep enough reserve of talent between the 25-man roster and minor-league system to make the trade workable. Trout is immensely talented and will likely be significantly underpaid for the next four years (though his arbitration awards are also likely to set records across the board). That means the ideal acquiring team would also have the payroll ceiling to commit to Trout long term. Enter the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs have a surplus of potential impact corner power bats in the minors, a solid Major League tradable commodity in Jeff Samardzija, and a deep enough system to sprinkle in some add-on pieces to round out a solid package. After reviewing various iterations, I eventually arrived at the following framework:

  • Angels receive Jeff Samardzija, Javier Baez, one of Albert Almora or Jorge Soler, Dan Vogelbach, and an add-on piece to even out differences in player valuation.
  • Cubs receive Mike Trout and an add-on piece to even out differences in player valuation.

Looking at the Cubs first, this package transfers developmental uncertainty in Baez and Almora/Soler, sacrifices one of the solid remaining trade chips at the Major League level in Samardzija, and includes an easy addition in Vogelbach, who fits best with an AL team as a future designated hitter, in return for the certainty of a single high-WAR player who would serve as the centerpiece of future competitive teams in Wrigleyville for the next 10 years. With few payroll commitments in the future, Chicago could slap down a 10/300 deal for Trout this offseason, with financial incentives to bring the total compensation even higher, while still leaving plenty of room to add two strong arms in free agency over the next two offseasons. Because of the depth of talent making its way to the North Side over the next two years, the Cubs will have a cheap cost-controlled core that will allow the team to carry anywhere from three to six significant free agent contracts. The depth chart starting 2015 probably looks something like this:

Welington Castillo (catcher), Anthony Rizzo (first base), Arismendy Alcantara (second base), Starlin Castro (shortstop), Mike Olt (third base), Jorge Soler or Albert Almora (left field), Mike Trout (center field), and Kris Bryant (right field).

Not bad at all.

The Angels take a step back in 2014 production—how could you not?—but add even more depth to the rotation over the next two seasons and add a number of big upside players to a shallow farm system. More importantly, the pieces added can all be expected to start making contributions in the near future, with the six-plus years of cheap control offering room to maneuver around contracts like Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols when appropriate free agent pieces become available. Vogelbach provides insurance for C.J. Cron as a cheap pairing with Pujols as designated hitter/first base, while Baez and either Almora or Soler each figure to fit somewhere in the first five spots of the lineup. None of the acquisitions have Mike Trout’s upside, but Baez has a “top five in the game” offensive ceiling, and should Baez, Soler, and Vogelbach all reach close to their potential, we could be talking about injecting the big league club with an additional 75 to 90-plus homeruns a year for dramatically less than Trout alone will receive through his arbitration years.

The Angels, of course, will never trade Trout. Nor should they. But if they were to entertain the notion, this is the type of package that could make some sense. —Nick J. Faleris

7. The Tigers Ship Back a Center Fielder, a Prospect, and a General Manager
Jackson is obviously the positional swap. Robbie Ray, according to this pamphlet I found on the streets of Detroit, is the pitching superstar of the future. And Dave Dombrowski always wins every trade he makes, which is something the Angels could sure use, but he’s never won a trade involving himself. This also enables Dombrowski to flip Robbie Ray back to Detroit for Trout 10 years from now, effectively winning three straight Robbie Ray trades. —Matt Sussman

8. Real Madrid Sends Cash, Tours of Madrid, and a Squid Sandwich
With all-world speed, a chiseled yet flexible physique, and highly evolved motor skills that could play across the entirety of the sports landscape, Mike Trout is on the trade block and Real Madrid C.F. are serious contenders for his services. With the transfer window opening this January, the world’s richest football club will look to add to its already impressive roster of talent, an approach that suggests sports society exists only to supply them with essential nutrients needed for survival and dominance, a reality that is accepted with the affect of an obsequious waitress complimenting your decision to order the special of the day.

The trade package will be heavily weighted with cash payments, cash promises, cash deferments, and cash options, but will also feature a series of personal tours of the Paseo del Prado, a personal day of worship for the entire front office at the San Nicolas de los Servitas, a lifetime supply of Bocadillo de calamares, which will arrive fresh and be prepared by elderly yet highly skilled Madrileñas, and a signed photograph of star forward Cristiano Ronaldo. In exchange for the aforementioned package, Real Madrid will receive Mike Trout, tickets to local family-friendly vacation destinations, and a lock of C.J. Wilson’s freshly washed hair.

