The Los Angeles Angels are off to a 7-10 start to the 2017 season. Those uneven first three weeks have the team tied with the Seattle Mariners for third place in the AL West Division standings. Those two clubs are just a half-game ahead of the last place Oakland Athletics.
One of the main reasons that the Halos remain closer to the bottom of the division than the top is the continuing struggle to find support for the lineup’s lone true superstar.
Mike Trout appears set to add yet another strong season to what might already be a Hall of Fame career. Turning 26 years of age just before the MLB All-Star Game this coming July, Trout is hitting for a .339/.424/.625 slash line over the season’s first three weeks.
Trout has thus far produced three home runs, 11 RBI, and seven runs scored while stealing three bases. Those numbers put him on pace for the second ’30-30′ season of his career, which is now in its seventh year.
But even with a player of this caliber in their lineup, the Angels still struggle. A two-time AL MVP who has been the runner-up for the award in each of his other three full seasons. Five straight Silver Sluggers and AL All-Star nods. And still the team cannot win consistently.
LITTLE HELP IN THE ANGELS LINEUP
The only other player with a big reputation on the club is veteran first baseman and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. The 37-year old has 11 RBI, tied with Trout for second on the club. But his .190/.242/.310 slash line exposes that in his 17th season, Pujols is a shell of his once three-time MVP self.
New second baseman Danny Espinosa leads the Angels with a dozen RBI. Espinosa is also tied for the club lead with Trout, having banged three home runs. However, the former longtime Nationals’ infielder is also hitting just .232 with a .254 on-base percentage.
Kole Calhoun won a 2015 Gold Glove, and appeared to be developing as a consistent offensive contributor over the last two seasons. But this year, Calhoun is off to just a .218/.306/.327 slash.
Third baseman Yunel Escobar is hitting well at .313/.371/.406, and leads the Angels with 11 runs scored. But he brings little power to the traditional power position, having just one homer and five RBI to this point.
Only two other players besides Trout have even a single stolen base. Overall, the Angels as a team are hitting for just a .241/.306/.363 slash line. Imagine where the club would be without Trout’s contributions?
When you factor in a pitching staff that is mediocre at best, one that is also battling some injury issues, and the outlook for the Angels in the 2017 season is not a good one.
CONTRACT ISSUES AND REALITY
Trout is due to make more than $34 million each year beginning next season, when Pujols will be another year older.
Pujols is locked in for another $114 million over the next four years, a contract that will be impossible to move and will hang around the team neck like an albatross through 2021.
The minor league organization was rated 29th of 30 teams in the most recent Baseball America rankings back in late February. There is little prospect help coming over the next few years.
Arte Moreno and Halos management can deny reality for another year if they like, but sooner or later they are going to have to face a hard truth. The Angels cannot win as currently constructed, and Trout is the only asset they have who could change that fact.
Look at the prospect packages that the Phillies received in return for both Cole Hamels and Ken Giles in recent years. The talent received by the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale. This is the type of impact that a trade of Trout would have for the Angels.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Angels should be actively shopping Trout right now, looking for a massive 5-6 top prospect package in return.
For now, they continue to run the best player in baseball out on the field at Angels Stadium. Unfortunately with little chance of fielding a winning overall ball club around him.