Baseball’s hot stove season, particularly during the week of winter meetings, when all of the teams and many agents are all packed into the same place, is a constantly evolving creature. Anything can always change at a moment’s notice later, which doesn’t mean that it’s pointless to try to take a snapshot of a moment in time.
Yesterday saw a few rumors and a lot of wild speculation regarding the Orioles and various free agent outfielders, as well as the Orioles and one free agent non-outfielder, Mark Trumbo. Tuesday looks like it’s going to bring more of the same, just regarding a different set of players. Here’s where things stand.
First and foremost - and most distressingly - the Orioles and Trumbo will be “meeting again today to try to work out their differences,” according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, who says there is “mutual interest” between the sides. Why the Orioles feel they should or must sink money into Trumbo when he is not a right fielder or a catcher is just a mystery to me. And it’s not only Olney who is keeping that torch lit.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko brought up Trumbo’s name this morning while passing along information that the Orioles do not seem to be seriously pursuing Dexter Fowler, despite the fact that he is essentially everything they need:
Fowler comes with another qualifying offer attached to him. The Orioles have become detached, still needing his services as right fielder and leadoff hitter, but not eager to add significantly to their payroll beyond raises for their arbitration-eligible players and, yes, the possible re-signing of Mark Trumbo.
I must now resist the strong urge to slam my head through the table. If the only player on whom the Orioles are willing to invest significant money in this free agent market is Trumbo, what is there to even say? The Orioles are off in their own little world. It’s their own little world where they’ve made the playoffs three times in five years even when no one thought they would, so we can only hope they’re right again.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli noted the similarities between the Orioles chase of Chris Davis last offseason and the early signs of their pursuit or non-pursuit of Trumbo this season. If they’re really determined to bring him back - which it seems they apparently are - then they’ll find a way to bring him back, just with a lot of incremental dramatic and ultimately meaningless developments along the way.
If the Orioles are meeting Trumbo’s camp again today to “work out differences,” what are the differences?
- Trumbo reportedly had an initial asking price of $80 million. I know, right?
- The Orioles, according to Olney, initially offered a four-year contract in the $52-55 million range. That’s a $13 million AAV.
- Olney’s ESPN colleague, Jayson Stark, said that the O’s would only add a fourth year as an option year. At the same AAV, that would be a three year, $39 million contract, or so.
Those seem to be some big differences, so much so that I don’t understand why they’re meeting again today. The idea of the Orioles signing Trumbo doesn’t appeal to me because they have other, bigger needs to address this offseason. But the fact is that in a vacuum, something like a $15 million AAV isn’t outrageous for Trumbo, if he were to remain a two win player - which, if he wasn’t playing right field, he probably would.
The problem isn’t so much whatever the Orioles are willing to spend on Trumbo as what they’re signalling about their other vacancies even while being willing to commit so much money to Trumbo.
Yesterday saw the New York Post’s Joel Sherman say that the O’s felt that the money for the Mets outfielders they’ve discussed - Curtis Granderson ($15 million) and Jay Bruce ($13 million) - was too much to absorb. What, but $13 million a year or more to Trumbo isn’t?
So they’re out on Fowler and they’re apparently out on Granderson because it’s going to be too much money, and they’re not out, based on current signals, on Trumbo. It’s frustrating.
The Orioles even out on Michael Saunders, according to Kubatko, who just yesterday described the O’s as having “definite interest” in Saunders, because they “have some concerns over his ability to pass their physical.”
Saunders has played 130+ games just three times in eight big league seasons, and never more than 140. He just batted .178/.282/.357 in the second half of the 2016 season, which is the kind of thing that screams secret nagging injury. It’s a reasonable concern to have about the guy - but not pursuing him because of being worried about the physical seems like a bad idea.
One name who apparently still does interest the O’s, says Kubatko, is Angel Pagan, recently of the Giants. Pagan, a 35-year-old switch-hitting outfielder, just batted .277/.331/.418 in 129 games. That’s non-horrible at first glance, although Pagan hasn’t been a regular right fielder in his career and the defensive metrics are mixed on whether he’s in the “decent” category or the “well, he’s not THAT bad” category.
And even Pagan just had an $11.25 million salary in 2016 before becoming a free agent. At 35, he won’t be commanding a huge contract for a long term, but Pagan’s a player with a respectable career coming off a respectable season. Even he won’t be a bargain bin kind of signing.
Put it all together for a snapshot of right now and it doesn’t seem very encouraging. But this is hot stove season. Some of this information could be wrong, and even the information that’s right could change as the weeks move on if players remain unsigned.
Let’s not forget that the Orioles have found a lot of success recently even despite some quiet Decembers full of puzzling non-moves. Although they’ve yet to be successful for two years in a row and those quiet Decembers might be why.