Cui bono? Both parties win this deal. Real Madrid can extract an elite player from another organization, strengthening their hold on contemporary talent while weakening the completion, regardless of the sport. Trout won’t get much time on the pitch, at least at first, but he will impress in banquet settings and look the part in his well-fitting field dress. After more seasoning on the training grounds, Trout could emerge as a quality midfielder, one with more of a defensive presence but the speed and competitive attack to play box-to-box and even score some goals. The Angels can use the transfer payment (rumored to be in the $212 million range), towards the bloated contact of Albert Pujols, which will give them the type of financial flexibility necessary to offer a reasonable pecuniary package to another post-30 superstar of yesteryear, not to mention the tours of Madrid, opportunities to worship in a circa-13thcentury cathedral setting, and the culinary delight that is a squid sandwich. —Jason Parks

9. A Three-Way Blockbuster Involving Territorial Rights and Forfeits
Mike Trout to the Giants. The Giants give South Bay territorial rights to the Athletics. The Athletics forfeit their 19 matchups to the Angels.

So of all these things that will never happen, this is the never-happen-est, but I’m running out of days to see my baseball New Year’s Resolution from January’s lineup card come to fruition. So if we can trade Mike Trout and solve the Bay Area standoff at the same time, why not? And then, the Giants don’t actually have to play Michael Morse in the outfield, so win/win/win.

I’m sure there are tons of things wrong with this in terms of the actual value of things changing hands, and if this were anything close to realistic, a lot of these values could actually be computed. But in the abstract, the A’s make a short-term sacrifice for their long-term benefit, the perennially win-now Angels get a shortcut for doing so. And the Giants, well, they get Mike Trout, and isn’t that really all you could ever want in life? —Zachary Levine

10. The Timeshare
Let's trade Mike Trout internet style. Because all callers to sports talk radio are convinced that Mike Trout can be had for "prospects"—and not just any prospects, the guys who take up slots 4-8 on the team's Top 10 list—let's grant all of them their wish. Each of the 29 teams in MLB that aren't the Angels agree to send three minor leaguers of the Angels' choosing, save for three "protected" kids. In return, Mike Trout becomes a timeshare, splitting his time in a roughly equal fashion among the other teams, playing 5-6 games per year for each team. The Angels can even insist on a clause that none of the games can be against them, removing the chance that they'd have to face the best player in the game. Marketing departments for teams would probably demand that Trout appear for each team during home games, so that they can advertise #TroutWeek. We could make this work.

Despite the fact that this violates just about all rules of player rostering, it might actually work. If Mike Trout puts up another 10-win season total, we can expect that he'll add roughly one-third of a win to each team. Because the Angels wouldn't really get any top-50 prospects (remember, three players per team are protected), it's not like they'd be picking up guys who are expected to be superstars. Looking at the names on the dearly departed Kevin Goldstein's (#RIPKevin) Top 101 for 2011, we see the names Eduardo Escobar, Danny Espinosa, Tony Sanchez, Christian Yelich, A.J. Cole, Guillermo Pimentel, Jaff Decker, Wilmer Flores, Trayvon Robinson, Anthony Ranaudo, and Donovan Tate in spots 90-101. That's the sort of player that your team would be giving up as the lead piece in the trade. Teams routinely make this sort of trade at the trade deadline to pick up a useful one-win bench bat/fourth starter/bullpen arm or a somewhat respectable fill-in for a guy who got injured. Over the two months left in the season, that one-win player might produce the same value as Trout would in the two series that he'd be in town for. And #TroutWeek would be a marketing bonanza. From the Angels' point of view, it could work for the fact that sometimes prospects take steps forward, and with roughly 90 of them around, they could sift through the sand and take advantage of the diamonds to stock their roster with cost-controlled talent for years to come. There probably isn't a Trout hiding in that group, but there are probably a few three-win guys.

What's in it for Mike Trout? Miguel Cabrera moved from first to third to help his team and won an MVP for doing that. Trout would be moving around the whole country(!!!) to help out every team in baseball. He'd have the best Baseball-Reference page ever. The frequent-flyer miles alone might be worth it. —Russell A. Carleton

11. The Yankees Gut Their Farm System, Rob the Mariners of Robinson Cano, Throw in a Skyscraper (but not two!) and Some Celebrities, and More
The Yankees want Mike Trout. Everyone wants Mike Trout, but the Yankees are the Yankees so obviously they're going to get him. If you took time out of your busy schedule to read the recently published Yankees Top 10 prospects list, you'll quickly realize the Yankees don't have much to offer for Trout on the field. But that won't stop them. Why? [crowd:] Because they're the Yankees!

