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Making the case for the Orioles to trade Mark Trumbo

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Mark Trumbo just slugged .397 over 600+ plate appearances for the O’s in 2017. With $26M due to him through 2019, his trade value is at an all-time low.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Perspective is everything in life. Following the 2016 season, it looked as though the Orioles had made away like bandits in yet another trade with the Seattle Mariners. Steve Clevenger, an expendable back-up catcher, went to Seattle in exchange for Mark Trumbo and relief pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser in the 2015 offseason.

Trumbo hit the ground running in 2016, stroking 47 dongs and posting a formidable .849 OPS across 667 plate appearances for the Birds. Clevenger on the other hand, only made it into 22 games for the Mariners, was suspended for outrageously racist tweets, and eventually landed in the Atlantic (independent) League for 2017.

If that was where the story ended, O’s fans would probably be much, much happier.

Things being what they were, Dan Duquette and the Orioles braintrust re-signed Trumbo after the 2016 season to the tune of $37.5M over three years. Trumbo’s first year of that new contract resulted in one which he posted -1.2fWAR. Yeeeesh!

Because Trumbo lacks a true position on the baseball diamond, and because he hit so miserably in 2017, there are many fans clamoring for him to no longer be a member of the Orioles. But is he tradable?

A simple yet neat tool created by renowned baseball writer, Sky Kalkman, allows for the easy calculation of what a player’s excess value to their team is.

Let’s take a look at what to reasonably expect from Mr. Trumbomb through 2019:

This trade value calculator looks at the difference between what Trumbo will be paid and what Trumbo will be worth. In the yellow field, it spits out what the excess value he will generate for his team will be. fWAR values are calculated at $11.1M / WAR in 2018 and $11.9M / WAR in 2019, and fWAR projections are based on career averages.

This exercise only makes sense if you trust the numbers, and the numbers are only as good as what a player has done in his career. Over his eight MLB seasons, Trumbo has generated an average of 0.9 fWAR, so let’s grant him a 1.0 fWAR 2018, somewhat ignoring his abysmal 2017, but factoring it in nonetheless. From there, it’s entirely reasonable to expect a player in his thirties to decline ~0.5 fWAR per season.

The problem with trying to find a trade partner for Mark Trumbo is he is actually projected to generate negative value for the Orioles over the remaining course of his contract. That’s not even addressing the fact that Mark hitting these projected fWAR numbers would constitute a pretty serious bounce-back from 2017.

With all of that said, here’s what would need to happen to make a Mark Trumbo trade a reality:

  1. The Orioles don’t believe Trumbo bounces-back to 2017 form or similar;
  2. Another team believes that Trumbo bounces-back to career-average form or better;
  3. That very same team has an immediate need at DH or a desperate need in RF; and
  4. The Orioles pay Trumbo $9M to play for that same team still (or provide an asset worth roughly +$9M in a package deal) in order to make the trade even.

Does anybody see this happening? As much as it would be nice to just cut bait with the big righty moving into 2018, baseball doesn’t work like that. MLB contracts are guaranteed, meaning the Orioles have to pay Trumbo whether they cut him or not.

Are you optimistic a big rebound season is on the horizon for Mark Trumbo? What about if I told you that from 2016 to 2017, his line drive rate was down 1.5%, his ground ball rate was up 3.8%, his infield fly ball rate was up 2.4%, his HR/FB rate was down (from an unsustainably high 24.6% in 2016) 10.8%, and his hard hit rate was down 8.9%?

It seems like unless the Orioles pay an exorbitant price to a team wanting a slugger in decline, they’re stuck crossing their fingers on Mark Trumbo’s 2018 in a Baltimore uniform.

What do you think?