The Garrett Richards Injury and the Mike Trout Question

For the last week or so, the Angels have been pretty vague about what’s going on with Garrett Richards. He missed a start due to “fatigue” and “dehydration”, but they hadn’t given any real indicators that his arm was bothering him. Apparently it was, however, as Jeff Passan dropped this bomb this morning.

This is a huge blow to the Angels, not only because Richards is really good, but because the Angels pitching staff without him is atrocious. Here’s what our current depth chart forecast for Anaheim’s starting rotation looks like, with Richards included.

#25 Angels


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Garrett Richards   159.0 8.4 3.2 0.7 .298 72.7 % 3.39 3.41 2.8
Hector Santiago 140.0 8.1 3.5 1.1 .292 74.2 % 3.89 4.29 1.3
Jered Weaver 137.0 5.6 2.5 1.4 .288 70.0 % 4.54 4.84 0.5
Nicholas Tropeano 114.0 8.5 3.3 1.1 .303 71.6 % 4.09 4.03 1.1
Matt Shoemaker 84.0 7.6 2.3 1.2 .298 71.5 % 4.04 4.07 0.9
Andrew Heaney   62.0 7.5 2.6 1.0 .301 72.0 % 3.83 3.91 0.7
C.J. Wilson   40.0 7.6 3.7 0.9 .295 70.8 % 4.06 4.14 0.4
Tyler Skaggs   39.0 8.7 3.2 0.8 .294 73.7 % 3.42 3.60 0.6
Kyle Kendrick 16.0 5.3 2.3 1.2 .292 71.5 % 4.23 4.59 0.1
Total 790.0 7.6 3.0 1.1 .296 72.1 % 3.93 4.08 8.4

Hector Santiago is a FIP-beater, so he’s better than that projected WAR makes him look, but after him, it’s a dumpster fire. And in Passan’s story, he notes that Andrew Heaney may also need Tommy John surgery, so we might be crossing his ~60 innings off that list as well, if his rehab-to-avoid-surgery plan isn’t successful. And Tyler Skaggs just went for an MRI after getting scratched from a Triple-A start last week; the current diagnosis is biceps tendonitis, but it’s an arm problem for a guy with a history of arm problems.

At some point in the not too distant future, the Angels rotation could be Santiago-Weaver-Tropeano-Shoemaker-Kendrick, which wouldn’t be good enough to contend even if supported by the offense of the 1927 Yankees. And the 2016 Angels aren’t exactly an offensive behemoth.

So far, the Angels offense has rated as one of the 10 worst in baseball. Yes, their 99 wRC+ suggests that their hitters have been average-ish, but they’ve been the worst baserunning club in baseball by a mile, which is one of the reasons they’re only scoring 3.75 runs per game. The team’s offense projects to be okay, primarily thanks to the one superstar hitter they have carrying them up from the depths, but for the Angels to contend in 2016, they were always going to need the run prevention to carry the day.

Take Richards out of the picture, and that just becomes unlikely. Our current rest-of-season forecast for the Angels had them finishing at 79-83, but that’s with Richards and Heaney included in the depth charts. Even if the Angels scrounge up some above-replacement-level options to fill the void — Tim Lincecum’s showcase today seems like one obvious answer, and Tom Milone is currently on waivers and could provide some decent innings at the back-end for a team that needs depth — they’re still looking at loss of two or three wins, most likely. And that knocks them down to 76 or 77 wins, so they’d have to get really lucky to beat that number by enough to make a serious run at a playoff spot, even in a mediocre division like the AL West.

But the real problem for the Angels might not even be 2016. Contending this season was always a little bit of a long-shot, and it seemed like the team was just biding their time until C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver’s contracts expired this winter, allowing them to reallocate nearly $40 million in dead money to put a better supporting cast around the game’s best player. With Trout, Richards, Kole Calhoun, and Andrelton Simmons as a base, with guys like Santiago, Heaney, and Skaggs around to provide some value, you could imagine a scenario where a couple more good players and could help lift this team back towards contender status next year.

This news takes Richards out of the picture — and maybe Heaney too — for 2017, and basically eliminates most of the expected gain from what you’d get by reallocating Weaver and Wilson’s money. And without Richards, it opens up the question to whether the Angels should even bother to bring in more free agents to try and win in the short-term, or whether that’d simply be throwing good money after bad. With a barren farm system and too many holes on the roster, this team doesn’t look like it’s $40 million in well-spent free agent money away from being good again.

And that reality prompts the obvious question: is it time to think about trading Mike Trout?

You never want to be in a position where you’re potentially thinking about trading one of the greatest players of all time. The Angels should want Mike Trout to retire having worn only their jersey, and go into the Hall of Fame as a lifelong Angel. When you have a +10 win player, you should want to take advantage of his greatness and put a winner around him.

