Is it finally time for Phillies fans to give up the Mike Trout fantasy?

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Is it finally time for Phillies fans to give up the Mike Trout fantasy?

Philly fans are obsessed with Mike Trout, for good reason. He'll go down as one of the best players ever. He was born in nearby Millville, New Jersey. Did you know that? It's been pretty under-reported around these parts.

Until the day Trout retires, Phillies fans will hold out hope that someday, the Chosen One will join their favorite team.

The Angels could put a dent in those dreams this winter, though.

National baseball writer Jon Heyman wrote this week that the Angels could pursue a lifetime contract with Trout this offseason. Doesn't mean they will or that he'll sign it, but it does make sense with Trout's current six-year contract expiring after 2020.

The Angels will want to know from Trout whether he's interested in staying around long-term. If he's not, it's better for a team to know that before the player's last season under contract, because more can be acquired in a trade when the player has 1½ seasons left than just a half-season.

Trout wants to win. The Angels haven't been able to surround him with enough talent. The Albert Pujols contract worked out poorly. The Josh Hamilton contract turned out horribly. Shohei Ohtani needs elbow surgery, so for now, he's just a DH. The Angels' starting rotation has been ravaged by nonstop injuries. Trout is not winning a World Series in Anaheim. Feel free to send this paragraph to @FreezingColdTakes on Twitter.

The Phillies this offseason will pursue Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Some rival executives think the Phils possess the ability to land both superstars. If they strike out on one, or both, and if Trout chooses not to sign another long-term deal with the Halos, the trade talks will again amplify.

You have to keep in mind, though, that it will take an enormous trade package for the Angels to even consider moving Trout. A package that would take lots of major-league and minor-league talent away from an organization. 

Between blogs and social media, I've seen some Trout-to-the-Braves fantasies. Bringing that up only because, in every instance, the writer has argued, "as long as it doesn't cost Ronald Acuña Jr." 

Which is just hilarious, because you don't acquire one of the top five players in baseball history in his prime without giving up a great player in return. It is laughable to think the Angels would be OK with a package of Sean Newcomb, Ozzie Albies, Ender Inciarte and a group of prospects. 

Similarly, you'd think that if the Angels ever actually engage the Phillies in Trout trade talks, it could cost them Rhys Hoskins, Sixto Sanchez and two or three more players the Phils would feel extremely uncomfortable about trading.

Between the impending free agency of Harper and Machado and the possibility Trout makes a decision one way or the other regarding his long-term plans, we could know in three short months about the futures of baseball's three most dangerous hitters.

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Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

The calls for Astros players to get suspended have gotten louder and louder as players have descended upon Florida and Arizona for spring training this past week. From Cody Bellinger to Mike Trout to Trevor Bauer to Nick Markakis and everywhere in between, players have made clear how angry they are about Houston's cheating scandal. 

It's going to take a long time for Astros players to gain back the respect of their peers.

It's not some easy fix, though. Astros players were granted immunity from discipline in order for their cooperation in MLB's investigation. MLB cannot, after the fact, revoke that immunity and decide to suspend players knowing what it now knows. That would never fly, and it shouldn't. Whether immunity should have been granted in the first place is the big question, but that point has passed.

Joe Girardi was asked on ESPN's Golic and Wingo Show Wednesday whether he thought MLB's punishment was sufficient.

The Phillies' first-year skipper doesn't think the current punishment serves as much of a deterrent.

"There are some people that lost their jobs that really were the people that had to pay for it, but there were a lot more people involved," Girardi said. "The financial gain for the players is substantial if they have big seasons because of this, so if there's no punishment for them, I'm not sure that it stops. I'm really not sure. Because the financial gain, similar to the steroid era, is very similar. If you know it's coming and you have a big year and you're a free agent, there's a lot (of money) to be made there and players want to take care of their families.

"I'm not exactly sure what the right answer is, but I don't know how much of a deterrent it is for players right now. There's not a huge deterrent for the players and I think there has to be to make sure that it stops."

People made fun of commissioner Rob Manfred for saying this but it should be acknowledged that the public ridicule the Astros are feeling right now will actually serve as some sort of deterrent. That doesn't mean MLB made the right call, that their decision-making process has been sound or that Manfred has done himself any favors publicly. But the disrespect factor around the league and around the country is real. Guys like Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, even a Justin Verlander — will they ever again command the respect they did before this? This is a permanent stain.

MLB recognized how difficult an investigation would have been without cooperation from key figures and went the route of immunity. It's a decision that will be questioned for years.

"If you're not in the clubhouse and you don't admit yourself that you did it, how do you take the word from another player that he was doing it? That's the hard part," Girardi said. "Like, if you get caught with something on your body, that to me definitely should be a suspension and a huge fine. But to say that someone was using it, it's his word against his word, that's pretty tough to penalize a player."

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A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Spencer Howard, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, returned to a bullpen mound Wednesday and threw 27 pitches.

Ordinarily, a bullpen session in spring training is not news, but Howard had temporarily stopped his bullpen work after sustaining a minor knee injury — manager Joe Girardi called it a "tweak" — 10 days earlier.

Howard threw all of his pitches during the bullpen session as a gaggle of fans watched at Carpenter Complex.

"I only saw two pitches," said Girardi, who was busy bouncing around four fields. "But he felt great. That's the important thing."

Girardi said there was no timetable for when Howard would pitch in a Grapefruit League game. The Phillies are on record as saying they will take things slowly with Howard in the early part of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander is on an innings/workload limit this season and the Phillies would like to get a good chunk of those innings in the big leagues.

"Spencer has an innings limit so we have to think about this because we believe at some point he's going to play a role for us," Girardi said earlier in camp. "We can't go wear him out by June so we have to think about that. We're not going to waste a lot of innings in spring training."

It's possible that the Phillies could hold Howard back in extended spring training in the month of April so they can maximize his innings later in the season.

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