While the baseball world stands in awe of Mike Trout‘s lucrative contract extension, the Astros still have to play against the best player in baseball at least 19 times per season.
In terms of short-term consequences for the Astros, there really isn’t anything new stemming from the Mike Trout extension news. For one, Trout was under contract for two more seasons with the Angels before the extension materialized. Houston will have to play against Trout at least 38 times over the next two seasons, barring injury. Second, the Angels, even with Trout, are projected to win 80 games per PECOTA in 2019. Unless the Angels finally acquire or develop a reliable crop of pitchers, it is unlikely that they will push the Astros this year. Of course, we weren’t expecting the A’s to push the Astros in 2018, so you can never know for sure.
That said, Trout does ensure that the game’s best player stays within the division through his age-39 season. Well, if a trade doesn’t take place beforehand. For his career though, Trout hasn’t exactly been the same unworldly player when he plays the Astros compared to the rest of the AL West.
Trout’s career OPS by opponent
- Rangers – 1.048
- Mariners – 1.033
- A’s – .977
- Astros – .889
However, Trout has still been great against the Astros for his career. He will likely continue to be great against Houston for a while. But Trout, by himself, likely doesn’t alter the division in a notable way this year or likely next. The status quo likely remains for the time being. I am also low-key hoping for more Orbit pranks on Trout whenever the Angels come to Houston.
For the Angels, their long-term goal should be to field a strong roster in conjunction with Trout. The fact that Trout has only played in the postseason once and has yet to be on the winning side remains mind boggling. The best player in the game not on the biggest stage in October is not a good look. And, no, the Angels lack of success in the postseason, or advancing to the postseason, doesn’t fall on Trout. Rather, it is the Angels lack of player development and throwing large amounts of money at players past their prime. See: Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton. The way that the Angels have handled their business is also one reason why the Astros were able to wrestle away control from their division opponents. Rebuilding, for the Angels, is off the table now.
Looking ahead, it is plausible to see a world where the Angels build up their farm system and shed unwanted payroll over the next three seasons while still fielding a competitive roster. The Angels only have $57.033 million in committed payroll when Pujols’ contract is finally off the books by 2022. By the way, Trout will only be 30-years old by that time. That may be the time they strike.
For the Astros, the consequence of Trout staying with the Angels is more of a long-term one. Heck, if the current division format remains the same and Trout doesn’t miss playing time, he will play against the Astros at least 228 more times. That’s not inconsequential. The Angels, in theory, could improve in a hurry, especially if the pitching staff, possibly led by Shohei Ohtani in 2020, performs well. Even if the Angels plans to challenge for the division don’t materialize for another two-to-three years, the Astros will have to address their own core’s long-term status. I am quite curious to see how this division plays out over the next three-to-five years.