The Yankees Should Trade for Mike Trout
By E.J. Fagan
September 13, 2023
NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.
Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.
I’m not going to talk about the bad news from this weekend. That’s too much of a bummer. Instead, I want to talk about why the Yankees should trade for Mike Trout.
You know Mike Trout. He started his career as the best player of all time. Through his age-27 season, Trout hit .308/.422/.587 and was worth 73 bWAR. Then, the injuries started to pile up. He played just 237 games from 2021-2023. Even when he was healthy, he started to show a little mortality in 2023, hitting only .263/.367/.490.
Why are the Angels trying to trade him? In part, because their roster is awful without Ohtani, but that’s not the big reason. They want to trade him because Mike Trout has one of the worst contracts in baseball. He is owed $37 million over his next seven seasons, his age 32-38 seasons.
Why Trout Makes Sense for the Yankees
Because he’s still the best center fielder in the game not named Ronald Acuna Jr! Here is what a “decline” season looks like for Mike Trout:
Trout was still one of the top 5% hitters in the majors by xwOBA. He is still, after his 30th birthday, one of the top 4% fastest players. He’s was one of the best defensive center fielders. And this is his worst season ever. He could very well rebound back to his 2012-2022 levels.
Unlike other greats like Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols, Trout has plenty of athleticism to sacrifice to age. While some DH time might keep him healthy, Trout is in no danger of aging out of center field.
When you start asking how well Trout will age, your list of comparable players is pretty thin. Baseball Reference lists the following batters:
Obviously, Trout is in good company. Some of these comparisons don’t make a lot of sense (Dick Allen? Really?), but that’s what it is . How did this group of batters age? Pretty darn well! Snider, Mays, Bonds, Ramirez and Robinson were all elite hitters through until at least their 38th birthday. Mickey Mantle was a strong hitter, but his knees gave out at 36. The others fell out quicker, but frankly none of them are all that similar to Trout in reality.
The bigger question is whether Trout can stay on the field. Maybe he’s just too big, heavy and tightly wound to stay healthy. That’s why he’s so risky, and why the contract is so bad. Whichever team trades for him could end up paying $37 million for 50 games a year.
How to Make the Money Work
Mike Trout would not get the contract he is owed if he were on the open market. It’s hard to find a comparable contract, but I think he would get something close to Jacob DeGrom’s disastrous 5-year, $185 million contract. Trout is overpaid by around $60-70 million, at least.
Would some teams be willing to eat the money? Maybe. But some of the speculation that I’ve seen about teams acquiring Trout is crazy. The Phillies, Padres and Dodgers can’t take on another huge contract without the Angels eating some money. The Giants have a weirdly expensive roster without any long term commitments. Steve Cohen might not care about the money.
But what about the Yankees? They have a ton of money coming off the books next year, with only $196 million committed for 2024. But even so, I don’t think they make the trade without getting some money, and one very big contract, off the payroll. I think the only way to make the trade work is to trade Giancarlo Stanton to the Angels.
The Yankees owe Giancarlo Stanton $98 million over the next four years. He’s become a pair of concrete shoes for the roster, locking down a DH slot with sub-replacement level production. We’re going to talk a lot this offseason about whether the Yankees should release him, or take most of his salary in a pure dump deal.
So why would the Angels want Stanton? First off, they have to give fans some kind of bone. I’m sure the they would want a prospect or two, but Trout doesn’t have a lot of surplus value. No one is going to give up a top-50 prospect for a negative value contract. Stanton might put a few buts in the seats by hitting big home runs and chasing milestones. Maybe he even rebounds to his past self, providing solid value as a DH.
Why would Stanton want to waive his no trade clause? That’s a tougher one. Stanton gets to play for the New York Yankees with his friends Judge and Rizzo. The Angels are in for a brutal rebuild. But I think he might still waive his not trade, for a few reasons. First off, the Angels are his hometown team. Second, Stanton might be able to see the writing on the wall for his time in New York. He might get released if he doesn’t waive his no trade anyway. That would both be embarrassing, and might make it difficult for Stanton to keep playing the game while chasing big milestones. Even if he stays in New York, the boos are going to get real intense real fast. That can’t be fun. In contrast, Stanton could play out his career in a lower pressure, more relaxing environment in his home town.
Either way, the Yankees are going to have to eat some of Stanton’s contract. If he were a free agent, I’m not sure if he could make eight figures, let alone $98 million over four years. Let’s say the Yankees eat half the contract, $50 million. Stanton then becomes a $12 million player for the Angels, who also get out of a $259 million contract to Mike Trout. Maybe the Yankees have to eat a little more. Regardless of the details, I think there’s a way to make the math work, with the Yankees adding or subtracting a prospect in return for more or less money.
The Yankees With Mike Trout
Trout and Dominguez make a good CF-LF pair. Dominguez is an MLB-caliber center fielder, but by no means a gold glover there. Like Brett Gardner, he might be a real standout in Yankee Stadium’s big left field. When Trout is inevitably injured, Dominguez could slide into center. Plus, the two only cost an average of $18 million per year combined.
Trout and Judge become each other’s lineup protection. Both players have often suffered from being pitched around. Not anymore.
Trout becomes the Next Yankee Superstar. He’ll go into the Hall of Fame as an Angel, but maybe he’ll be remembered for the biggest stage that he played on. Any team that acquires Trout will see value on the business side beyond his on-field impact, but I have to imagine that the Yankees would gain more than any other team. He’s the GOAT. Imagine him in pinstripes.
Do it, Hal, and be a legend.