But the Angels have tried that, and thanks to some bad decisions that have long-term consequences — the Albert Pujols contract still has another $140 million left after this season — it’s not entirely clear that the team can actually do that. Their farm system isn’t just the worst in baseball; it’s the worst that anyone can remember in some time. If the Angels keep Mike Trout, and just keep trying to surround him with decent free agents while trying to build back up the prospect base, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be a 75 win team for the remainder of his contract, and then they’ll have to convince him to re-sign another contract with a franchise that spent six years failing to provide him with adequate support.

Maybe Trout just loves the Angels so much that he’d do that. But wallowing around .500 for a few years for the hope that Trout eventually chooses to pass on joining teams with better rosters and more money for the right to stay with a team that wasted his prime seems like a bad bet. And if they make that bet and then he still leaves, then all they’ll have done is put off the inevitable, while squandering the ability to rebuild the franchise entirely in the meantime.

It’s not a decision the Angels want to be faced with, but Richards injury should force them to at least consider the possibility that the best path forward for the franchise is to blow this thing up. Trading Mike Trout would not only bring back an incredible return in young talent — imagine the package the Dodgers could put together — but would also allow the team to admit that it’s time to pivot, focusing on loading up with as many young players as possible, spending big on international free agency and the draft instead of throwing $15 to $20 million at another pitcher at the end of his career who might not be good enough to help anyway.

This isn’t a foolproof plan, of course. Teams have traded away superstars to enter rebuilding cycles, only to see the young players they load up on all fail, and have ended up without a present or a future. Trading Trout isn’t so obviously the right move that the team should just take any offer on the table. Maybe Billy Eppler and his staff can figure out how to spend that $40 million effectively this winter, putting a winner around Trout instead of trying to build one without him.

But at this point, with 2016 likely another lost year and 2017’s ability to bounce back being put into question as well, it’s time for the Angels to at least start thinking about what a Mike Trout trade would look like. And if the Dodgers or Red Sox want to overwhelm them with a crazy package of young talent, then they should at least have that discussion.

The Angels were already on the tipping point, needing some things to go their way in order to justify their continued attempts at contention. Losing Richards is a significant blow not just because of how good he is, but because of how fragile the Angels hopes were. At this point, without their ace, the Angels should also start thinking about what life might look like without Mike Trout.

We hoped you liked reading The Garrett Richards Injury and the Mike Trout Question by Dave Cameron!

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CaiusDrewart
Member
CaiusDrewart

As an Angels fan, I just don’t care if trading Mike Trout leaves the Angels better positioned long-term. Winning isn’t everything. Watching Mike Trout play baseball for my favorite team is.

milogoestocollege
Member
milogoestocollege

Remember this comment when you are complaining about your franchise becoming the Las Vegas Devils.

Colby
Member
Colby

Las Vegas Devil Rays*

A Flock of Seagers
Member
A Flock of Seagers

Las Vegas Bay Devil Rays, unless they actually build the stadium in Las Vegas proper.

Don’t want to offend anyone, y’know?

TommyLasordid
Member
TommyLasordid

Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Devil Rays, for optimum corporate sponsorship.

A Flock of Seagers
Member
A Flock of Seagers

*Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Devil Rays of Anaheim

fixed

SteveM
Member
SteveM

Let’s, if I may, imagine Mike Trout playing half his home games in Las Vegas.

CaiusDrewart
Member
CaiusDrewart

Look, in 99% of instances I am all for my favorite team making hardheaded decisions that maximize their odds of winning. But for me personally, I’d rather take my chances with keeping Trout and watch him play for years to come than trade away someone who could possibly be the greatest baseball player ever. In fact, it would be very hard for me to keep watching baseball if the Angels traded Trout. I’m not sure I could.

cabreraguy
Member
cabreraguy

Hypothetically, which would you choose:

A 100 win Angels without Trout, or a 75 win Angels with Trout?

waters96
Member
waters96

As Angels fan, one hypothetical 100-win season without Trout is clearly not worth any crappy season with Mike Trout.

SteveM
Member
SteveM

I would think that most fans would eventually come back to follow a good (or better than good, at 100 wins!) team. Indeed, I think most GM’s would make such a deal if they were guaranteed 100 wins in a season. The problem is the extreme risk of the return being somewhat less than that, in conjunction with the reasonable likelihood of Trout continuing to have a generational career.

Joser
Member
Joser

There are teams that might make sense to relocate to Las Vegas. The Angels is not one of them.

A Flock of Seagers
Member
A Flock of Seagers

I’m thinking this was a convenient pun on the Angels mane should they locate to another city due to a crappy team and crappy attendance.

Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
Member
Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back

Fans Florida Cup Bai says:
6 May 2016-11: 44

I think it’s in Florence, full of angels Mane needs to be detected in other cities as a group and present shitty bowel movements.

John Elway
Member

Guess I’m not the only one trotting out puns about manes.

Just neighing.

rustydude
Member
rustydude

Never thought I’d enjoy watching the Mariners as much after they traded away Griffey, either, but then watching Mike Cameron (who they received in the trade) along with Ichiro lead the offense over the next few years was a delight, too.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
Member
Roger McDowell Hot Foot

Yeah, not to discount loyalty or the idea of keeping star players being something special at all, but this framing of the question is always going to lose simply because it’s a concrete, already known investment against a completely unspecified, abstract future one. Fans can’t really evaluate our feelings about Known Beloved Star vs. Future Unknown Maybe-Good Team in a sensible way except in retrospect.

