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Going fishing: Can the Cardinals trade for Trout?

Before we descend down this irreversible path, let me be crystal clear: This is not happening. It is never going to happen. So don’t get your hopes up. Got it? Good. Let’s dream.

Mike Trout just became the first player in history to lead all of baseball in offensive wins above replacement for five straight seasons. Trout just finished his fifth full season.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Trout just won his second Most Valuable Player award, and you could argue he should have five.

Trout has accumulated 48.5 WAR, already more than some Hall of Famers, including the likes of Jim Rice and Lou Brock.

Trout just had his fifth season with an adjusted on-base plus slugging percentage of at least 168. Hank Aaron had five. Miguel Cabrera has had four. Manny Ramirez had three. Alex Rodriguez, two. These are a who’s who of the greatest hitters ever.

And oh, by the way, Trout has not yet played his age-25 season. He was born 206 days after Stephen Piscotty. Let that digest in your mind.

Trout is a wonderful baseball player. He could possibly be the most wonderful baseball player we’ve ever seen, in fact. This we know. I could go on all day about how amazing Trout is. But let’s not beat a dead horse. That’s not why you’re here. You’re here to find out how the St. Louis Cardinals can acquire this generational talent. So let’s get to it.

Wait, why would the Angels even trade Trout?

Every buyer must be attached to a seller. We cannot will the Los Angeles Angels to trade Trout. And after all we just spouted about Trout, it would seem counterintuitive to argue that a team should trade this man. So we must find a reason for the Angels to do so.

For one thing, Trout is, literally and figuratively, a lone Angel in the outfield. He is the shining light on a roster of dark, desolate sadness. The Angels have crashed hard since reaching 98 wins two years ago. You, yes, you, could probably put together a decent at-bat against Jered Weaver, and old friend Albert Pujols is the heaviest of anchors attached to this sinking ship. The Angels are awful when you include Trout. Remove him, and you have a 100-loss team.

If you can’t bear to look at the ugliness of the major league roster, you may be blinded by the despair that awaits. Besides being bogged down by Pujols’s contract for the forseeable future, the Angels have the worst farm system in the game. They cashed any valuable chips they might have had for Andrelton Simmons last winter. To give you some perspective on how gutted this farm is, note that they plucked Vicente Campos off waivers this month from the Arizona Diamondbacks. MLB.com now has him ranked as the Angels’ ninth-best prospect.

But enough bashing of the Angels. Back to the main point: the unbearably bleak outlook of the Angels has fostered a situation where they must, at the very least, consider trading Trout to replenish the roster and farm. That is not to say that they must actually trade him. But general manager Billy Eppler and company wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they weren’t considering the repair that a Trout trade could bring to the franchise’s future.

I’m listening. So what’s it going to take?

Finally, we’ve reached the fun part. First things first: everyone is on the table. Everyone. There is nothing you consider untouchable for Trout. I know you love Harrison Bader, but he’s in play. Alex Reyes looks like a stud, sure, but Trout has been the studdiest of studs for a half-decade now. Heck, if the Angels wanted Yadier Molina for whatever reason, you give them Yadi.

There’s no legitimate comparison for a Trout trade. The closest thing, you could argue, is the Boston Red Sox’s sale of 24-year-old Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000, but, well, that was 1919. A more recent comparison may be the Alex Rodriguez deal, but he had a mega-contract attached to him at a time when the Texas Rangers simply could not operate under that strain.

Trout, on the other hand, is owed about $122 million over the next four years, an average of roughly $30.5 million per year. That’s not insigificant, but it really is. According to FanGraphs, he was worth $74.9 million this year, and hasn’t been worth less than $60.3 million in any of the last five seasons. No, $122 million is not nothing. This is also Trout we’re talking about. The salary shouldn’t inspire any hesitation among suitors, nor should it affect the potential return for the Angels.

Hopefully, by this point I’ve convinced you of how good Mike Trout is. If you still need more convincing, there are any number of resources to help you out. FanGraphs is a good place to start. I’d recommend Baseball-Reference as well. I will also gladly help you personally with this problem.

From this point on, we will take Mike Trout’s immense value as a given. We are not here to debate that. Instead, we will focus on how to acquire him.

Image Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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