He debuted in 2011, and has since established himself as one of the greatest players this game has ever seen.
But however you spin it, there’s no way around this: The Angels have been blessed with Trout’s dominance for 10 seasons, and they’ve wasted nine of them.
The Angels’ lone year cracking the postseason with Trout came in 2014 when they were swept out of the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals.
Mike Trout on the #Angels playoff drought, reaching the postseason just once in his career: "It's definitely weighing on me. I hear it every year. The only way to change that is get to the playoffs.''
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 22, 2021
They’re currently staring down the barrel of a sixth-consecutive losing season.
The Angels’ shortcomings as a team have little to do with Trout, who has finished in the top five of the MVP race every season of his career.
He has won the award three times.
Trout has led the league in on-base percentage four times, slugging three times, OPS four times, OPS+ six times, and WAR four times.
The issue is that Trout has had virtually no help for his entire MLB career.
In December of 2017, the Angels did land a generational talent in Shohei Ohtani.
There is no diminishing what Ohtani is—he’s an elite two-way player who will be a career-long MVP candidate himself as long he stays healthy.
Ohtani aside, though, Trout has had to do it all himself.
This leads us to our big question: What are the three of the biggest mistakes the Angels made as it relates to not building a winning team around Trout?
Mistake No. 3: Making Low-Risk, Low-Reward Short-Term Signings Rather Than Going All-In
The Angels have made a tradition out of making short-term signings that don’t pan out.
The team often opts to sign a plethora of free agents to one-year deals in hopes of putting a contending team on the field, but it rarely works out.
Take this past offseason, for example.
The team’s signings included reliever Steve Cishek to a one-year deal (currently has a 4.70 ERA), starter Jose Quintana to a one-year deal (currently has an 8.53 ERA), catcher Kurt Suzuki to a one-year deal (currently batting .177), and reliever Tony Watson to a one-year deal (he’s actually been solid with a 2.03 ERA).
This is an approach that the organization seems to take year in and year out, and the club’s inability to roll the dice on any long-term free agents has been an issue for years now.
It’s part of the reason why Trout has suffered through some agonizing seasons with no help.
Mistake No. 2: Signing Pujols to a 10-Year Deal in 2011
Look, hindsight is 20/20.
The Angels had no way of knowing in 2011 that 19-year-old Mike Trout was going to become the best player in baseball.
However, to ink a 32-year-old player to a 10-year-deal with an AAV of $24 million is a baffling move no matter the context.
Albert Pujols ate a chunk of the Angels’ payroll year after year while he failed to produce.
Pujols had one season with an OPS over .800 with the Angels, and it came in his first year with the team.
That 2012 season aside, he was a sub-.800 OPS player for his nine other years with the franchise.
It was one of the worst contracts in baseball history, and it handcuffed the Angels financially during several of Trout’s great years.
Mistake No. 1: Overall Stubbornness and Failure to Build Around Trout
At the end of the day, the argument can be reduced to this: The Angels could be a perennial title contender if they so desired.
Los Angeles is obviously where Mike Trout wants to be—he just signed a massive extension to be with the club through 2030.
In yesterday’s game against the Astros Mike Trout hit his 300th HR!
Despite Trout’s success and being recognized as the game’s greatest players LA has yet to put a quality team around him. How long until the Angels’ playoff drought ends?
DESIGN | Dan Beltran pic.twitter.com/mKYjeMqorp
— The Zone Press (@thezonepress_) September 6, 2020
The Angels have the 10th-highest payroll in baseball, but they are clearly not using it the right way, as they are the only team in the top 10 of the payroll rankings with a losing record.
There are impact free agents in every class, but the Angels almost always opt to look the other way.
If and when the Angels get Trout some help, they’ll see what they’ve been missing out on for the past decade.