Ivdown
Member
Ivdown

I can totally understand this. In 2011 the Dodgers were an average team, but had the MVP (I don’t care if Braun actually took home the trophy) in Matt Kemp and the Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw, and were still worth watching even if they won 82 or however many games. The problem after that is how long do you think you would be happy just watching an excellent player with the team losing so much?

Tough situation.

wildcard09
Member
Member

I don’t know. Watching Pedro in his prime with the Sox was incredible. Watching the Sox win the world series in 2004 without any true superstars was the greatest thing that I’ve ever seen in baseball.

Alex K
Member
Alex K

Manny Ramirez- .417 wOBA, 153 wRC+
David Ortiz- .408 wOBA, 147 wRC+

If those guys weren’t superstars then I don’t know what a superstar is in baseball.

Anon
Member
Anon

Yeah, plus Schilling and Pedro. 4 guys who either are, will be or would be HOFers (if Manny wasn’t such a pariah) at or near their peaks. But no superstars. Right.

It’s comments like these that make people hate Yankees and Red Sox fans. I had one Yankee fan recently talking about being a true fan and sticking by their team even though they’re off to a rough start and chastising others for not being a loyal fan. I had to point out that his team has had like 6 or 8 losing seasons since Harry Truman was President so kudos to you for being so loyal to such a miserable franchise. . . .

wildcard09
Member
Member

Yes, they had great seasons, but Ortiz had come out of nowhere at that point, and Manny’s defense was what it was. My point was more about Pedro anyways, and that I would rather watch the championship winning 2004 version of Pedro over the 1999-2000 Pedro putting up arguably the best back to back seasons ever.

Alex K
Member
Alex K

Ortiz had put up a .401/145 the previous year. He didn’t come out of no where.

If your point was only that you would rather watch a lesser Pedro win over the best 2 pitching seasons in baseball history you probably should have just said that instead of implying that the Red Sox that year were some type of plucky underdog without superstars.

Bread n Mustard
Member

According to every Red Sox fan I’ve come across everyone in their MLB and MiLB roster is a future Hall of Famer.

Blinzler
Member
Blinzler

And it is true!

Doug
Member
Doug

There’s another big question – if the Angels trade Trout, how many people will stop showing up at the games? It takes more cojones than I think Arte Moreno has to trade your most popular player, by far.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
Member
Roger McDowell Hot Foot

I’m not an Angels fan so I’ll tread carefully but it doesn’t seem to me like a huge number of loyal die-hard fans are showing up *with* Trout, much less without. The Angels crowd always seems to me much more like the LA casual-fan stereotype that in past years people associated with the Dodgers. With that kind of fan base (and pace whatever loyalists there are, who’ll probably show up here) the way to sell tickets is winning, pure and simple.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

Ticket sales correspond to winning far more than they do to having one superstar. Look it up for yourself. If the angels want to contend, if the angels want to sell tickets, if the angels want to be more than a bad joke for the foreseeable future, then they need to trade Trout now. Anything else is pure petulance and selfishness. As the article noted, the Dodgers are the obvious trade partner and could put together one hell of a package in exchange.

david k
Member
david k

Do you REALLY see the Angels trading Trout to their cross-town rivals? It would be hard enough to trade him at all, but if they do, they most likely would NOT trade him within the division or to the other LA team.

SurefireWinners
Member
SurefireWinners

Sox fan here.

I had a long conversation with fellow Red Sox fans about a potential package that the Sox would have to put together to entice the Angels to make the deal.

The package would have to include Mookie Betts as the headliner and four of the following prospects/ML players:

Eduardo Rodriguez
Yoan Moncada
Rafael Devers
Anderson Espinoza
Andrew Benintendi
Blake Swihart

If I am the Angels, I ask for Betts, Benintendi, Moncada, Rodriguez and Espinoza. They would all be under team control for six years (except for Betts who has five years of team control like Trout).

I can’t imagine that the Sox go for that, even for Mike Trout. But, Betts, Moncada, Espinoza, Swihart and Devers might be the middle ground that the Sox could stomach. Moncada (Pedroia), Swihart (Vazquez) and Devers (Shaw) are blocked by players under team control for several years.

The Sox would be getting Trout, so they could part with Betts.

Espinoza, while talented with top of the rotation stuff, is still several years away and who knows about pitching prospects.

The Angels would be getting a young, brilliant, charismatic player (Betts), two additional plus offensive players who ready (or very close) to contribute (Swihart and Moncada – #5 Overall Prospect in baseball) and two top prospects (#2 MLB 3B prospect in Devers and the #9 MLB RHP prospect in Espinoza) who have All Star potential. The Angels can then concentrate on supplementing their talent through the draft and international FAs.

Thoughts?

Brians Sticky Sock
Member
Brians Sticky Sock

tl;dr