The Angels might as well wave the white flag and trade Mike Trout to the Phillies right now, because even they appear to know there’s not a chance he’s staying in L.A.
Would an organization confident in its ability to retain its franchise player who’s under contract for two more years feel the need to petition Major League Baseball to prevent another player from “tampering?”
They want this to look like a principled stand, an action any competent organization would take when another team is actively trying to poach its best player, but call it what it really is: fear.
If the Angels feel threatened by Bryce Harper’s early recruitment efforts, it’s because they have every reason to be. It’s widely speculated Trout wants to play in Philadelphia, where he’d be an hour away from home. He and Harper are friends. Obviously, he wants to win, which hasn’t happened much out west.
But forget all of that for a moment and just think about the futility of the Angels’ efforts to prevent tampering. Is baseball going to legislate every private conversation and text message between Trout and Harper, or better yet, place a unilateral ban on all contact between the two? Maybe the hope is Trout will become oblivious to what’s happening at Citizens Bank Park as soon as Harper stops calling attention to it. What else can be the thought process here?
I don’t know, but I have an idea to put a stop to it that's far more useful than crying to the commissioner. The Angels should simply ask Trout if he wants to play in Philly, and when he answers in some form of, “Yes,” and is willing to waive his full no-trade clause to go, just rip the Band-Aid off and deal him. Why wait?
Sure, the Angels can stand by until next winter — Trout conveniently doesn’t want to negotiate during the season — then offer the richest contract in North American sports history. Who knows, it may work!
Or, the Angels could accelerate the inevitable rebuild and move a generational talent now for a bunch of prospects and Major League-ready bodies BEFORE negotiations fall apart and Trout fetches a rental player’s return at the trade deadline, or worse, walks away a free agent.
The Angels want people to feel bad for them. They want to shift the blame to Harper, to anybody really, because the very thought of losing Trout is a public relations nightmare.
That strategy didn’t work out so hot for the New Orleans Pelicans at the NBA trade deadline in February, unless you view holding an athlete hostage to a middling franchise for the final years of his contract as a victory.
It’s not fair there is literally nothing the Pelicans could ever do to make Davis want to play there over going to the Lakers with LeBron James. It’s not fair the allure of playing for the Phillies, suddenly a legitimate World Series contender, is only likely to grow for Trout from this point forward. Yet, these are human beings, and no GM or commissioner can stop them from having these thoughts, whether stars like James and Harper lobby publicly or not.
If the Angels want Trout to stick around, they need to spend less time worrying about what people are saying and more time making L.A. the place to be. They could’ve pursued Harper, or Manny Machado or any number of free agents or available difference-makers to improve a club that won 80 games in 2018. They didn’t.
Instead, the most meaningful headline the Angels made this offseason is making sure everybody knew they are scared Trout will want to be a Phillie.
They might as well take control of their destiny before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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