Michael Trout is the best player in baseball. He's also the most untradeable.Given Trout's age, talent and contract status, it's impossible to imagine a scenario in which any of the other 29 MLB clubs could make an offer that Los Angeles general manager Billy Eppler couldn't refuse.While trading such a
Michael Trout is the best player in baseball. He's also the most untradeable.
Given Trout's age, talent and contract status, it's impossible to imagine a scenario in which any of the other 29 MLB clubs could make an offer that Los Angeles general manager Billy Eppler couldn't refuse.
While trading such a talent seems unthinkable, it's a topic that continues to get brought up given that the Halos sunk to 74 wins last year, are below .500 again this year, and would otherwise have the type of top-heavy roster and relatively shallow farm system that would be primed for a rebuild. Except, of course, for the presence of Trout.
According to two GMs, Eppler has told his counterparts time and time again, "I'm open to talking about anybody on our roster except the center fielder."
Who could blame Eppler? Now in his second season as the Angels' GM, Eppler knows he has the game's best player on his roster. And thanks to the six-year, $144.5 million extension Trout signed before the 2014 season, the two-time American League Most Valuable Player Award winner is locked up through the 2020 season.
"There's no point to bringing up Trout, because it's going nowhere," one GM said. "Teams will surely try, but it's like running into a brick wall."
The Angels entered Thursday four games back of the Astros in the AL West standings after getting off to an 11-12 start. With more than five months remaining in the regular season, there's no reason for Los Angeles to do anything rash, but if it misses the postseason for the third straight year and the fifth time in Trout's six full seasons, teams certainly figure to check in with Eppler to make sure that he hasn't had a change of heart when it comes to the Halos moving their crown jewel.
"While every team is prone to positioning certain players as untouchable, Trout may actually be one of few players to warrant that designation," one GM said. "For a team to inspire Billy Eppler to even return the call, it would have to come to the table stocked with one of the best farm systems and young, upside Major Leaguers and be willing to not put any of those players off limits, because it will take a healthy blend from those two groups."
Asked last month about the possibility of trading Trout, Eppler admitted that it would be "extremely difficult" to consider such a scenario.
"I don't think you can find that equivalent package -- especially when you're talking about multi, multi years of control, too," Eppler said during an interview on MLB.com's Executive Access podcast.
The Herschel Walker parallel
Some have argued that the Angels would be wise to cash in the game's most valuable chip in a "Herschel Walker" type trade, referring to the infamous 1989 NFL deal that sent the former Heisman Trophy winner from Dallas to Minnesota.
The Cowboys sent Walker, two third-round Draft picks, a fifth-rounder and a 10th-rounder to the Vikings, who gave back five players -- each of whom had a conditional Draft pick attached to them if they were cut -- as well as Minnesota's first-, second- and sixth-round picks that year. Among the players taken with those picks were Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson, who would become two key cogs in the Cowboys' mid-1990s dynasty.
But unlike the NFL, where Draft picks are prime trade currency, baseball teams -- with the exception of specific compensatory selections -- aren't permitted to include those picks in trades.
"Folks talked about the Mark Teixeira trade as the closest to the Herschel Walker deal in recent times, and that obviously wasn't really even close to the Walker deal," one GM said, referring to the 2007 trade that saw the Braves deal Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Matt Harrison to the Rangers in a seven-player trade that landed Teixeira in Atlanta. "Tough to replicate the sheer impact of that deal in baseball when we can't trade Draft picks."
Make like Miggy?
If you think it's unheard of for a team to trade a player such as Trout before he's even reached his "prime" years, you don't need to look too far back for a similar situation, albeit one driven by financial resources -- or the lack thereof.
Nearly a decade ago, Jose Cabrera was a 24-year-old with four All-Star appearances, a .313 average, a .929 OPS and four 100-RBI seasons under his belt in four-plus seasons. The Marlins -- believing they did not have the financial wherewithal to sign Cabrera to a new contract when he hit free agency two years down the road -- sent Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for six players, including former first-round picks Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.
"If it's a different situation -- different revenue, different payroll -- you don't trade Miguel Cabrera," said Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill, who was their assistant GM at the time of the trade. "When you are trading a player like that, there's nothing you can't ask for."
"These type of trades, they're always difficult under any scenario," said Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski, who was running the Tigers at the time of the Cabrera trade. "In most cases, it's a team saying, 'We're going to make this move. We think it's good for our franchise, so let's see what we can do.' That versus somebody trying to pry a player away; prying a player away is very difficult to do."
Once the Marlins let the world know Cabrera was available, Dombrowski seized the opportunity.
"We felt he was the type of player you rarely have the chance to acquire," Dombrowski said. "He was at the beginning of a great career that we felt would bring us an All-Star-type player for years to come. We knew the price would be very large, but we were prepared to pay it."
Cabrera was still two years away from free agency, but after earning $7.4 million in 2007, he was due another raise that offseason in his second year of arbitration. He signed an eight-year, $152.3 million deal with the Tigers shortly before the 2008 season.
Trout is set to make about $120 million from 2017-20, though given his performance and the escalation of salaries, his deal isn't considered onerous for the Halos -- and wouldn't be for any other team, either.
"Oddly enough, we felt like it was a bargain then," Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto -- who was the Angels' GM when they signed Trout to the contract -- said on Executive Access. "It was a big number, and [owner] Arte Moreno and the Angels organization allowed us to be aggressive with a player with lower service. Typically, the extensions done with players in his service class were probably more a third of that size, but he's an exceptional player. You were talking about a different element if you want to buy free-agent years of the best player in the game."
The same goes for trading that player.
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.