When the Philadelphia sports portion of the internet was set ablaze Wednesday by pictures of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz spending Christmas with Eagles superfan and superstar outfielder Mike Trout, I was left wondering why so many seem to have this sense that Trout becoming a Phillie is a matter of when, not if.
I'm not going to be the guy that guarantees that Trout never comes to Philadelphia, because I don't know. He is, as we are seemingly reminded 10 times a day, from Millville, New Jersey. He does seem to enjoy spending time in the area when he's not playing. The Phillies are also an ascending team that has both prospects and money to spend the next few seasons, so it's not impossible that Trout becomes a Phillie someday -- be it in the next few years or closer to the end of his career -- it just doesn't seem to make as much sense for the Phillies as people in the Delaware Valley seem to think.
It's first important to remember that just because he's an Eagles fan doesn't mean that the Phillies would be his ideal destination to play for. Steph Curry is a Carolina Panthers fan, but that doesn't mean he's eventually going to sign with the Charlotte Hornets, it just means he roots for the football team closest to his home town. Many people only root for certain hometown teams and from the grapevine discussion we've heard throughout the course of Trout's career, it doesn't seem to be far-fetched to think that he maybe grew up as a die-hard Eagles fan and someone who instead of supporting an individual baseball team was a huge Derek Jeter fan. I'm only a few years younger than Trout, so I know quite a few people who fall into that category because they grew up when Jeter was leading the Yankees to World Series titles and the Eagles were the most dominant team in the NFC.
Perhaps the most perplexing part of all the Trout talk is that I don't get why there is a sense that some sort of move involving him is imminent. Trout is under contract through 2020, when he will still only be 29. Team-wise, the Angels may have the least bright future of any club in their division, but they have a generational talent under control for four more seasons. They still have time to attempt to put a contending team around the two-time American League MVP, something they would be wise to attempt to do.
There will come a day where the Angels will have to admit defeat and move Trout, rather than risking losing him in free-agency, but that day is probably at least two seasons away. If the Angels decide to trade Trout, it would seem to make the most sense to not do it before the great free-agent class of 2018, because that's when many big-market teams are targeting as their offseason to potentially land a superstar. So given the financial flexibility of teams like the Phillies and the New York Yankees, among others, that offseason, it doesn't seem as though it would make sense to trade Trout before then, especially when you consider that he will still have two seasons left on his current contract at that time.
I can't say with certainty that Trout will never become a Phillie, but I can say with near certainty that he's never going to become a free-agent. Either the Angels will begin to build a contender around him and he will stay in Los Angeles, or in the 2018-19 range the team will begin to aggressively shop him, understanding that they missed their window to build a team around him and have to get a return for him. So the idea of simply signing him as a free-agent after 2020, which in itself would be quite the wait for the Phillies, isn't realistic. To land Mike Trout, it will take a trade probably unlike one that the league has ever seen.
To land Trout, the Phillies would likely have to move talented young pieces already on their major league roster and a bulk of their relevant prospects. No one's debating the greatness of Trout, but we can debate if doing that makes sense. The Angels are bad now largely because they haven't had a strong farm system for years. The Phillies may now have a strong farm system, but they haven't been to the playoffs for five seasons in a row because after their 2008 core got old, they didn't have much of anything to replace them with. It's fair to worry that if the Phillies cleaned out their farm system for Trout that they could end up in a Barry Bonds in San Francisco type situation where they have one dominant player, but have traded away some of the young talent already on their major league roster and don't have much minor league talent to either call up or use in trades to build around Trout.
On top of the haul that it would take to trade for Trout, it will also take a record-setting extension on top of whatever would be remaining on his current deal. It's funny to hear people balk at the idea of giving Bryce Harper or Manny Machado close to $40 million per season after 2018, but then clamor for Trout. Of course, if all things were equal, you would pick Trout over either of Harper or Machado. But Trout will likely be older than Harper and Machado when he becomes available -- Harper and Machado will be 26 when they can become free-agents after 2018 -- and if they get $40 million on the open market, he's going to get at least $45. And he's going to have to be traded for, unlike the other two.
The overwhelming feeling that I'm left with is that Trout just won't ever be the best fit for the Phillies. The team probably doesn't want to land their star through a trade that will cost them an insane amount prospect wise if they can sign a free-agent, or multiple free-agents, instead. There's also going to be a long line of teams willing to trade for and extend Trout, should he ever become avaliable, so there's no guarantee that the Phillies would be able to land him even if they make him their No. 1 priority. Again, I'll never say never, but I'll be glad to point out that if I was the team's general manager landing Trout wouldn't be my first plan.
- As time goes on, people will overrate the connection between Trout and current Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who was the Angels assistant general manager from 2011-2014. I would bet the idea of reuniting with Klentak wouldn't be a high selling point if the Phillies ever do attempt to land Trout.
- I believe Chase Utley will be on an Opening Day roster in 2017, most likely as a starter. I would bet that Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard are not.
- It's a quiet time in the offseason, which seemingly would be a chance for the Phillies to make a decision on manager Pete Mackanin's 2018 option.
- 47 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.