01 December 2015

In Trading For Mark Trumbo, Orioles Make Their First Notable Move Of The Offseason

Over the years, the Orioles have expressed interest in acquiring Mark Trumbo. Tonight, it actually happened. Earlier today, Jon Heyman reported that the Orioles were in the Trumbo "sweepstakes." And then in the early evening, Heyman tweeted this out:
About an hour later, the deal was done. According to Heyman and multiple reporters, the Orioles have acquired Trumbo, a first baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter, from the Mariners in exchange for catcher Steve Clevenger. The trade is, of course, "pending medical review."

In Trumbo, who turns 30 in January, the Orioles are essentially acquiring what many figured Chris Davis would become before he turned in a couple of truly outstanding seasons and altered his career outlook. That's not to suggest any resurgence is ahead for Trumbo, but he is a useful player. He's a career .250/.300/.458 (108 wRC+) hitter, and he's an absolute masher against left-handed pitching (career 125 wRC+).

Yes, trading for Trumbo gives the Orioles another low OBP option in a lineup that could use some on-base help. But that doesn't mean it's a bad addition. Incorporating another power bat into a low OBP lineup may actually make more sense.

According to UZR and DRS defensive metrics, Trumbo also performed well at first base. Per UZR/150, Trumbo's a +6 defender at first, while DRS has him at +12. So he's not a wizard with the glove or anything, but he is better than Chris Davis (0 UZR/150, -3 DRS).

As you'd probably expect from a first baseman, though, Trumbo is not a good defensive outfielder. In about 1,000 innings each in left field and right field, he's posted UZR/150 numbers of -5 and -12, respectively. And according to DRS, he's been a -2 defender in left and -10 in right.

By itself, the Trumbo trade certainly doesn't move the needle much. But it's easy to see why the Orioles would want to trade for him, even if he's only around for one season. He has one arbitration-eligible year remaining, and MLB Trade Rumors predicts he will make about $9 million in 2016. He's a good enough defender and hitter to take over regular first base duties if Davis signs elsewhere. And even though he's an awful defensive outfielder, he could still be an upgrade in a corner outfield role because of his bat.

Obviously this all depends what else the Orioles plan on doing in free agency or the trade market, but it's not unreasonable to expect Trumbo could see at least some time in the outfield. And, of course, he presents a very nice option at designated hitter for a team that gave extensive at-bats to Jimmy Paredes, Junior Lake, and, yes, Clevenger. As has been discussed repeatedly, the Orioles received terrible production from their corner outfielders and designated hitters last season. Trumbo should help in one or a couple of those positions.

What does this all mean for the O's attempts to re-sign Davis? Probably nothing. The O's are already considered a relative long shot by many to sign Davis because of the amount of money he's going to command, and it's not like the addition of Trumbo blocks Davis's potential return. If Davis were to re-sign, he and Trumbo could easily coexist on this roster. But Trumbo does provide a bit of insurance for 2016 if Davis leaves.

As for Clevenger, it's not all that surprising that the Orioles traded him away -- especially because Matt Wieters accepted his qualifying offer. Clevenger is out of options (which the Orioles covet), and it just wasn't likely that he'd be able to stick on the major-league roster all season. So perhaps you can thank Wieters for this trade. But it's not like the O's were extremely high on Clevenger anyway. Ryan Lavarnway made the Orioles opening day roster ahead of Clevenger last year, and Clevenger (and especially his agent!) weren't happy about the decision.

The Orioles also seemed to favor Clevenger's bat more than his catching acumen. Still, at 29 and with limited major-league experience (64 wRC+ in 446 plate appearances), it wouldn't be unreasonable to see Clevenger as a serviceable backup catcher for a while.

Quick update: The Orioles also received left-handed pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser in the trade for Mark Trumbo. This shouldn't change any thoughts on the deal.


Jon Shepherd said...

I ran Trumbo's numbers through the BORAS model and it suggests a 2 year, 17 MM contract. A one year deal would likely carry a bit of a premium from that 8.5 AAV, so 9.1 looks on target given the history of the market.

So far, BORAS model has done well with position players and decently with pitchers. I think it likely hits mid-level guys better than the far extremes. In the future, I might batch players and utilize different models for different kinds of players. Anyway, I think the value predicted for Trumbo makes sense.

Again, BORAS considers age and past three year performance metrics to determine contract terms.

Unknown said...

Nice write-up, Matt. Trumbo has his flaws, but he makes the team better, likely to the tune of 1-2 wins. Early in his career when he played 1st base regularly, he actually was a 70 defender there. Because of age and lack of playing time there, he's probably not quite that good there anymore, but if Davis doesn't come back and Trumbo plays there everyday he could be at least plus there. I wouldn't be surprised if he could be a 2-3 WAR player as an every day 1st baseman. Obviously, giving up a back-up, replacement level catcher for Trumbo was a no-brainer, even with the salary difference.

It's a little strange from the Mariners perspective because they no longer have anybody who can play 1st base. The funny thing is that Clevenger could be a big upgrade at catcher! Last season, Mariners catchers combined for -2.0 fWAR!

Anonymous said...

Great article. I was one of the many who absolutely hated this move because I saw Trumbo as just another guy who helps us tread the same water we swam in last year. At least after reading this, and the article over at Fan Graphs I can accept the acquisition as adequate. DD better keep going, and not try to sell us Trumbo as this year's Snyder. I'll be ready for a revolution if that happens. I have no faith in DD, but at least this moves the needle for DD in the positive direction even if it's a slight nudge.

Anonymous said...

"The Orioles also received left-handed pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser in the trade for Mark Trumbo. This shouldn't change any thoughts on the deal."

Actually, this was the best part of the deal and makes it my favorite trade of the off season in all of MLB.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Why's that?

Anonymous said...

Projects as a very controllable left handed arm out of the bullpen which required a catcher that wasnt needed.