Is Mike Trout too loyal to the Angels? Is Anthony Rendon not loyal enough?

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Mike Trout finally broke the silence. So did Anthony Rendon, in a very different way.

After years of speculation about a possible trade request reached a fever pitch when Shohei Ohtani left the Los Angeles Angels for the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency, Trout addressed the topic head-on in his first public comments since the Angels began preparing for the 2024 season at spring training.

“I think the easy way out is to ask for a trade,” Trout told reporters on Monday. “I really haven’t thought about this. When I signed that contract, I’m loyal. I want to win a championship here. The overall picture of winning a championship or getting to the playoffs here is the bigger satisfaction than bailing out or taking the easy way out. I think that’s been my mindset. Maybe down the road, if some things change, but that’s been my mindset ever since the trade speculation came up.”

Trout said he’s also been pushing team owner Arte Moreno and general manager Perry Minasian to be aggressive in free agency, especially with several top free agents in this winter’s class still unsigned. 

Of course, the Angels also have not had the best track record with the free agents that they have signed. Look no further than Anthony Rendon, who has racked up more games missed due to injury than games played with the Angels since signing a seven-year, $245 million deal in 2019. 

Not only does he not play much, Rendon also generally comes off as an apathetic curmudgeon to both fans and media. He constantly gave the impression last season that he just doesn’t care, from getting suspended for grabbing a fan by the shirt, to getting in a weird back-and-forth with the team over the nature of the injury that kept him out the back half of the year, to telling a reporter, “no habla inglés today,” and leaving the clubhouse when asked about that injury.

On Monday, around the same time Trout spoke, Rendon had a bizarre exchange with reporters in which he said baseball “has never been a top priority” for him.

Look, it’s perfectly understandable to cite faith and family as being more important than baseball. Many, many people would say the same thing, and I completely respect that — in fact, part of me appreciates his brutal honesty. But Rendon has to know the narrative surrounding him given his public conduct over the past year. 

There were so many better ways to answer whether baseball is still a top priority. 

Here’s what I would have said: “I feel like I have an obligation to the fans and to the organization to play baseball and I want to do better at that. I want to do better at my job. I want to be out there with my teammates, doing what I’ve been paid so well to do. And I’m sorry if I’ve let anybody down over the past couple of years. But I’m excited to get back on the field this year. It’s going to be great.”

Can the Angels win with Anthony Rendon?

When you have played no more than 58 games in a season in the four years since signing this massive contract, you have to at least let fans know that you care, and that you want to be out there on the field. Not only that, but you want to show respect to the fans who show up to the ballpark to support you.

Alex Curry, my co-host on “Flippin’ Bats,” spent nearly a decade covering the Angels as a dugout reporter, interacting with hundreds of players during that time. Not surprisingly, she considers Rendon among one of the least media-friendly she ever covered.

“He was one of the hardest people to work with, trying to get an interview with him,” Curry said on our latest episode. “You’d walk right up to him [and say], ‘Hey, Tony.’ … ‘Nope,’ and he’d turn around and walk the other way. … This is what you’re supposed to do — you talk to the media, especially if you’re a big-time, highly-paid player. 

“It’s just rude. It’s disrespectful. It’s not understanding that it’s all together — the broadcasts not only show the games but bring the fans in to get to know you as a player. If you understand and go along with what you’re supposed to do, it’s going to be better for you in the long run.”

Which brings us back to Trout. If the Angels are to have any hope of winning in the near future, they need a healthy, productive Rendon at third base. Curry believes Trout’s chances of ever winning with the Angels — who have not reached the playoffs since 2014 and haven’t won a playoff game with Trout on the roster — look pretty bleak. Thus, she thinks he should request a trade.

Is Mike Trout too loyal to the Angels?

“At what point do you realize that it just hasn’t worked?” Curry said. “This is loyalty that I think is going to hurt his career if he ever wants to win a playoff game. … When you’re as big a star as Mike Trout, you’re going to be fine, and you’re going to figure it out if you end up at a great place.”

I get that perspective, but I also deeply appreciate his loyalty. We all enjoy the excitement and intrigue of a trade demand, and we want to see one of the sport’s best players in the postseason. 

But what people don’t always consider are the other aspects of a trade demand. The Angels signed Trout to one of the richest contract extensions in sports history, and he feels indebted to them, as he noted. Second, he has a wife and young son. He and his family are clearly comfortable with where they are living in Orange County, and they clearly value that stability.

Trout is under contract through 2030. He has a full no-trade clause, but even then, it’s a lot more difficult to choose your next location via a trade than it is through free agency. It is not too difficult to see how uprooting his family to take what he might see as the “easy way out” is unappealing to him. There are a lot of factors at play here besides the finances and the team performance.

Would a free agency deadline be good for baseball?

Plus, as Curry knows from covering Trout for so many years, he wants the challenge. 

“It won’t be as satisfying for him to just go off and join a super team and win somewhere else,” Curry explained. “His goal is to try to bring that to Anaheim, which it’s always been. The issue now is, you had Shohei Ohtani, you had Albert Pujols, you had these all-time greats playing next to you, and you’ve only been to the postseason once. When is enough, enough? What’s it going to take? At what point in his career is he going to decide, ‘OK, I’d like to see what the postseason is all about’?

“I just think he wants to keep his word. I think he wants to keep his word of saying, ‘I’m signing here because I want to bring a championship back to Anaheim. … He’s a winner. That’s all he’s ever wanted to do is win. That’s his No. 1 goal, and it’s not happening. That’s got to be so frustrating.”

Of course, I also want to see Mike Trout win and see Mike Trout back on the postseason stage. But if he wants to stay with the Angels and win there, who are we to second-guess his reasons? It’s possible to respect Trout’s stance and also that of Ohtani, who said point-blank that he joined the Dodgers because he wants to win.

But as Curry alluded to, at what point does Trout’s decision to choose loyalty to the Angels over winning become too much to bear?

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Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.

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