Package Three - Contract Swaps
Angels Receive: LHP Steven Matz, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, OF Lars Nootbaar
Cardinals Receive: OF Mike Trout, LHP Reid Detmers $80MM
If the Angels still want to win ballgames after dealing Trout, they can. There was widespread speculation at the deadline that the Cardinals may move Goldschmidt, though these rumors were shut down by the team. I've long advocated for the Cardinals to keep Goldschmidt, but his high-level production is undoubtedly attractive to other clubs. With Goldy added to their lineup, the Angels would be much more likely to withstand the blow of dealing Trout.
Lars Nootbaar would be another excellent addition for the Angels. He's a statcast darling with the potential to improve further. He's been incredibly productive at the top of the Cardinals' lineup. Unfortunately for the Angels, the Cardinals may not be willing to move him, even in a scenario like this one. His elite on-base skills are vital to the team's offensive production.
The third player headed to Los Angeles in this scenario is Steven Matz, a lefty with two years left on his deal. I've written about Matz extensively, and I'd be unwilling to trade him, especially after a solid 2023 season. While many Cardinal fans have stated that his contract is unbearable, it's actually quite affordable, especially considering his strong production. Perhaps a young starter such as Reid Detmers (or even Patrick Sandoval) could interest the Cardinals. It would certainly take a pitching upgrade to part from Nootbaar, but it's debatable as to whether either Sandoval or Detmers is significantly better than Matz. In this scenario, the Angels would still be on the hook for a significant cash sum as well.
Each of these scenarios leaves something to be desired for one of the teams involved. The Cardinals are generally in danger of losing financial flexibility or parting with too much young talent, while the Angels will simply struggle to move on from the best player in franchise history. The sentimental connection between Trout and Los Angeles may be too big a barrier for the Angels to overcome this offseason, even as reports confirm that he's more likely to be traded than ever before.