I get it. It’s been a long year in Baltimore. Orioles fans have suffered through another 100-loss season that reimagined exactly where rock-bottom is located. The Chris Davis 0-for streak, nine-run starts by David Hess, countless mental errors in the field and on the base paths, and a dugout dustup or two. If you’ve stuck around this long, you may feel like you deserve a reward.
Sometimes the only way a rebuilding club can reward their fans this late in the season is by giving them a sneak-peak at a top prospect or two. The fans have seen enough of Chris Davis; they want Ryan Mountcastle. Is that too much to ask? Absolutely not. Is it going to happen? Absolutely not.
The decision not to promote Mountcastle and Austin Hays drew immediate attention, some surprise, and a bit of outrage from certain fans who were mad online. The reality is, it makes sense. There are few possible scenarios where a September promotion has a positive impact on Mountcastle’s career, and he’s still got some work to do with his batting eye and in the field.
Hays will play in the Arizona Fall League in an attempt to further his development. It’s a move the Orioles feel will best improve his chances of being a successful Major League player. Injuries have prevented Hays from acquiring a large number of at bats in the high minors, and the AFL will serve as a better substitute than spotty starts in Baltimore.
The Orioles have made their decision, and the motivation behind that decision makes sense. I don’t think Mountcastle or Hays forgot to wish Mike Elias a happy birthday this year. The Orioles are doing this because they think it’s the best thing for the players and the future of the organization. Both guys will compete for a job in spring training, and either could make the Opening Day Roster in 2020.
So what about the fans that have stuck it out all year? What’s their reward? How about a feel good story for a career .250 hitter with a reputation of mashing taters and nixing pies.
Mark Trumbo is going to play games for the Orioles this month, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s something that did not seem certain several times this year, and it’s taken Trumbo a great amount of effort to make it happen.
Trumbo went over a year without playing a game for the Orioles. His last appearance came on August 19, 2018 and resulted in a knee injury that required season ending surgery. However, the line between “season-ending” and “career-ending” appears to have been closer than we all thought.
This article from the Baltimore Sun breaks down Trumbo’s path back to Baltimore. He initially hoped to be ready for Spring Training, attempted rehab assignments in May and July, and played the final week of August for the Norfolk Tides before returning to Baltimore. This guy easily could have sat out the entire year and nobody would have blamed him. In fact, some of you may have thanked him. But instead of taking the easy way out, Trumbo wanted to play one more time in Baltimore before his contract expired this season. There’s something to that.
The Sun article quotes Trumbo stating he felt like he owed it to his teammates and the organization. “I’m getting paid to play; I think that always weighed on me pretty heavily,” Trumbo said. It’s nice that Trumbo still cares about this team— especially with an expiring contract and the Orioles nearly 50 games back in the division.
Trumbo has been an afterthought this year in the Orioles firstbase/DH logjam, but that wasn’t always the case. His 47 home run led the league in 2016, and he finished with 108 RBIs and an .850 OPS during an All-Star campaign.
The Orioles decision to resign Trumbo to a three year/$37.5 million deal certainly did not age well. However, at the time the Orioles did not know what they had in first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini. With Davis cemented at first, Trumbo’s competition appeared to be Seth Smith and Hyun Soo Kim for a corner outfield position. Looking back, the Orioles really didn’t need any of those guys on the roster, but the contract will always be a footnote compared to the Davis albatross.
The Orioles acquired Trumbo from Seattle before the 2016 season. Baltimore sent catcher Steve Clevenger to the Mariners in exchange for Trumbo and reliever C.J. Riefenhauser. Riefenhauser never pitched a game for Batlimore, but Trumbo had quite an impact early on. The Orioles acquired Clevenger in the infamous Jake Arrieta deal with the Cubs in 2013, so there was always the saving grace that the Orioles found a home run king after losing a Cy Young winner.
Trumbo announced his presence with a two-run double in an eventual 5-4 loss to the Rays on Monday, and doubled home a run in a pinch hit appearance yesterday. He probably has another big hit or two left in him, maybe even a home run, and he’ll have the chance to deliver when called upon as the designated hitter.
Mark Trumbo is not the reason the 2019 Orioles are bad. He’s not the reason the 2018 team failed either. His contract is coming off the books, and he’ll no longer be taking away at bats from Trey Mancini or anyone else. He’ll likely never play in a Major League outfield again, and could retire after this season. Oh, and by the way, he claims he wasn’t the reason the pie celebrations came to an end.
Maybe the Orioles should have moved on after Trumbo’s Silver Slugger season in 2016, but hindsight is always 20/20. We’ll always have that walk-off homer on Opening Day in 2017, or the extra-inning blast that kept Baltimore in the wild card hunt back in 2016. It’s okay to cheer for Mark Trumbo right now, and to wish him well moving forward. I know I am.