Another disappointing year for the Angels and for superstar Mike Trout comes to a close. With the impending free-agency of Shohei Ohtani, it seemed to be a critical year for the Angels to improve and display their ability to be a playoff bound team. Sadly that was not in the cards for the team. For the ninth straight year the Angels failed to make the playoffs and for the eighth straight year the Angels finished the year with a losing record. For Trout, he finished his third straight year with a major injury that left him off the field for a significant amount of time.
The highlight of the year for Trout and for all baseball fans came in the preseason during the World Baseball Classic. Trout served as team captain of Team USA, and led the team to the finals where they battled Shohei Ohtani’s Japanese team. The game came down to the final out of the ninth inning, with Ohtani on the mound and Trout at the plate representing the tying run. Trout was able to work a full count, but finally succumbed to a strike out and Japan took home the victory. Trout said of Ohtani “He won round 1” and expressed of the tournament “This was probably the funnest 10 days I’ve ever had.”
The Angels 2023 season started with moderate success. The Angels were able to add veteran depth with the additions of Gio Urshela, Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Drury, and Tyler Anderson. The also added some promising young talent with Catcher Logan O’Hoppe and Shortstop Zach Neto. Mike Trout struggled for much of the early part of the season to find his groove. At one point in May he entered a significant slump. In the early part of the season his swings-and-misses were occurring on 29.9% of fastballs inside of the strike zone. A significant increase over the years for him. By comparison from 2015-2020 his in-zone whiff rate on fastballs was only 13.4% As the season progressed Trout started returning to form at the plate.
The Angels employed a new strategy of preserving Trout from injury, resting him about every 10 days. They particularly liked to give him rest just before an off day so that he could have two full days off.
Off the field, Trout took on a new role off the field as the MLB Mental Wellness Ambassador. Improving the lives of those with mental health issues has been an important concern for Mike and Jess Trout after the death of Mike’s brother-in-law Aaron.
By mid-June the Angels were safely in contention for a wild-card berth and within striking distance of the division lead. Trout was selected to his 11th All Star appearance. And then. . . on July 3rd, while fouling a pitch off, Trout broke a hamate bone in his left wrist. The break would require surgery to remove the bone and likely leave Trout out of action for 4-6 weeks.
It was evident that the injury was devastating to Trout. He had worked so hard to remain on the field and for the third season in a row was going to be sidelined by physical setback. All three injuries unrelated to one another (2021/calf, 2022 back).
The Angels continued to show signs of strength mostly on the back of an MVP caliber season from Shohei Ohtani. As the trade deadline approached the Angels made it clear that they would not be trading away Ohtani and pushed all-in and traded for CJ Cron, Mike Moustakas, Lucas Giolito, and Randal Grichuk. And then, the wheels fell off. The team went into a losing streak and injuries began to pile up. It quickly appeared that the Angels chances of making the playoffs were fading away.
On August 22, Trout made his return. The Angels playoff chances seemed remote but not certain. Trout expressed that he was psychically cleared to play and it was just a matter of tolerating pain while batting. He was able to reach base on an infield single in his first game back. The next day he took another day of due to pain and the Angels season seemingly came to an abrupt end as Shohei Ohtani reinjured the UCL in his pitching arm, ending his season on the mound. Trout was immediately put back on the injured list himself. Soon there after many if not most of the Angels regulars became injured. Ohtani also suffered an oblique strain while in a batting cage, ending his season as a DH as well. By the final game of the season, only two players who had started the season for the team remained on the field.
2023 Angels Injuries
At the end of the season, Trout spoke with reporters. Visibly emotional, he expressed his disappointment with his own injuries. The possibility of Ohtani leaving the team for a proven contender hangs heavy over the team. The Angels when asked, said that they would be open to trading Trout away to another team if he requested the trade (he has a no-trade clause). Trout said that he would be having private conversations with Arte Moreno about the direction of the team, as he has over the last 13 seasons, and anticipated being in an Angels jersey during Spring Training.
After competing in exactly half the season (81 games) Trout finished the season with 2.9 bWAR and surpassed Ken Griffey Jr and Pedro Martinez on the all time list. A week’s worth of playing time should see him overtaking Chipper Jones and entering the Top 50 on the all time WAR list. He is currently at the top of the WAR list among active players.
It seems Arte Moreno, the owner of the Angels, wants to win, but hasn’t been able to put the team in a position to do so. His decision to sell the team in the off season and then retract the sale (purportedly turning down $3 Billion) put the team at a significant disadvantage in signing Ohtani to a long term contract. Moreno’s unwillingness to spend over the luxury tax threshold limits an organization that is hamstrung by farm system that has been largely neglected over the last decade. General Manager Perry Minasian has added significant talent to the team in the last few years and a young core of O’Hoppe, Neto, Moniak, Adell, Schanuel, and Detmers has fans optimistic but snake-bitten from yet another disappointing season.
The questions around Trout’s long-term durability remain. “Remaining healthy” as he ages is a skill that might evade his elite athletic abilities. The prospect of a full season will remain in question until it happens once again. It also won’t be a surprise if he is moved out of his Centerfield position. Without a significant increase in the payroll and a season without significant injuries for Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout and most of the team; it’s difficult to see how the 2024 Angels will be true contenders.