One of baseball’s best players has yet to wear the Team USA jersey in the World Baseball Classic, but he may be open to the idea the next time the international baseball tournament is held, in 2021. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is not going all in on being included in the next tournament, but he seems to have dipped his toes in the pool of possibility.
“If I get the opportunity to do it again, I’ll probably do it,” Trout said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Trout declined an invite to play with the United States team this spring, comparing playing in the tournament along the same lines as exhibitions like the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.
“The U.S. has a great team,” Trout explained. “I was talking to some of the guys. Obviously, they wanted me to be there, but like I said, it was just a personal decision, nothing more than that.”
And that is pretty much all you need to know about how the World Baseball Classic is viewed by Americans compared to other nations competing in the tournament. Since the launch of the World Baseball Classic, the interest in the tournament in the United States has never matched the enthusiasm for the tournament as you will find in Japan, South Korea, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and so on.
Trout may enjoy watching his peers in the tournament as others around the major leagues are doing in their down time during Spring Training, but the international tournament is hardly of too much interest to Americans for any number of reasons. Yes, there is still pride for those suiting up to represent the country on the baseball diamond, but the grind of what amounts to a meaningless tournament is hardly worth the trouble for some.
But let’s fast forward to 2021 anyway. If we can assume for a moment the WBC is financially stable and ready to go for another round of play in four years, Trout will very likely be one of the first players to receive an invite from the United States at age 29. By then, he could have at least a third MVP award to his name, along with a handful of other individual awards unless his career takes a turn for the worst in the next few seasons. The concern over Trout playing may come more from the front office of whichever team has Trout under contract.
Trout’s current contract with the Angels expires at the end of the 2020 season, meaning he is scheduled to hit free agency for the first time in his career in 2021. Some team likely will be making a huge investment on Trout at that time, unless a contract has been sorted out before then with the Angels (or any potential trade partner). If Trout signs a new contract after the 2020 season for as high as the market could benefit him, it may come with a clause prohibiting the newly-signed prized possession from playing in the World Baseball Classic.
It would be fun to see Trout in the World Baseball Classic, but his employer at the time may carry some influence on that decision.