Atlanta Braves Speculation: What Might It Take To Get Trout?

Sep 21, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) celebrates with teammates after hitting a three run home run during the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, why not? It’s Christmas for Liberty Media Group and the Atlanta Braves too.  So let’s go shopping for some sushi… Trout.

For the last week, I’ve been thought-experimenting with what it might take to get Mike Trout in an Atlanta Braves uniform.

Leave aside that neither the Braves nor the Angels have any real reason to pursue this trade; the Halos have the best player in baseball (and would incite a revolt among their fans if they traded him for anything less the $1.50 on the dollar) and the Braves have the farm system in place to become contenders in the not-too-distant future (with tons of flexibility in the interim).

I don’t care. It’s Christmas, dagummit; practicality has no place in this consumer-driven market… and after this last week, common sense doesn’t either.

We’re playing under the assumption that John Coppolella is going after his man come hell or high water, that now he wants Mike Trout under the Christmas tree with a ‘To Liberty Media, Love John’ tag affixed and now we’re doing so with some context.  Chris Sale, a top-3 LHP, fetched a consensus top-3 in baseball prospect, another guy around the top-25, another guy in Boston’s top-10 and a bit piece.

Methinks Mike Trout is slightly more valuable than him.

I think it’s important to reiterate this point: This is not a call to cash out now and go all-in on the trade market; that leads to crazy stuff like top-rated prospects for 28-year old outfielders with zero All-Star appearances to their credit (looking at you, Washington).  It’s not even a call to make the trade; it’s an examination of what such a trade might look like and how the pieces might come together.

Teams always regret overpaying for stars, full-stop:  giving up too much for a very good, not-quite-marquee name that resides just outside the cream of the crop is a recipe for disaster and you can confirm that with Arizona (ask them about Richie Sexson or for that matter, Shelby Miller), Seattle (Erik Bedard), the Angels (hey there Vernon Wells) and scores of others.

But trading for a super-duperstar-slash-best-player-in-the-league-slash-immediate-marketing-surge… nobody regrets that. Trout is an in-his-prime superstar and it makes sense for the Angels to move him and reap the windfall, whether it comes from the Atlanta Braves or some other similarly loaded organization. If you’re living in a trailer and win the lottery, you don’t frame the ticket.

Let’s start with what the Angels have that they probably want to keep. A quick rundown of legitimate assets:

And what they’re stuck with:

And what’s on the horizon that could help in the next year or two (using MLB.com’s rankings and projected ETA, plus a couple other searches):

(Note: None of these guys are listed among any top-100 prospect list I found, FYI. So to say they’re top prospects is a very relative term.)

So if absolutely everything broke right, by 2018 the Angels would have two-thirds of a starting lineup and six pitchers and they still wouldn’t really have a lot of disposable cash to go get a game-changer. I don’t think that’s a playoff team, Ma. Call me crazy.

Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This is a lot of people

So let’s say John Coppolella woke up tomorrow and decided he wanted to get Liberty Media Group the best baseball player in the world for Christmas. How could he help Anaheim fill that void to the level of satisfaction that would make the Angels fork over Trout?

  1. Replace Trout (insomuch as one player can)

There’s no way he could get away with this without sacrificing Ender Inciarte. And although we’re big fans of Ender* around these parts, he goes bye-bye in this scenario.

(* — Before you immediately diss this, recognize what Adam Eaton just brought for the White Sox.  Ender and he have nearly the same amount of team control and Inciarte can actually play CF)

  1. Big Prospect(s)

I don’t like this, but the Atlanta Braves would have to sacrifice Ozzie Albies. I think moving Dansby Swanson* is a non-starter, but Travis Demeritte is just tantalizing enough that Albies can be considered somewhat expendable in the pursuit of Trout. And he wouldn’t be alone… the cream of the prospect crop has to relocate (see below).

(* — if I’m Coppy, only two names make me immediately hang up the phone if people call with trade offers: Swanson and Kevin Maitan. Everybody else can be yours if the price is right. In any case, they already have Andrelton, so…)

  1. Bolster the arms

And I mean BOLSTERSean Newcomb goes back to his original organization. Ian Anderson, we hardly knew ye. Max Fried, thanks for the memories. Lucas Sims, we’ll always have that brief time when the farm system was terrible and you were the Braves best prospect by default.

  1. Fill the holes

The corners (first-third base) and left field seem a little… undefined… in La-La Land. The Atlanta Braves would need to provide potential answers for at least two of these. Braxton Davidson and Rio Ruiz aren’t the flashiest names but they are top-30ish prospects from one of the deepest farm systems in baseball. Ruiz gets the nod here for being closer to big-league ready than Austin Riley*.

