Shohei Ohtani's likely Tommy John surgery doesn't mean the Angels should trade Mike Trout

Shohei Ohtani's likely Tommy John surgery doesn't mean the Angels should trade Mike Trout

Below is a partial list of Los Angeles Angels pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery within the last four years:

Rough. That’s an awful lot of pitching talent lost to elbow reconstruction. Unfortunately, it appears Shohei Ohtani will soon join this list as well.

Wednesday afternoon the Angels announced an MRI revealed new damage to Ohtani’s right elbow ligament, and Tommy John surgery has been recommended. It is important to note surgery is not set in stone yet. The team can recommend surgery but can’t force Ohtani to have surgery any more than your employer can force you to have surgery. Ohtani will presumably go for a second opinion, but, generally speaking, once Tommy John surgery is recommended, it’s a matter of “when” and not “if.”

Ohtani missed one month as a hitter and nearly three months as a pitcher earlier this season with a Grade 2 elbow sprain. The Angels signed him knowing he had a Grade 1 sprain and was receiving treatment. The sprain progressed to Grade 2 at midseason and now it is apparently even worse, hence the Tommy John surgery recommendation.

When healthy, Ohtani was a star:

  • Hitting: .276/.355/.547 (144 OPS+) with 16 doubles and 16 homers in 274 plate appearances
  • Pitching: 3.31 ERA (128 ERA+) with 63 strikeouts and 22 walks in 51 2/3 innings

On a rate basis, Ohtani hit like Nelson Cruz (143 OPS+) and pitched like Charlie Morton (127 ERA+). He and Babe Ruth are the only players in history to hit 15-plus home runs and throw 50-plus innings in a single season in baseball history. The sample sizes are small, obviously, but the production was great and the talent is undeniable.

Ohtani’s power to left-center is unreal. How many hitters can do this against Corey Kluber?

Assuming he does undergo Tommy John surgery, Ohtani will miss the entire 2019 season as a pitcher, though it’s unknown how the team will handle him as a hitter. The Tommy John surgery rehab timetable is typically 14-16 months for pitchers. There’s no getting around that. For hitters though, the timetable is usually 6-8 months.

Would Ohtani be able to hit next season before he’s cleared to pitch? That’s a No. 1 question right now.

Even if he can DH next season, the fact remains the Angels will now only get one full season of healthy Ohtani paired with Mike Trout, the game’s best player, before he’s scheduled to reach free agency. Ohtani’s MLB debut was abbreviated this year due to injuries. He won’t pitch next year following surgery. So, the best-case scenario is a full season of Ohtani alongside Trout in 2020, which happens to be Trout’s contract year. He’s currently scheduled to become a free agent during the 2020-21 offseason.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers

The Trout & Ohtani show has potentially been put on hold until 2020. USATSI

The Angels go into Wednesday’s game with a 67-72 record and no real shot at the postseason. They are 19 games back in the AL West and 15 1/2 games back of the second AL wild card spot. For the sixth time in Trout’s seven full big-league seasons, the Angels will miss the postseason, and in the one year they did make the playoffs, they were swept in three games in the ALDS. The prime of one of the greatest players ever is being wasted. It’s a shame.

Now with Ohtani likely heading to Tommy John surgery, it’ll be that much more difficult for the Angels to contend next year, one of the two precious seasons remaining on Trout’s contract. A strong case can be made that, when healthy, Ohtani is the team’s best pitcher and second-best hitter. He won’t pitch next year. He might be able to hit! But, if he does, how often will he be able to hit and will he be compromised at all? Those are unanswerable questions right now.

It seems that, anytime something bad happens with the Angels, there are immediate calls to trade Trout. Trade him to a contender for a godfather package and begin a rebuild. It’s happening again in the wake of the Ohtani Tommy John surgery news.

I get it. I totally do. The Angels could trade Trout for maximum value right now — the longer they wait, the less they get in return (see: Machado, Manny) — start a rebuild, and move forward with a healthy Ohtani as their organizational centerpiece beginning in 2020. He’s not Trout, but you could do a heck of a lot worse than building around Ohtani. Get gobs of young talent for Trout, then rebuild. A viable plan, no doubt.

Personally, I don’t think the Angels should trade Trout. It is a heck of a lot easier to rebuild a farm system than it is to have the best player of his generation on your roster in the prime of his career. Angels GM Billy Eppler realizes this as well.

Trade Trout? No way. I say sign him to what amounts to a lifetime contract and build around him and Ohtani going forward. That was the original plan! Ohtani’s elbow injury and seemingly inevitable Tommy John surgery doesn’t have to derail that.

I can’t see the Angels trading Trout, even after another postseason-less season. Never say never, but yeah, it seems very unlikely. The Astros are great and the Athletics are up-and-coming, and now it’ll be that much harder for the Angels to contend next season because they won’t have Ohtani. He’s a great player — not a good player, a great player — and maybe they’ll have him at DH, but they won’t on the mound.

It stinks. It stinks for the Angels, it stinks for Ohtani, it stinks for Trout, and it stinks for baseball fans.

Angels' Trout has two hits in emotional return

Angels' Trout has two hits in emotional return

Reuters

Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout had two hits in his return from the disabled list Friday night against the Houston Astros.

