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Kawakami: Why the Giants should try to trade for Mike Trout

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The simplest way to say this is that the San Francisco Giants should try to trade for Mike Trout, all of his remaining money and take on all of that risk right now because this is when they might really, really, really be able to get him.

When he’s enduring his fourth consecutive season deeply shortened by injury, this time a meniscus tear in late April with no set time for return.

When he’s set to turn 33 in August and hasn’t had a great and fully healthy year — a Hall of Fame countdown year — since 2019, when he won his third AL MVP award.

When he’ll still be owed $213 million after the end of this season ($35.5 million per year), although with $213.4 million of his original $426.4 million deal already paid out.

When nobody knows if Mike Trout will ever be Mike Trout again and the odds say he probably won’t.

But the Los Angeles Angels would never think of trading Trout if any of these things were not true and potentially getting worse, right? OK, I’m not sure if the Angels are actually thinking about it now, either, but they should be seriously contemplating a total overhaul after frittering away the golden-duo era of Shohei Ohtani and Trout and now watching Trout break down again. Maybe owner Arte Moreno is forbidding his executives from making calls on this one, but the Angels should be willing to listen to anybody checking in on Trout’s availability on the trade market.

And considering all that money owed, only a very small group of teams can even conceive of doing this. The Giants are probably in that group. They can’t spend money recklessly and don’t often. But they can spend. They’ve shown they can offer a lot of money; they just haven’t found the superstar willing to take it (or unable to avoid getting flunked on the physical the night before the introductory presser.)

So I continue: This is when the Giants should press hard to get Trout to Oracle Park, wait for him to get healthy, plop him into the middle of their lineup either as the full-time designated hitter or part-time DH/part-time corner outfielder and hope for the best. This is important, too: The Giants, as currently set up, wouldn’t be destroyed if Trout never puts up another Trout season. They sure would want it, but just half-a-Trout for the next four or five years wouldn’t be awful. And if they get the full Trout for a season or two? That’d be pretty special.

Figuring in their solid base of talent, from Logan Webb to Patrick Bailey to LaMonte Wade Jr. to Jung Hoo Lee to (lately) Heliot Ramos, the Giants don’t necessarily need a savior. What they need is a compelling presence, someone whose at-bats are anticipated by fans and feared by opponents. Someone who matters. The Giants need somebody who did what Aaron Judge and Juan Soto did to them at Oracle recently — when their spots in the order came up, everybody held their breaths, and then they wrecked the place.

Yes, the Giants have needed somebody like Barry Bonds or Buster Posey ever since Posey retired after the 2021 season. The Giants know they need this, because that’s why they tried to get Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, Judge and Ohtani. I’m not sure that Trout is that guy anymore, but he might be some version of it. He’s already signed. Few other teams would want that contract. Fewer might give up something of value to take back that contract. And again, the Giants might be one of them.

Here’s the second-simplest way to put it: The Giants should try to trade for Trout right now because it’s the kind of thing that they’d hate to see the L.A. Dodgers do.

Stipulation: I don’t mean Trout-to-the-Dodgers as a literal move, since it’s probably 1 percent short of impossible that Moreno would ever allow both of his future Hall of Famers to join the blue team. And in this case, Moreno does have the power to dictate when, if and where Trout could be dispatched. Also, I’m not sure the Dodgers, this one solitary time, would be first in line for the bidding, anyway, since, you know, they already have Ohtani, Freddie Freeman and a few others.

I’m talking about the concept of using the Giants’ financial wherewithal in some similar way to the Dodgers’ landing Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow in one jaw-dropping offseason, which came after previous times when they added Mookie Betts and Freeman. To the great frustration of Giants Universe, the Dodgers don’t have much of a limit to their pocketbook. They just keep adding. And the more expensive the marketplace, the more they dominate.

The Giants can’t quite operate in that world, but they can come close. Especially if it’s to acquire a player who will draw fans, help the team win and re-generate a sense of excitement about this team. And Trout has more of a shot at doing that than anybody currently on this roster, anybody the Giants are likely to sign in free agency or anybody in their farm system right now.


Mike Trout has only played five games at Oracle Park, and none since 2020, but he has a worse career OPS there than all but three other MLB parks. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Also, you can critique Farhan Zaidi all you want, and I know that many of you do, but he’s generally set the Giants up financially to land a superstar. They’ve gone after all those guys and just haven’t landed them. They currently only have four players signed beyond 2025 — Lee (through 2029), Webb (2028), Jordan Hicks (2027) and Jorge Soler (2026, and we’ll get to this contract in a bit). But basically, the Giants could slide Trout’s $35.5 million annual salary onto the payroll and still have plenty of room to spend.

