Angels' Trout 'just wasn't myself' in injury-plagued season

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mike Trout, typically as composed as anybody in his profession, was visibly emotional while talking about his recent string of injuries Monday, one day after Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin declared that Trout would not return from his recent hand injury in time to play again this season.

Trout, on a trajectory to being one of the greatest players in baseball history as recently as 2020, has played in fewer than half of the Angels' games over the past three years.

His tally this year will be 82.

"Yeah, it's frustrating," Trout said, visibly shaken. "I wanted to get back. It's tough. It's been hard."

Trout, 32, won three American League MVP awards within his first eight full seasons and finished as the runner-up in four other instances. But a torn calf muscle kept him off the field beyond the middle of May in 2021. In 2022, he missed a little more than a month around midseason because of a troublesome back issue. His goal entering 2023 was simply to remain healthy.

"I hired a ton of people to work on my body," Trout said. "My body felt great. A freak thing happened and I broke my hand."

Trout suffered a fracture to the hamate bone on the bottom part of his left hand while completing a swing in San Diego on July 3. He pushed to come back seven weeks later, on Aug. 22, with the Angels still on the fringes of contention, but his hand didn't respond favorably. He played in one game before returning to the injured list and will not be activated again, his season ending with a .263/.367/.490 slash line and 18 home runs.

"When I came back, I was in pain," Trout said. "My swing wasn't right. Just wasn't myself. I was taking it day-to-day, trying for the soreness and just the discomfort to go away. It never did. Now, giving it a few extra days off, it's going away. I'm starting my swing process. I've been swinging. I'm not going to come back, but I wanted to. I just wanted to get my head straight for the offseason, clear my mind. Just have a healthy offseason."

This offseason will come with more questions than ever for Trout and the Angels. Trout has seven years and nearly $250 million remaining on the mega-extension he signed heading into the 2019 season, and there are questions throughout the industry about whether he and the Angels might actually part ways.

Trout's age and recent injury history -- not to mention the fact that he has the right to block any trade -- would make it exceedingly difficult to move his contract. But former teammates have wondered recently if Trout has reached a tipping point and might ask Angels owner Arte Moreno, team president John Carpino and general manager Perry Minasian to work out a trade this offseason. Trout gave no indications that was the case while addressing the media Monday, but he also didn't necessarily dispel the notion.

He is expected to meet with the front office to talk about the team's direction in the near future.

"These conversations happen every year, not just this year," Trout said. "They're private conversations I have with the front office -- John and Perry, all those guys up there. So just keep it as that. The plan, as it always is, is to take a couple weeks off in the offseason, clear my mind, get in shape, get ready to play and go from there."

Trout provided a similar answer when asked if he wants to see it through with the Angels, saying: "I go through this every year. That's private conversations I have with Arte and John, and I'm doing the same thing I did last, what, 13 years, just go into the offseason, clear my mind, get ready for spring and, you know, wearing an Angels uniform in spring."

The Angels began the final week of the regular season with a 70-86 record, having already clinched their eighth consecutive losing season to set a franchise record.

The Angels went on a run early in the second half to vault back into contention, at which point the front office decided not to trade Shohei Ohtani and instead augment an ailing roster by dealing away prospects from a relatively thin farm system. The Angels then went 8-19 during a nightmarish August, a month that saw Ohtani suffer a torn ulnar collateral ligament that prematurely ended his season as a pitcher. Ohtani, whose season as a hitter ended with an oblique injury, will soon enter free agency and is widely expected to sign elsewhere.

"People ask me this all the time, 'Where's Shohei going to go?' Couldn't tell you. It's up to him," Trout said. "You got to ask him. Ultimately it comes down to his decision. He hasn't said anything to me. He keeps it quiet, just does his own stuff. As another teammate, I think just give him his privacy. It's his decision. He's going to do what's right for him. We'll see how that goes."

The Angels are expected to do everything possible to re-sign Ohtani. But they're burdened by their commitment with Anthony Rendon, who has played in just 148 games over the past three years and is owed another $114 million over the next three. Young players such as catcher Logan O'Hoppe, shortstop Zach Neto, first baseman Nolan Schanuel and outfielder Mickey Moniak have emerged this season, but the Angels would nonetheless have a litany of holes to fill throughout their roster this offseason if they hope to try to contend next year.

Of utmost importance is for Trout to get healthy.

Nobody feels that more than him.

"I just want to be out there," Trout said. "Injuries suck. All the hard work and stuff and just freak stuff happens. I try to stay positive."