Phillies should not center 2019 free agency plans around Mike Trout

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim looks on prior to a game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium on September 25, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim looks on prior to a game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium on September 25, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Why should the Phillies sign stars now when they can just get Mike Trout in two years? Well, for a few reasons, actually.

Mike Trout. The darling of Phillies fans since the Millville, N.J. native took the league by storm in 2012. Once his affinity for the Eagles became public knowledge, combined with his hometown’s proximity to Philadelphia, it became almost too easy to link the generational talent with the baseball team he purportedly grew up loving.

This has now gotten to the point where some believe the team should center their free agency plans around signing Trout when he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. Local writers, out-of-town writers, even franchise legend Ryan Howard are all saying that the team should keep in mind the looming giant that is Trout.

While the idea of the team hedging their bets and waiting for Trout has a nice ring to it, actually planning around that possibility is simply a disservice to the team.

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For one thing, you are taking a huge gamble on him a) reaching free agency and b) actually signing with the Phillies. For starters, it is hard to imagine the Angels letting Trout get to free agency barring a complete meltdown between the two sides.

With Trout, the Angels are a perennial .500 team. Without him, they would be in the cellar. If Trout walks, that team would crash and burn.

They would also have a fanbase livid that they could not win a playoff game with the best player in franchise history and in baseball today on their roster. Their front office will likely do everything they can to keep Trout in Los Angeles for life.

In the event Trout does reach free agency, every team in baseball will have him on their radar. Unlike the stars in this year’s free agency class, there are no downsides to Trout. He has no character issues, no deficiencies in his game, and will still be in his prime when he hits free agency. Unless a team cannot physically afford to pay Trout, they will be knocking down his door.

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But wait, you say, Trout wants to play in Philadelphia, so they will have the advantage. That’s what Yankees fans said about Patrick Corbin and Manny Machado this season, but Corbin joined the Nationals and the White Sox or Phillies appear to be where Machado will wind up. A player may have liked a team or have a desire to play for them, but they will ultimately follow the money.

Plus, signing one of Machado or Bryce Harper will not preclude the club from still signing Trout. Philadelphia has $81.45 million of salary committed for 2021, which could decrease by $32 million if Jake Arrieta and David Robertson‘s club options are declined.

Adding on a $30 million salary for Harper or Machado and a $35-40 million salary for Trout would still have the team under or only slightly above the luxury tax threshold.

In the event that the Phillies do sign Machado, they should not bail out on Harper, or vice versa, just because they can sign Trout in two years instead. As mentioned previously, planning anything around Trout is a huge risk. Rarely does the opportunity to sign not just one, but two game-changing talents come about in baseball. The Phils have the chance to do just that, with the team’s chances of landing both looking better and better each day.

If the team truly would rather wait for Trout, this means that winning likely isn’t their goal over the next two years. Why go all-in for the 2019 or 2020 seasons if you are waiting for Trout for 2021? A full decade of the team outside of the playoff hunt is how you lose even more fans, especially if they miss out on both Machado and Harper.

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Altogether, while Trout coming back home to Philadelphia in free agency sounds nice, actually planning for it now only hurts the team for the next two years. The focus should be to start winning games in 2019, not in 2021, with Harper and/or Machado.