Through 54 games in 2017, the Angels have managed to pull off a decent 26-28 record. Just consider how remarkable that is. Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano and Alex Meyer, the makings of a potential good starting rotation, are all on the disabled list. The injuries have hit the bullpen too, sending Cam Bedrosian, Huston Street and Andrew Bailey on the shelf for an extended period of time. The offense has significantly underperformed to the tune of a 93 wRC+ and ranks 12th in the American League in runs scored, thanks to down performances from Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Danny Espinosa and the trio of Angels 1st baseman(C.J. Cron, Jefry Marte, Luis Valbuena). The team has managed to hover around .500, even though their BaseRuns record says they should be a 25-29 team. The Angels have managed to do this because their bullpen has been better than expected and they have some guy named Mike Trout. Once again, Trout has been the driving force of success for the Angels but he’ll hit the disabled list for the 1st time in his incredible career.
On Sunday afternoon in Miami, Trout slide into 2nd base and appeared to hurt his thumb, although the severity of this injury was unknown until Monday night. The bad news was announced during the Angels home game vs the Atlanta Braves and it was not what the Angels, or their fans, wanted to hear.
TROUT UPDATE: Mike Trout will have surgery on Wednesday to repair UCL in his left thumb. Typical timetable for return is 6 to 8 weeks.
— Angels (@Angels) May 30, 2017
While the Angels won’t openly admit it, this is the type of injury that may derail the Angels season. It was already a question if the Angels could compete with the reigning MVP in their lineup and without him for at least a month and a half, the team would have to significantly over perform for a large sample just to stay afloat. Not only does this news suck on a team level but it sucks on a personal level for Trout, who was experiencing his best MLB season yet, which is really saying something. Through 47 games, Trout racked up 3.6 fWAR thanks to an absurd .337/.461/.742 batting line along with 16 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He was not only the main reason why the Angels were competing in most ball games but he was on pace for a record shattering season, possibly eclipsing the 11 WAR threshold that few others in MLB history have reached(all of those players are Hall of Famers). The most important aspect of this Trout injury directly relates to the Angels and their rest of the season path. There’s only one logical way for the Angels to go now.
Had Mike Trout stayed healthy and the Angels returned some pitchers, it wasn’t asinine to think the team could hover around .500, possibly get hot for a few weeks and put themselves into a Wild Card picture(they were never catching the 36-16 Houston Astros). Had that occurred, the team could have hypothetically added a few small pieces at the trade deadline, which would make a fairly big impact on the farm system and the potential 2018 roster. With Trout out for a significant amount of time, it’ll take a miracle for the team to enter this position, which means the team will look to sell for the 2nd straight season. The question is who they decide to sell and how far they want to go in this process.
There are obvious trade candidates. Cameron Maybin, Yunel Escobar, Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Yusmeiro Petit, Ricky Nolasco, Jesse Chavez, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Ben Revere, Cliff Pennington and Danny Espinosa are all slated to be free agents after this season. Realistically, the first 5 names on that list are the only players who will garner any significant attention on the trade block. Between those 5 players, you’re potentially looking at grabbing a handful of 40-45 FV(Future Value) prospects, which isn’t a small addition to a bottom tier farm system. It’s possible they can squeeze more value out of some of those other soon to be free agents, although those players would have to perform pretty damn well until late July for that to occur. The Angels can also look to extend some of those players, such as Maybin, Norris or Parker, who still fill holes for 2018. This is the likely route the Angels go, selling some of the rental players and going year by year with players once again this coming offseason.
There is another route the Angels could go, one that would stir up controversy. Kole Calhoun, Matt Shoemaker and Andrelton Simmons are all players who are in the middle of their prime and are under club control for very affordable prices through 2020. Trading these players would net significant prospects but would all but put the “rebuild” label on the Angels for the coming seasons, which creates a huge dilemma while employing Mike Trout in center field through that same time period. This route is unlikely, although the team may be headed for their 2nd straight losing season and 3rd straight season with 85 or fewer wins, which means exploring another route isn’t entirely out of the question. It probably won’t happen but Billy Eppler has to get creative with planning out his next few seasons so a big and unexpected trade may be in the cards.
Mike Trout’s loss for the Angels is more than just the team losing its’ best player for 6-8 weeks. It represents the type of loss the team could ill afford, given the lack of depth across the roster, and makes competing the rest of the season an unlikely circumstance. Without Trout, the Angels just don’t have enough star power or roster depth to compete night in and night out, which means the option of selling players is going to be talked about all the way through the trade deadline. Another aspect of this Trout injury is the timing of it. In June alone, the Angels have a 6 game stretch vs the Yankees and Astros, then a 10 game stretch vs the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers later in the month. Half of their games in the month of June will come against legitimate top tier teams, meaning Trout’s absence will be felt even more.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler had a fine offseason, acquiring enough players to supplement the 2017 Angels roster without crippling payroll flexibility or wiping out the farm system. Unfortunately for Eppler and the Angels, the team was walking on eggshells, hoping to stay healthy and get enough performances from players to be in the mix for a Wild Card spot. The opposite has occurred, however, as the team has now lost its’ best player and a huge chunk of the pitching staff, all before the month of May has concluded. If the team manages to stay in the race until Mike Trout returns, Mike Scioscia deserves another 10 year extension(*sarcasm on*). The likelihood is the team swims into treacherous waters and enters selling mode for the 2nd straight season. Tough times in Anaheim are coming.