There’s an important caveat to this exercise: The Angels are not going to trade Mike Trout. They haven’t been rumored to nor will they ever will be rumored to. Trout has four straight top-two MVP finishes and he’s the favorite to win this year’s award, per Odds Shark. More than that, he’s hands-down the best player in baseball, a generational talent whom the Angels are privileged to have in their organization. The rationale for keeping him makes perfect sense. But that doesn’t mean it’s correct.
The last time a hitter that led the league in Fangraphs’ WAR was traded in the middle of a season was Rickey Henderson in 1989 (Trout is currently tied with Josh Donaldson for the lead). Although the returns were, in hindsight, sparse for the Yankees who traded him to Oakland, there was a litany of reasons for that. The Yankees were wavering on giving Henderson a new contract; in part because they thought he was in decline, and, per the New York Times, the team was in desperate need to pitching. Henderson also had a no-trade clause so he needed to approve any potential trades (which killed a deal with the Giants).
With that in mind, let’s consider what the Angels might get in return for Mike Trout. He’s on the second year of a 6-year, $144 million contract, per Spotrac, that looks great on paper. His salary rockets up to $33.25 million in 2018, but that’s right at his peak, when he’s 26, with the contract ending when Trout is 29 in 2020. Like Henderson, Trout has a full no-trade clause which could hold up talks with some teams though it’s tough to believe Trout wouldn’t want to play for a contender over the Angels. But even when you consider that, Trout would bring an unprecedented package back to the Angels, a team that desperately needs it. Keith Law had them dead last in his preseason farm system rankings with zero players in his top-100. They’re also dead last in the AL West with the well of talent beyond Trout having gone dry. Trout’s 6.0 Baseball-Reference WAR is practically triple any other Angels player (Kole Calhoun has 2.1 rWAR).
Think of what teams like the Cubs or Astros, both with stacked farm systems and in the heat of a pennant race, would give up for Mike Trout. Trout would hand the Cubs their first title in 108 years and solve a problem in centerfield for the Astros that goes by the name of Carlos Gomez. A team like the Mets would give up pitching galore and a team like the Yankees would gut their farm system so the franchise could have a superstar face attached to it again. Trout would vault a team like the Red Sox, Indians or Giants from contenders to odds-on favorites even at a gargantuan price tag that could potentially see young stars like Mookie Betts or Tyler Naquin go to Anaheim.
The Angels aren’t going to have a contender by the time Trout’s contract is up unless GM Billy Eppler works a miracle. There simply isn’t enough talent in the organization for it to be there by the time Trout hits free agency and leaves. This is the absolute peak of his value too, Trout is young and teams trading for him don’t have to think about whether or not they want to give him an inflated contract when he’s approaching 30 for another four years.
The Angels can get themselves on the fast track to contention if they trade Trout. Whoever gets him gets the best player in baseball for his prime and likely becomes title favorites for all of those years and Trout himself gets to play meaningful baseball and truly be considered among the greats should he add a championship to his resume. This is a win for everybody. It’s a shame we’ll never see it happen.
All stats are from baseball-reference.com or fangraphs.com unless otherwise noted
 That sentence probably should read “three of the last four MVPs” because that’s what he was deserving of and that’s what he would have had if the Angels were a playoff team in 2012 and 2015.
 They got back Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk and Luis Polonia
 Henderson won the 1990 MVP and was in the league until 2003.
 This article is at least a seven on the Unintentional Comedy Scale.