Angels are wasting the best years of Mike Trout

Ty Cobb played in three World Series by the time he was 22, lost them all, and never made it back.

Ted Williams played in one World Series, hit .200 in a seven-game defeat, and never made it back.

Ernie Banks never made one at all. Neither did Billy Williams or Ryne Sandberg or Andre Dawson.

Ken Griffey Jr. will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer but he never played in a World Series. Torii Hunter just retired without playing in one. Ichiro Suzuki and Rod Carew. Frank Thomas was on the 2005 White Sox, but was injured and didn't actually play in the World Series, his only opportunity.

Which gets us to Mike Trout. Oh, his career is young, just four seasons in, so he has many stories yet to tell and myths to build. But after a winter in which the Los Angeles Angels haven't been willing to pay for any big bats, in which they'll roll out an Opening Day lineup that could include the likes of Craig Gentry, Johnny Giavotella, Geovany Soto and C.J. Cron, you have to wonder: Are the Angels going to waste Trout's prime years?

Trout is signed through 2020. Despite having the best player in baseball on their team the past four seasons, the Angels have made the playoffs just once and haven't won a single playoff game. They've averaged 87.5 wins in those four years; Trout has averaged 9.3 WAR per season. Without Trout, they probably would have been under .500 the past four seasons.

Is there reason for more optimism in 2016? I don't see it, not in a division where the younger and building Astros and Rangers may be improved. Coming off an 85-win season in which the Angels ranked 12th in the American League in runs scored and sixth in runs allowed, they made one significant addition, trading for Andrelton Simmons. He'll obviously help the defense and gives the Angels a long-term solution at shortstop to replace Erick Aybar, but he's unlikely to help an offense that had just two players -- Trout and David Freese -- produce an OBP over the AL average of .318. Freese is a free agent and was replaced by Yunel Escobar, who is coming off a .314 season with the Nationals but is a guy who hit .256 over the previous three seasons.

The core of the Angels' offense is Trout, Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols. Calhoun is a nice player: He hit 26 home runs, drove in 83 runs, plays a good right field (he won a Gold Glove), but the additional home run power in 2015 came at the expense of more strikeouts and a lower OBP. If he can improve against lefties, however, there's a chance his numbers will improve.

Pujols is the bigger issue. He slugged 40 home runs and made the All-Star team, but that served to mask what was otherwise a mediocre offensive season. He's turned into one of the most one-dimensional hitters in the game: Back in 2012, he hit 50 doubles in his first year with the Angels; that was down to 22 in 2015. He hit a career-low .244; his career average has slid from .328 from the time he joined the Angels to .312. While he still doesn't strike out much, he doesn't walk much and posted a .308 OBP. His final line of .244/.307/.480 just isn't enormously valuable, even with the home runs. Among 29 qualified first baseman and DHs, Pujols ranked 23rd in wRC+. He's being paid $25 million a year to be better than Logan Morrison or Brandon Moss.

To top things off, Pujols had offseason foot surgery to repair the plantar plate in his right foot and may not be ready for Opening Day. At 36, given his foot problems and general decline, the odds of a better season than the 3.1 WAR he put in 2015 are slim.

That gets to the root of the Angels' potential long-term issues. On top of a barren farm system that is generally considered one of the three worst in the majors, especially after top prospect Sean Newcomb was included in the Simmons deal, Pujols is signed for six more seasons at salaries escalating at $1 million per season up to $30 million. The Angels will still be paying Josh Hamilton $26 million each of the next two seasons. Owner Arte Moreno's desire to stay below the $189 million luxury tax threshold is apparently a reason for the team's unwillingless to sign a better bat for left field, such as Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes or Dexter Fowler, even though back in October Moreno had said, "If it's the right player, in the right situation, we'll do whatever is needed."

I guess a Gentry/Daniel Nava platoon is the right fix to solve left field, which had the worst production in the majors last season.

This is the final year on the contracts for aging pitchers Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson so that's $40.7 million coming off the books in 2017, but Trout's salary will hit $34 million by 2018 and the farm system is unlikely to have anybody to replace those two in the rotation.

I've painted a bleak picture. That doesn't mean 2016 will be bleak. Any chance for a playoff spot probably rests on a stellar year from the rotation: Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker bouncing back to their 2014 numbers, Andrew Heaney growing from a promising rookie season, one last gasp from Weaver or Wilson. That could happen. Add in the best player in the game, and you never know.

But the Angels look like a third- or fourth-place team and it's likely another October without Trout's wonderful gifts on national display.