Let’s stipulate something else: The Giants won’t tank. Don’t make that argument to me. You can tell me that Trout isn’t worth all that money, and I can understand that point, but the alternative isn’t for the Giants to tank the roster to set themselves up for future draft picks. They need that park filled. They need to win. They need to engage Giants fans. And I don’t see a young player either on the roster or in the farm system who could galvanize the situation the way Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain lit everything up from 2010 through 2014 and a little beyond.

Now, I’m not the first one to make the case for the Giants to try to trade for Trout. But I never thought it was too likely until after two things happened: 1) Ohtani left the Angels, leaving Trout in a potential no-win situation with this roster and perhaps amenable to waive his no-trade protections in the right situation and 2) Trout got hurt again, possibly allowing the Angels to wonder about a post-Trout world after watching him lose games to a torn thumb ligament in 2017, a calf strain in 2021, back inflammation in 2022 and a broken hamate bone in 2023. And now the knee injury, which required surgery in early May.

Trout will be 39 when this contract expires after the 2030 season. Hmm. Will he be great, even if he stays mostly healthy, all the way through that contract? Very unlikely. But he can still hit now and probably will be able to hit for at least a few more years. Trout was leading MLB in home runs with 10 (which is still more than any Giants player currently) when he got hurt in late April. And he had a 140 OPS+. Even though he’s played in only 29 games this season, Trout’s 1.0 fWAR would currently rank seventh on the Giants, behind only Webb (2.2), Wade (1.9), Bailey (1.7), Matt Chapman (1.7), Ramos (1.6) and Thairo Estrada (1.4).

He’s not an old player, either, though his injuries certainly have cut down on his athleticism. Trout’s only eight months older than Judge, FYI. He’s two years younger than Freeman, just a little more than a year older than Betts. He’s only two and a half years older than Wade.

Another big question: Would Trout want to come to San Francisco? Obviously, the South Jersey product would probably have the Philadelphia Phillies as any No. 1 option if he were to be traded, but I don’t think the Phillies have the inclination to spend for another bat in their already-loaded lineup. And if we’re just looking at the Northeast, it just doesn’t feel like Trout, never a big media-circus guy, would embrace either of the New York teams. Boston? Washington? Baltimore? Right now, I don’t see those teams willing and able to meet that kind of salary commitment.

What about Trout at windy Oracle? If he was a left-handed hitter, that might be a deal breaker. But he’s not. Still, Trout only has a .762 OPS in five games at Oracle, with one home run. If you’re curious, Trout’s best career numbers at current MLB parks are in the Mets’ Citi Field (1.643 OPS in three games), Milwaukee’s Miller Park (1.430 OPS in nine games), Colorado’s Coors Field (1.324 in 13 games), Arizona’s Chase Field (1.250 in two games) and San Diego’s Petco Park (1.203 OPS in six games). He has a 1.010 career OPS in 754 games at Angel Stadium.

Here’s the last and toughest question I think Trout would have to answer for himself if this got close: Would joining the Giants lock him into the same amount of sustained mediocrity he just experienced — with Ohtani! — back when Trout was putting together his HOF highlight reel? I think the main reason Ohtani never seriously considered the Giants was that he didn’t know if this was a playoff roster, even including him. I think that could come up again when and if the Giants go after Soto, Pete Alonso or anybody else of that caliber next offseason.

But Trout likely can’t be as choosy as Ohtani, Soto, Harper or Judge. It might come down to either accepting a trade to a non-World Series team like the Giants or staying in Anaheim. And if the Giants play this right, they could tell Trout that they can keep spending for more talent even after he arrives. They could insist on the Angels taking Soler and the $14 million owed him in both 2025 and 2026, which would essentially drop Trout’s cost down to $21.5 million annually over the next two seasons. (The Giants might have to add a top prospect into the deal to get the Angels to bite on that, but I don’t want to do everything for both teams here.)

The Giants can afford this. They’re good enough to believe that Trout can push them to a very high level and they’re hungry enough to be more than ready for this kind of Hall of Fame risk.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

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(Top photo of Mike Trout celebrating a home run in April: Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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