By Dan Schlossberg
Word leaked early this week that the Los Angeles Angels would be willing to move Mike Trout, the oft-injured superstar center-fielder with the highest contract in baseball history.
He’d have to give his permission, of course, but the three-time MVP could be all too eager to waive his no-trade clause, especially if his next destination were Philadelphia, New York, Boston, or anywhere closer to his South Jersey home.
Trout, 32, is an 11-time All-Star and two-time All-Star MVP who has hit .301 with 368 home runs in a career spent exclusively with the Angels. He has never reached the World Series, however, and has endured seven consecutive losing seasons.
That’s exactly the reason that Shohei Ohtani wants out. The two-way standout, whose pitching career in now on hold because of a torn UCL, is virtually certain to ride free agency out of town the minute the World Series ends.
He’ll command somewhere in the vicinity of $500 million and 10 years, pushing him past Trout for the highest overall contract as well as top annual average. Possible destinations include such wealthy teams as the Los Angeles Dodgers, both New York clubs, and his preferred West Coast landing spots of Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego.
As for Angels owner Arte Moreno, it’s pretty obvious he’s going to start from Ground Zero. Task No. 1 will be paring payroll, which now ranks eighth in the majors at $226,531,667.
Take away either Ohtani and Trout and there will be plenty of money for GM Perry Minasian to dig deep into the free-agent market. Take away both and there may be no stopping the pennant-hungry Moreno.
The team missed a golden opportunity to start its rebuild by trading Ohtani prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline. At that time, he was still capable of pitching as well as hitting and was even mentioned as a potential candidate for the Cy Young Award as well as the MVP he will certainly win — for the second time — this season.
Instead, Minasian made the fatal mistake of thinking he could rebuild on the fly. The veterans he brought in flopped, plunging the team deep into the depths of the American League West, and pushing Ohtani further away from the fold.
Waiting for him to sign could throw a stopper into the free-agent tank this winter. Once that enormous chip falls, the others will fall into place.
The Angels, originally a 1961 expansion team, have won only one pennant — during their world championship campaign of 2002 — but have won nine AL West division titles without advancing to the final round. The 2002 team was a wild-card entry.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 41 baseball books, including The New Baseball Bible. Catch his byline in forbes.com, Memores & Dreams, Sports Collectors Digest, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and other outlets. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.