Mike Trout’s Angels future is uncertain, here are three reasons why now is time to waive his no-trade clause
Written by CBS SPORTS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED on November 20, 2023
The 2023-24 MLB offseason will be dominated by a recent Los Angeles Angels player: Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani, the AL MVP, is a free agent and positioned to sign the largest contract in baseball history. There’s a case for all 30 teams signing him, though some are more serious candidates than others. Until he signs, the offseason will be all Ohtani, all the time.
There is another Angels great who deserves attention this offseason: Mike Trout. Trout’s future with the Angels is in some doubt. At the end of the regular season, the Angels were reportedly open to trading the three-time MVP and the generation’s greatest player, assuming he wants to be traded. However, recent hot stove rumors indicate the Angels are telling teams at the moment they plan to keep Trout heading into the 2024 season.
Trout is signed long-term and has a full no-trade clause, so he is in complete control. He has the final say on where he goes.
“I go through this every year,” Trout said in September. “These are private conversations I have with (Angels owner Arte Moreno and team president John Carpino). I’m doing the same thing I’ve done the last 13 years. Going into the offseason, clearing my mind, going into spring wearing an Angels uniform.”
That’s how Trout felt in September. How will he feel in December or January? Who knows. He’s allowed to change his mind. For now, all we know is the Angels are potentially open to trading Trout, and that some teams are more likely landing spots than others. Trout is owed nearly $250 million through 2030. Not every team has the stomach for that.
The 32-year-old slugger authored a .263/.367/.490 batting line with 18 home runs in 82 games around a hand injury in 2023. That’s a career year for most players, though it is the worst full season of Trout’s career. Also, the injuries are piling up. Trout has played only 237 of 486 possible games since 2021, or 49%. The money and injuries will be an obstacle in trade talks.
That all said, until Trout definitely says he will remain with the Angels, he will be viewed as a trade candidate. Here are three reasons Trout should consider waiving his no-trade clause to join a contender this offseason. Consider this a look at how the Angels could try to convince Trout to accept a trade.
1. The Angels are heading for a down period
Frankly, I’m not sure 2023 could have gone worse for the Angels. They didn’t make the postseason, they’re almost certainly going to lose Ohtani to free agency, and GM Perry Minasian emptied out an already thin farm system at the trade deadline. And, when those trades didn’t work out, those players (Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, etc.) were given away on waivers to save money. Yikes.
The Angels went 73-89 this season and that was with Ohtani playing at an MVP level. The MLB roster has some interesting young players (Reid Detmers, Zach Neto, Logan O’Hoppe, Nolan Schanuel), but not nearly enough to be considered a championship core, and Baseball America ranked the farm system the worst in baseball in August. There’s not a whole lot to get excited about here as Ron Washington takes over as the team’s new manager.
Only once in Trout’s 12 full seasons have the Angels made the postseason, and that was a three-game sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 ALDS. The Angels have the longest postseason drought in baseball and it doesn’t look like they will play October baseball anytime soon. They’re heading for a down period if not an outright rebuild. This is not the place to be if Trout wants a shot at a World Series.
2. Trout only has so many prime years remaining
On that note, Trout is 32 and the injury troubles are mounting. How many prime years does he have remaining? How much longer can he be a foundational player for a World Series contender? Trout is a special player and special players tend to age differently than everyone else. Maybe he’ll continue mashing dingers into his 40s like Nelson Cruz and wasting the rest of the his prime on a bad Angels team is not a concern. It’s possible.
The fact of the matter is Trout’s best shot at winning a World Series will come when he’s still in his prime, and can be a difference-maker. He’s the kind of player who can swing the balance of power in a division race or a postseason series, but he won’t be that player forever. Joining a contender now, while he’s at his peak, will maximize Trout’s chances of winning a championship because he’s among the best players in the game. The longer he waits, the further he’ll be into his decline.
3. The AL West is stacked
The Texas Rangers just won the first World Series championship in franchise history and there are reasons to believe they will be even better in 2024. The Seattle Mariners are on the rise and figure to be in the postseason mix for years to come. You can never count out the Houston Astros. The Oakland Athletics are a punchline, sure, but the other three teams in the AL West are legitimate contenders. The Angels play in a difficult division and have a long way to go to become postseason-caliber. Trout’s best shot at winning a championship in joining a team with a better roster and a less daunting path to the postseason.