The Orioles are between a rock and a hard place with Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis. Both of them make hefty salaries and have contracts that last for, at least, a couple more seasons, and both have been major disappointments in 2017. The club has to figure out someway to turn the pair back into valuable contributors at Camden Yards.
Davis gets a large share of the blame anytime the Orioles offense slumps, as is customary for the highest paid player on a team ($23 million/year through 2022). And rightfully so, he’s been bad. A .218/.312/.426 batting line with 25 home runs and 60 RBI isn’t good enough for a man that is supposed to be a middle of the order force.
Trumbo is partly a victim of his own lofty performance a year ago. While advanced statistics suggest the slugger had a mediocre 2016 overall (1.6 WAR), he did lead the league in home runs (47) and had an impressive 108 RBI. That makes a 2017 in which he is hitting .239/.289/.399 with 23 home runs and 65 RBI look even worse than it already is.
Neither is stalwart defensively, but there is no debate that Crush is clearly superior with the leather and the better athlete overall. In reality, though, they both should only be first basemen or designated hitters, even if Buck Showalter stubbornly sends Trumbo out to right field on occasion.
The name is Mancini
Add in the emergence of rookie Trey Mancini and you have an issue on your hands. Mancini has similar defensive limitations, but he has also provided unexpected pop in the order and deserves to be an everyday player in some capacity. In a non-Aaron Judge season, Mancini’s .293/.337/.492 line with 24 home runs and 78 RBI would be grabbing more headlines.
Starting this trio of players with similar skill sets day in and day out is a drag on the Baltimore lineup. Showalter “likes his guys” but if the Orioles seriously hope to compete in 2018, and it seems they do, they will need to make the most out of all nine spots in the lineup and that means one of these guys should be heading to the bench more often.
The less informed sections of the fanbase like to use the idea of trading away Trumbo or Davis as a simple solution to this problem. These people seem to forget that another team would have to agree to the trade. Just because the Orioles want to unload a player does not mean it will happen. And in case you didn’t know, MLB contracts are fully guaranteed. Someone has to pay these guys their money, and that someone is almost certainly going to be the O’s.
That said, if one of them could be traded it would be Trumbo. His contract is significantly shorter and cheaper. The Orioles could eat a large portion of his deal and possibly send him to another American League squad in need of a DH. But even then, they are unlikely to get much in return after this poor season, so why trade him at all?
You can forget about trading Davis. It’s not happening. Just, no. His contract is too enormous for the team to eat, and that would be their only real option.
Play to their strengths
It’s painful to even think about, but the Orioles may need to form what is perhaps the most expensive platoon in the league across two positions with a combination of Davis, Trumbo and Mancini.
Against right-handed pitchers, Davis should continue as the first baseman of choice. Throughout his career he has better numbers against them (.252/.342/.518) than against lefties (.232/.295/.430) and that continued in 2017 (.221/.318/.469 vs. .213/.298/.333). Not to mention, he provides the best defensive option and playing against righties would give him the most innings.
Trumbo is the wild card. This season he was actually decent against left-handed pitching (.273/.316/.455) while struggling against righties (.221/.280/.380). But last summer he had it reversed; .284/.347/.584 vs RHP, .173/.223/.385 vs LHP. For his career, things are pretty even. Let him DH exclusively against lefties. He’s a right-handed hitter and if he could focus on those pitchers alone, he could see his numbers positively skew that direction.
Mancini has pretty even splits this year. Against righties, he slashes .292/.342/.520 and against southpaws he is .294/.323/.425. Obviously, there is more power against same-sided pitchers but both sets of numbers are good enough that he seems fine to continue with everyday duties somewhere on the field. Against lefties, play him at first, against righties he can DH.
Fill the holes
Moving one of Davis or Trumbo to the bench every day and giving Mancini their place creates a hole in left field, the spot that the rookie has most often occupied this summer. It would seem Austin Hays is ready for the big time, but his talents would be wasted in left. His athleticism and throwing arm are better suited for the other two outfield spots.
If there is one position that is deep in talent in this offseason’s free agent pool, it is the outfield. Some of the big names: Jose Bautista, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Matt Holliday. Some one-year options include Jayson Werth and Jarrod Dyson. Come on, Orioles. You can do this! There are real, proven Major League players out there. Do not sign a guy off the scrap heap. Please!
Showalter and Dan Duquette have an easy avenue to maximizing the talent on their roster. There is no need for them to continually bang their collective heads against the wall in order to fit all of the veterans into the lineup each day...right?