For the fourth consecutive season, the man who led major league baseball in home runs was a Baltimore Oriole. Mark Trumbo took home the crown this year and did so with a somewhat incredible performance that saw him smack 47 round-trippers in the regular season and add one more in the Wild Card game, representing the O’s lone shred of postseason offense.
Trumbo will be a free agent in a matter of weeks and is due for a hefty raise from the reported $9.15 million he made this year. Good! He deserves it, but it will probably not be the Orioles who give it to him, and that’s more than OK.
Now, this is not to say Trumbo would not be a welcome member of the 2017 Orioles. All in all, he seemed like a good guy and was a key cog that led the Birds to the Wild Card spot. As always, if the money and length of the deal is right, by all means bring Trumbo back. But the guy turns 31 in January and, understandably so, will be looking to cash in. It would make little sense for the Orioles to be the team that gives him a big deal.
A lot of Trumbo’s traditional numbers look beefy, in a good way. He slashed .256/.316/.533 with 47 home runs, 108 RBI and 27 doubles. He even came second on the team in stolen bases. I mean, he only swiped two bags, but he never got caught!
Of course, there were also some negatives. The slugger worked just 51 walks while striking out 170 times. And in the field he was a disaster. Trumbo split time between first base and the corner outfield spots, but he spent the vast majority of innings in right field. Out there, Fangraphs gave him a -5.9 UZR (-1.4 ErrR, -4.5 RngR). If you’re not familiar with sabermetrics, zero is average. Anything below that and you are costing your team that number of runs.
All of this added up to Trumbo’s total WAR of 2.2, according to Fangraphs, and 1.6, according to Baseball Reference. That’s an OK number on the whole, but it is extremely low for a man that hit 47 home runs. BR was especially rough on Trumbo, rating 10 Orioles more valuable than him, including Dylan Bundy and Matt Wieters. FG was kinder, putting him fourth among hitters on the team (Machado, Davis, Hardy), and seventh overall. (Edited 12:43 p.m.: This line previously said he was “fourth on the team”)
For many reasons, the Orioles were fortunate to grab the final American League playoff spot. Their Pythagorean win total was 84, but they ended up with 89 wins. Despite leading the league in home runs, they were just 12th in runs scored. The Birds ranked third in slugging percentage, but were 15th and 21st when it came to batting average and on-base percentage, respectively. Their 19 stolen bases were dead last in baseball. And we know how terrible the starting pitching was until September.
Trumbo was the embodiment of these problems. Nearly half of the runs he drove in were himself. He knocked the crap out of the ball, but struggled to get on base. He is not fleet of foot. And unless he learns how to throw a mean curveball in the offseason, he can’t help with the pitching issue. It would seem foolish to reinforce strengths with resources that could be used to plug glaring holes.
Not to mention the financial commitment it will take to hold onto Trumbo. Business Insider says that last year a WAR of 1.0 was worth $8 million. If he gets what he is “worth” (1.6-2.2 WAR) then he will have an annual salary somewhere between $12.8 million and $17.6 million.
Currently, the Birds have about $96 million committed to eight players in 2017, according to Spotrac. On top of that, there are 10 arbitration-eligible players, including Chris Tillman, Zach Britton and Manny Machado, that MLB Trade Rumors estimates will cost Baltimore an additional $50.1 million. That’s $147 million already. Add in Trumbo and you are up over $160 million with the same team that proved unable to get past the Wild Card game. Yikes.
If the intention is to bring Trumbo back as strictly a DH, re-signing him may make sense. Eliminating his defensive inabilities would boost his overall value and keep his reliable power in the lineup. All the while we would know that he has the ability to play the outfield and first base in a pinch.
However, Trumbo could be a hot commodity this offseason. Boston is bidding adieu to their high-profile DH and may be on the hunt for a proven veteran that is familiar with the AL East. Toronto and Texas could join them in the hunt. MLBTR has him ranked as the eighth-best free agent this winter and gives him a good chance at signing a four-year deal, which could be worth around $70 million.
That money can and should be spent elsewhere, like signing the likes of Machado, Gausman and Tillman to long-term deals, figuring out the back-end of the rotation and determining who the heck will play catcher next year. And ditching Trumbo could give rookie Trey Mancini a chance to stick out of Spring Training.
If Trumbo returns to Baltimore, it won’t be a bad thing. As was the case in this season’s final weeks, he needs to spend less time in the field and the Orioles need to find a real right fielder. If that happens, he could be a valuable player again. But it should not be done if it comes at the cost of the O’s ensuring their franchise building blocks are here to stay.