So let's list. Here is a list of things the Yankees will trade for Mike Trout

1. Gary Sanchez
2. Michael Pineda

They'll also include their entire minor league system including players, concessions, grounds crews, and stadia, which will be disassembled and FedEx'd to Anaheim (some assembly required).

Sanchez, Pineda, and all the minor leagues won't get it done though. They'll need to offer more. This is Mike Trout, after all. The Yankees will also trade Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be a mite surprised ("Hi Mr. Cashman, I'm really looking forward to my first spring WHAT??"). The Angels won't want to pay his salary, so the Yankees will pay his salary. That won't be enough though, so they'll trade Robinson Cano. This will enrage the Mariners but there's nothing the Mariners can do because this is the Yankees. The Yankees will also pay Cano's salary (up to the $175 million, and not a penny more!).

After that, it's time to start talking about national landmarks. They'll trade the Empire State Building OR the Chrysler Building, but not both. They'll trade up to two lines of the New York subway ("Next stop, Disney's Epcot Center!"), and they'll trade any 10 celebrities who currently live in New York. Here is a list. Pick any 10. Seriously.

They'll also make the Angels a sandwich anytime they want one. Any time of day or night, doesn't matter. Mayo? Sure, we'll run to the store right away. No, we don't have that kind of pickles but... fine. I'll be right back.

Also, Brian Cashman, master of shiatsu massage, will personally rub down the entire [redacted].

So there's your offer. Sanchez, Pineda, all the minor leagues, Ellsbury, Cano, the Chrysler Building OR the Empire State Building, two subway lines, 10 celebrities, a sandwich, and a personal massage from Brian Cashman. Who says no?? —Matthew Kory

12. Teams with Bottom-Tier Minor-League Talent Offer it All
Shortly after joining Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein tried (and failed) to temper the hopes of prospect hounds by determining how much talent the typical farm system could reasonably be expected to produce. “Taking a snapshot at a single point in time,” he concluded, “the average system provided roughly two regular position players and two bench players, as well as two starters and two relievers.” Or, less specifically, “around eight major league ball players, of which around half were of significant value.” Trout is so good that it’s not hard to imagine him out-WARPing eight players in a single season, with seven roster spots to spare. But each of the eight would be locked up for a full six seasons, whereas the Angels are down to four years of control over their star center fielder, only one of which is pre-arb.

Given the Goldstein baseline and the service-time considerations, how many teams would be willing to trade their entire farm system for Trout? Matthew Kory mentioned the Yankees above, but they aren’t the only ones. “You would have to think the Brewers and White Sox would, possibly the Yankees and A’s as well,” says Jason Parks. If the Angels didn’t already have Trout, they’d surrender their system for him in a heartbeat.

The question is where we’d put the cutoff. Rank the non-Angels teams’ minor league talent from first to 29th, and offer them the option to trade it all for Trout. How far from the bottom do you get before someone says no? —Ben Lindbergh

13. No Matter the Return, The Angels Just Can't Let Him Go
I know, I know, the Angels can’t trade for Mike Trout, because they already have Mike Trout. But I think it’s worth asking: would it ever make sense to trade him? On the one hand, he’s almost certainly the most valuable commodity in baseball. He’s absurdly good, absurdly young, and absurdly cheap. He has essentially every offensive and defensive skill you’d want in a position player. Repeating 10-win seasons each of his first two years tells us the risk is extremely low.

On the other hand, maybe some team values him too highly. Maybe you think you can evaluate the other team’s minor league talent better than they can. Maybe, because he plays for your big league club, you know him better than everyone else.

Okay, the truth is, it’s going to be almost impossible to get back fair value in a Mike Trout deal, never mind getting back an overpay. But if there’s an overpay out there, you take it, right? If you believe in your ability to be a general manager, you go out and find that deal, right?

Yeah, what am I saying. Probably not. The Angels want to win. They’ve signed some marquee players. They watch Mike Trout be Mike Trout every day. And if you did trade Mike Trout, you’d always be that guy, no matter what you got back in return, that traded Mike Trout.

And no one wants to be the guy who traded Mike Trout. Just ask Harry Frazee. —Dan Brooks

25 comments have been left for this article.

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