Trout, batting third and playing center field, had a triple, a single and a walk as the Angels lost to the Astros 9-3.

Trout has been sidelined for more than three weeks for two reasons: a right wrist injury suffered on Aug. 1 and the death of brother-in-law Aaron Cox.

In honor of Cox, Trout changed his MLB Players Weekend jersey from “KIIIIIID” to “A. Cox” prior to the game.

Cox, a 24-year-old former pitcher in the Angels’ minor league system, died on Aug. 15.

Trout called Cox his best friend in an emotional letter he posted Thursday on Instagram.

“You were more than just my brother-in-law … you were my best friend,” Trout wrote in part. “You made such an impact on my life since the day I first met you. You were an amazing person inside & out that showed us all how to live life to the fullest. Seeing and hearing about your impact on other people are all things that made me a better person every single day.

“… You were a great kid and it kills me to know that you are gone… I can’t thank you enough for what you have meant to me over these last 11 years. I know you will be watching over me now that you are gone, I promise to take care of your sister and watch over your whole family. Heaven got a great one and I know I will see you again someday… I love you bro!!!!”

The 27-year-old Trout injured his wrist while making a traditional slide into third base on Aug. 1 in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He was expected to return on Aug. 16 but left the Angels for what was termed a family matter a few days earlier.

Trout had missed the past 19 games due to the injury and life situation. He is batting .312 with 30 homers, 60 RBIs and 21 steals in 110 games this season.

Los Angeles optioned outfielder Jabari Blash to Triple-A Salt Lake in a corresponding move. Blash is 3-for-26 with 16 strikeouts in 15 games with the Angels.

–Field Level Media

Advertisement

Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.

Mike Trout wears late brother-in-law's name on jersey

Mike Trout wears late brother-in-law's name on jersey

CLOSE

SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale discusses the surging A’s and underachieving Nationals. USA TODAY Sports

It’s Players Weekend in Major League Baseball, where players can show off their personalities and passions on the field.

Mike Trout, who returned to the Los Angeles Angels lineup for the first time since Aug. 1, is wearing a jersey with “A. Cox” on the back of his uniform to honor his late brother-in-law, Aaron Cox.

Trout missed the past week mourning the loss of Cox, a former minor league pitcher in the Angels organization and the younger brother of Jessica Trout, his wife. Cox died at the age of 24 on Aug. 15.

On his first at-bat in his return, Trout tripled off the left-field wall on the first pitch from Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel.

Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

 

 

 

Mike Trout, Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom Headline Updated MVP, Cy Young Betting Odds

Mike Trout, Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom Headline Updated MVP, Cy Young Betting Odds

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) delivers against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, July 6, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

With just more than one month to play in the 2018 MLB regular season, the pennant chases are starting to heat up—and so are the awards races.

On Tuesday, OddsShark released the latest odds for the MVP and Cy Young Awards:

There aren’t many surprises in the American League MVP race. Houston Astros star Jose Altuve is having another strong season as he attempts to defend his title, while Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout all finished in the top six in voting a season ago.

Boston fans may take issue with Trout having the best odds, though. As good as the two-time MVP has been, his Angels (63-63) are well out of the playoff picture while the Red Sox (88-38) have a nine-game lead for the best record in baseball.

Red Sox star J.D. Martinez leads the majors with 38 home runs and slugging (.662), and he is second in average (.332). Meanwhile, Betts is first in average (.344), second in slugging (.651) and has 27 home runs.

The most fascinating race might be for the National League Cy Young, though. Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who has three Cy Youngs on his resume, is having another phenomenal season, going 16-5 with a 2.11 ERA with 234 strikeouts in 174.2 innings. The 2018 All-Star Game starter for the NL leads the majors in victories, innings and strikeouts.

On the other hand, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom has been having a historic season, but he hasn’t been rewarded with any run support. Despite leading the majors with a 1.71 ERA, he is just 8-7 in 25 starts. He has thrown 17 consecutive quality starts and has allowed more than three runs just once this season.

The AL Cy Young race has a handful of legitimate candidates. Two-time winner Corey Kluber (16-6 with a 2.74 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 174.1 innings) will get serious consideration to repeat. Houston right-hander Justin Verlander (12-8 with a 2.65 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 27 starts) is making a strong case for his second Cy Young. Boston southpaw Chris Sale (12-4 with a 1.97 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 146 innings) has been the best pitcher on the best team, although a shoulder injury could hurt his case.

The regular season wraps up on Sept. 30, so players around the league have until then to bolster their resumes.

Injured Trout leaves team for personal reasons

Injured Trout leaves team for personal reasons

Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout is away from the club for personal reasons and might not be available Thursday, when he is scheduled to come off the disabled list, the team announced.

Trout was put on the 10-day disabled list on Friday because of an inflamed right wrist, a move that was retroactive to Aug. 6, when Trout received a cortisone injection in his wrist.

The 27-year-old Trout is batting .309 with 30 home runs and 60 RBIs. He leads the majors with a .459 on-base percentage.

Trout hasn’t played since Aug. 1, when he hurt his wrist during a feet-first slide into third base in Tampa Bay.

The two-time MVP was out for 39 games last season after he tore a ligament in his left thumb in a headfirst slide.