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Trout or Betts? Poll of MLB execs not close

@feinsand
October 24, 2020

Mookie Betts has been putting on a show during the postseason, with highlights ranging from timely home runs to home run-robbing catches that make you question the laws of gravity. Betts’ performance on the national stage has even caused some to ask a question that practically seems blasphemous: Has Mookie

Mookie Betts has been putting on a show during the postseason, with highlights ranging from timely home runs to home run-robbing catches that make you question the laws of gravity.

Betts’ performance on the national stage has even caused some to ask a question that practically seems blasphemous: Has Mookie overtaken Mike Trout as the game’s best player?

It’s a fascinating debate for sports radio or social media, but nothing we hear in those arenas is going to settle this argument. We wanted the opinion of those who shape the rosters around the league, so we asked 10 front-office executives the following question:

Who would you rather have right now: Mookie Betts or Mike Trout?

Every executive lauded Betts for his incredible talent, and while each one of them would be happy to have the Dodgers superstar patrolling right field for their club, the results were nearly unanimous: Eight executives chose Trout, one took Betts, while the other one called it a draw.

“Trout is the most consistent, best player on the planet,” one American League executive said. “He could retire before age 30 and you’d still have a strong argument that he is a Hall of Famer. I’m not sure many guys not named Ruth or Cobb fit into that category. Mookie is playing really well right now; I’m still taking Trout.”

A National League executive didn’t compare Trout to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb or anybody else. He put the Angels superstar in a class of his own.

“He’s the greatest player in the history of baseball,” the NL exec said. “Mookie is getting a lot of deserved attention right now, but Trout is literally the best player ever.”

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A second NL executive chose Trout, but not before trying to stack his make-believe outfield.

“Can I have both?” he said. “As good as Mookie is, I think Trout is more dynamic and I think his skill set might age slightly better. There’s definitely not a wrong answer either way.”

"I absolutely love Mookie," another NL exec said. "So it pains me to say it, but it’s probably still Trout. I have slightly higher conviction that he holds up physically."

An AL executive with a background in scouting loves both players, calling Betts’ talent “insane,” and his championship pedigree has thrust him into the conversation with Trout as the game’s best player, but the executive still gave Trout the nod in a head-to-head comparison despite his lack of a postseason résumé.

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“Trout is still on an exclusive Hall of Fame trajectory with elite athleticism himself,” the AL exec said. “Baseball is a team game, with individual performance. The Dodgers’ excellence has magnified Betts’ electricity and all-around skills while Trout is relegated to watching his beloved Eagles due to the Angels’ inferior roster. Trout is still the king of the jungle.”

Betts’ lone vote came from an AL executive who compared the pair to two of the greatest players in the game’s history.

“Williams or DiMaggio!” the exec said. “Both players are phenomenal. Today forward I’d lean slightly toward Mookie as he’s a year younger, the better defender and higher impact baserunner.”

The AL exec who couldn’t choose between the two superstars used a tasty metaphor to answer the question.

“I would order both the beer and the tacos,” the exec said. “They’re different but equally delicious.”

A few of the executives cited the contractual situations of the two players when making the comparison. Trout has 10 years and $354.5 million left on his deal, while Betts is signed for the next 12 years at $365 million.

“Betts is one year younger and signed cheaper [by average annual value], but I would probably take Trout because he is the better hitter,” an NL exec said. “That should age a little better, but it is close.”

“Both players are bargains,” an AL executive said.

The one area that Betts received an edge over Trout was in the field, where the four-time Gold Glove winner is considered to be the best right fielder in the game. For all the hardware Trout has compiled during the past decade, he has yet to win a Gold Glove for his play in center field.

Although this particular debate was limited to Trout vs. Betts, one NL executive decided to throw a third name into the mix.

“Juan Soto is rapidly approaching both,” the exec said.

Hmmm. Perhaps we’ll revisit this again in a year.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.