Crushing news for Garrett Richards and the Los Angeles Angels as the power-armed right-hander will have to undergo Tommy John surgery. Jeff Passan's report on Yahoo! Sports also says that Andrew Heaney, currently on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle, is rehabbing in an attempt to avoid his own Tommy John surgery. C.J. Wilson is still out, Jered Weaver is throwing 80 mph meatballs and Albert Pujols is hitting .198 with a .666 OPS.
In other words: A team projected as mediocre is now 13-15 and looking worse, and that's with Mike Trout tearing things up with a .317/.400/.596 line. Did we mention the Angels have what is universally regarded as the worst farm system in the game? Which is why Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wrote this:
And that reality prompts the obvious question: is it time to think about trading Mike Trout?
You never want to be in a position where you're potentially thinking about trading one of the greatest players of all time. The Angels should want Mike Trout to retire having worn only their jersey, and go into the Hall of Fame as a lifelong Angel. When you have a +10 win player, you should want to take advantage of his greatness and put a winner around him.
But the Angels have tried that, and thanks to some bad decisions that have long-term consequences -- the Albert Pujols contract still has another $140 million left after this season -- it's not entirely clear that the team can actually do that. Their farm system isn't just the worst in baseball; it's the worst that anyone can remember in some time. If the Angels keep Mike Trout, and just keep trying to surround him with decent free agents while trying to build back up the prospect base, there's a pretty good chance they'll be a 75 win team for the remainder of his contract, and then they’ll have to convince him to re-sign another contract with a franchise that spent six years failing to provide him with adequate support.
Trout is signed through 2020, four more seasons after this one. The Angels do get Weaver and Wilson off the books after this season, so that's $40 million in payroll to play with. But Trout's salary will leap from $16 million this year to $34 million in 2018, eating away at some of that money. So Dave's question on trading Trout is, I agree, appropriate. The Angels will have to consider the idea, although I'd hate to be the general manager burdened with the task of obtaining fair value for Mike Trout.
So let's play a little fantasy game. Which teams could potentially come up with a package of young players that would tease Angels GM Billy Eppler into even thinking of a trade?
Los Angeles Dodgers -- From Keith Law's No. 2-ranked organization, you could start with pitchers Julio Urias (No. 5 overall on Keith's preseason top 100) and Jose De Leon (No. 60), both in Triple-A and close to the majors. Outfielder Alex Verdugo (51) doesn't turn 20 until later this month and is already in Double-A. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz (No. 77) is a 19-year-old Cuban yet to play in the States but with tools resembling those of Lorenzo Cain and A.J. Pollock. But if you're the Angels, don't you ask for Corey Seager? And would you really trade Trout to your city rivals?
Chicago Cubs -- Can you imagine adding Trout to this lineup? I think you could convince Dexter Fowler to move to left field. The Cubs have Keith's No. 4-rated farm system, led by shortstop Gleyber Torres (No. 15), who is off to a slow start in Class A, hitting .191. Catcher Willson Contreras (No. 27), however, has a .451 OBP at Triple-A Iowa and would fill a big need at the big league level. Second baseman/outfielder Ian Happ, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft, is another high-upside bat and is hitting well at Class A. You also could ask for Kyle Schwarber, a perfect DH, or take a chance on Jorge Soler's production eventually matching his tools.
Boston Red Sox -- Keith rated them only the No. 10 organization but they have four huge upside talents in third baseman Rafael Devers (No. 7), second baseman Yoan Moncada (No. 17), center fielder Andrew Benintendi (No. 18) and pitcher Anderson Espinoza (No. 38). Moncada is hitting .348/.478/.506 with 19 steals for Class A Salem and Benintendi is hitting .376/.435/.653, although both have hit just one home run. Still, Benintendi could be on the Michael Conforto path: drafted in one year and reaching the majors the next. He should be moving up to Double-A soon and could reach Boston before September. Jackie Bradley Jr. also could be part of the deal, along with Pablo Sandoval (just kidding!).
Texas Rangers -- The Rangers are loaded with talent at the Triple-A level, even after dealing a big package of prospects last season to acquire Cole Hamels. Outfielder Nomar Mazara (No. 9) already has reached Arlington, but Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar are hanging out in the minors. Center fielder Lewis Brinson (No. 32) continues to see his stock rise after a 1.004 OPS in the minors last year and a solid start in 2016 in Double-A. Pitcher Dillon Tate (No. 50) was the fourth overall selection last June and has cruised through his first three outings in Class A. But would you dare trade with a division rival?
Colorado Rockies -- Let this happen, if only because we all want to see the numbers Trout would put up in Coors Field. But the Rockies do have a nice system, No. 7 on Keith's preseason list. Shortstop Brendan Rodgers (No. 11) is probably a top-five overall prospect right now after hitting .366 with 16 extra-base hits in 24 games to start the season at Class A. He isn't necessarily blocked by Trevor Story because he's an even bigger talent, but it does mean the Rockies have two shortstops of the future. (Of course, the Angels have Andrelton Simmons.) Third baseman Ryan McMahon (No. 62) is blocked by Nolan Arenado. Outfielders David Dahl (No. 58) and Raimel Tapia (No. 78) are both in Double-A, with Dahl already at eight home runs but Tapia struggling. The Angels lso could get outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and then look to flip him for even more prospects.
OK, this is admittedly crazy talk. Odds of the Angels ever trading Trout have to be slim to slim to none.
But as Joaquin Andujar once said, "There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, 'You never know.'"