(*–in this scenario, tie goes to whichever prospect is more big-league ready. Arte Moreno is 70 years old; he’s not signing off on trading for a bunch of players who may not be big-league ready until after he’s dead.)

  1. Sweetener

This is where Coppy goes over the top to get his man. Anaheim has a lot of money committed to people who aren’t particularly good at baseball anymore ($9 million to Huston Street, $8 million to Ricky Nolasco) but that’s chump change in baseball terms, and particularly for Arte Moreno.

The one that hurts is Josh Hamilton.

The Angels are paying Hamilton $26,410,000 to basically go fly kites next season; it’s more money than they have committed to any single player on their roster.

So the Braves pay the balance. That’s a better pill to swallow, but the Atlanta Braves (as we’ve been told repeatedly) have money this offseason and no tremendous free-agent targets to spend it on. Think of it as spending $46.5 million for Mike Trout this season—that’s the price for Trout’s salary and Hamilton’s base hit combined, give or take.

From a strictly financial sense, it’s a no-brainer; I’d pay $46.5 million for a year of Mike Trout. So would you if you had any sense; if 1.0 WAR is worth roughly $7 million (might be a low figure at this point), Trout is worth… well, I don’t number well but… more than $46.5 million.

Hey, it’s only about $43.5 million when you don’t have to pay Ender this year!

Sep 19, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) smiles to the bench after hitting a triple and driving in a run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Who says no? Does anybody say no?

So to recap:

Braves Get:

  • Mike Trout, the best player in baseball… for 3 years.

Angels Get:

  • Ender Inciarte (Gold-Glove centerfielder)
  • Ozzie Albies (No. 12 overall prospect, MLB.com; Braves No. 2)
  • Sean Newcomb (No. 46 overall; No. 3 Braves)
  • Ian Anderson (No. 77; No. 5 Braves)
  • Max Fried (No. 11 Braves)
  • Lucas Sims (No. 15 Braves)
  • Rio Ruiz (No. 16 Braves)
  • Braxton Davidson (No. 21 Braves)
  • $26 million rebate on Josh Hamilton

An 8-to-1 trade, plus cash.

I mean… if I’m the Angels, I don’t just hang up the phone immediately. That’s an infusion of talent that’s hard to turn your nose up at.

That’s Inciarte, Albies and Ruiz who are close enough to the bigs to help within the next year or so in the lineup; Newcomb, Sims and Fried will be ready sooner rather than later, with Anderson looming as a potential game-changer down the road. That’s a path out of the cellar, and the opportunity to not pay Josh Hamilton $26 million to go be somewhere else has to be enticing.

And if you’re worried that the Atlanta Braves would give up too much in this scenario, I present the reshuffled top-20 prospects according to MLB.com (which is not infallible, as someone will no doubt remind me in the comments):

  1. Dansby Swanson
  2. Kolby Allard
  3. Kevin Maitan
  4. Mike Soroka
  5. Joey Wentz
  6. Travis Demeritte
  7. Touki Toussaint
  8. Kyle Muller
  9. Alex Jackson
  10. Austin Riley
  11. Ronald Acuna
  12. Dustin Peterson
  13. Anfernee Seymour
  14. Ricardo Sanchez
  15. Lucas Herbert
  16. Luke Jackson
  17. Akeel Morris
  18. Patrick Weigel
  19. A.J. Minter
  20. Cristian Pache

Plus Trout. And Freddie Freeman. And Julio Teheran. And Matt Wisler Or Aaron Blair If They Ever Develop. And Arodys Vizcaino. And Mike Foltynewicz. And Jace Peterson. And Mallex Smith. And probably Matt Kemp, although he played okay down the stretch and the Atlanta Braves (or whoever) will only be on the hook for about $15 million for the next three seasons. And I guess Jaime Garcia if you’re feeling like that’s going to be a thing past July (I hope it’s not).

Is it hog-wash? Almost certainly.

The Angels would be crucified for dealing Trout (even if they’re wasting his prime with a collection of stiffs, has-beens and never-will-be’s for teammates and even if it’s the absolute right thing to do for a floundering franchise) and if ANYTHING happened to Trout—an early erosion of skills or, God forbid, an injury—Coppy could have set the organization back years.

It would be a wild swing and miss with all the high-threshold prospects involved.

But much like no one worries about the credit-card statement during the holiday gift-buying frenzy, a Coppy determined to get his bosses Mike Trout wouldn’t worry about the sticker shock. He’d just revel in the looks on everyone’s face when the wrapping paper came off.

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