When the Los Angeles Angels drafted Mike Trout in 2009, few knew the gem they had stumbled upon.
A lanky 17-year-old outfielder who had a quick swing and solid range would turn into a five-time All-Star and AL MVP with four Silver Sluggers before turning 25.
Unfortunately for Trout, the Angels’ supporting cast has struggled to rally around their superstar to produce wins.
Since 2012, — Trout’s first full season with the team — the Angels have finished in third place in the AL West three times, and are currently 52-72, 20.5 games in the cellar and on pace for their worst record since 1980.
Their lone solid season during Trout’s tenure came in 2014, when the team won a league-high 98 games and were favorites to reach the World Series for the first time since 2002.
But the Halos ran into a roadblock — a Cinderella story in the form of the Kansas City Royals, who beat the Angels twice in Southern California before sweeping them in three games and dancing all the way to their first World Series since 1985.
Trout was equally to blame for the team’s dismal season-ending series. In his first career postseason, he contributed a solo longball and little else in a 1-for-12 performance over the course of the three games.
The Halos haven’t sniffed the postseason since.
Trout is still performing on superhuman levels, now in the second season of a six-year, $144 million contract, but Halos fans shouldn’t be too optimistic that he stays when the contract expires.
Unless the Angels suddenly become competitive again, Trout shouldn’t be questioned if he decides to explore free agency at the end of the 2020 campaign.
By that time, he will have just turned 29 and, barring any unforeseen injuries, will still have quite a bit of baseball left in the tank.
The Angels have tried to make moves to help surround Trout, but the win-now mentality has handcuffed the payroll and dehydrated their farm system.
The team signed outfielder Josh Hamilton to a 5-year, $125 million deal before the 2013 season, then traded him and still ended up paying about $93 million of his contract, even though he has been playing for the Texas Rangers for the past two seasons.
That poor financial management came a year after the team signed pitcher C.J. Wilson to a $77.5 million contract that ends when this season does. But Wilson has battled injuries throughout the duration of the contract and this year hurt himself in rehab before he had a chance to take the field.
Wilson was paid $20 million this year without throwing a pitch for the Angels.
The team also owes Albert Pujols $140 million over the next five years, even as his production has continued to decline from the monstrosity it once was.
That lack of depth in the farm system means no help is on the way anytime soon, so Trout may be forced to play on a sub-par team for the remainder of his 20s.
Trout has said before that he enjoys the fans in Southern California, but who could fault him for looking at the opportunity to play closer to his family and friends in Millville, N.J. as his career comes to a close?
The New York Yankees have many times been linked to thinking about a potential offer for the superstar when 2020 comes, but Trout has been quiet about his thoughts past his current contract.
When asked this past weekend if he had ever considered playing closer to home, he replied, “I don’t know. I can’t comment.”
In the meantime, Trout will surely continue performing well and remaining optimistic about the Angels and their chances of getting back to the postseason, but the 25-year-old deserves a shot to play in more meaningful games once the calendar turns to September.
Whether that’s with the Yankees or New York Mets, Trout should explore his options and give himself an opportunity to win.
Unfortunately, the “Angel in the Outfield” isn’t getting that chance in Anaheim.