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Orioles DH play in 2016 was impressive, but what does the future hold?

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Pedro Alvarez and Mark Trumbo put together two very nice seasons at the dish. But with both contracts expiring, what choices do the Orioles make this offseason?

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps no two offseason Orioles signings were more heavily discussed than those of Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez, presumably due to the overwhelming love of the home run within the Baltimore baseball community.

Nobody does long-balls better than the Birds, and these two signings contributed largely to a belief that the Orioles were poised to become the MLB’s leader in homers by the end of the season. That prediction ultimately became a reality, largely thanks to the contributions of both of these big bats.

But with both contracts expiring as we approach the offseason, in which direction will the O’s go at the designated hitter spot in 2017 and beyond?

Trumbo’s season

Before the year, it was evident that the Orioles signing of Trumbo was a statement. They could’ve gone anywhere with the big-name move, and they ultimately decided on a guy who “fit the system” and would seamlessly enter the lineup and crush baseballs.

Some hoped the O’s brass would turn in a more versatile direction with an outfield pickup, but alas, Trumbo was chosen as the man for the job, even if it meant a downgrade in defensive play.

At the dish, it wasn’t difficult to see the role Trumbo would possess from his first game with the team. His ability to mash the baseball was a consistent threat from April on, contributing to career best numbers in HRs (47), RBI (108), hits (157), and slugging percentage (.533).

Before the season, if you would’ve locked in Trumbo to play in 159 games with an .850 OPS combined with 108 RBI, there wouldn’t have been anybody in the right mind who wouldn’t have given the power-hitter $9.1 million to begin the year. In reality, those numbers would’ve sparked real conversations for a big-money, long term deal.

Alvarez’s season

When the Orioles signed Alvarez and brought him over from Pittsburgh, they almost certainly had his 2013 season with the Pirates in the back of their minds.

In that campaign, he slugged 36 home runs for 100 RBI, earning an All-Star nod to mark his hot start. However, the concern over that season’s struggles had to linger for Orioles front office as well. In that same season, Alvarez struck out 186 times, hit just .233 and managed just a .296 OBP by the end of the year.

Like the makeup of many on the Orioles roster, Alvarez’s big picture represented a trade-off in production areas.

What his 2016 production represented however can largely be considered a win, even though the 29-year-old seemed to surge in cycles.

Alvarez ended the year with a .249 average and .322 OBP, his best marks in both areas since his first MLB season in 2010. And while his 22 long-balls seem to be a tick under expectations on the surface, it’s important to note that he had just 376 plate appearances in 2016, his lowest number since 2011.

His strikeout rate was on the high end (25.8%), but he did earn a 9.8% BB percentage that worked in the team’s favor throughout the year.

Ultimately, while his workload was lesser than he had seen in previous years in Pittsburgh, one could make a realistic argument that 2016 was Alvarez’s best season in the big leagues.

The future of the DH spot

When one digs into the possibility of re-signing both Trumbo and Alvarez, it’s important to factor in outfield play. And for Trumbo, the argument of signing a player who can be a consistent threat on the diamond is an area that can be stacked against him.

Of course, in the field, Trumbo’s journey toward each fly ball tended to be an adventure, a fact that does play into his potential future in Baltimore. If he does agree to an extension, the 30-year-old carries some baggage that certainly includes a shaky track record in the field.

With the number that he’ll be looking to get, do the Orioles make an outside move?

Signing Trumbo and penciling him in at DH is one option. Alvarez’s return should certainly be in that same discussion with a similar move possible, but it’s difficult to envision the O’s retaining Alvarez to stick as the permanent DH, considering his lack of outfielding ability and versatility.

There’s also Trey Mancini to throw into the mix, a weapon that shouldn’t be taken lightly entering 2015. If he continues is progression, he’ll be an integral part of the 2016 Orioles.

Does an outside signing come into play? Edwin Encarnacion is available, after all.

Chance Sisco is a big bat who looks to play into the Orioles future at catcher and could be introduced in a pure hitting role early in 2017 as a member of a DH rotation.

In reality, multiple possibilities are realistically in play as the offseason inches closer.

What does Dan Duquette decide to do?

Quite frankly, your guess is as good as mine.