13 September 2017

The Orioles Have A Mark Trumbo Problem

This past offseason, the Orioles signed Mark Trumbo to a three-year, $37.5 million deal after he had a bounce-back year at the plate. In 2016, he posted a 124 wRC+ (.358 wOBA) while hitting 47 home runs. This season, with about a half a month left to go, Trumbo has been much worse, with a wRC+ of 85, a wOBA of .303, and just 23 home runs. He's walking a little less and striking out less, yet his isolated power has dropped by more than 100 points (.277 to .170) and his HR/FB rate has fallen from 24.6% (career high) to 14.4% (close to his career low of 14.3%). Last week, Joe Wantz looked deeper into Trumbo's frustrating season.

So Trumbo has been bad (-0.8 fWAR, -0.2 bWAR), and he has two years left on his contract ($12.5 million in 2018 and $13.5 million in 2019). He'll also have $1.5 million deferred each season, which is due to be paid from 2020-2022. Plus, he has limited no-trade protection and may reject a trade to seven clubs each year.

The money is an issue, and clearly the O's could use those funds elsewhere. But remember, Trumbo's deal could have been larger, and worse. One offseason worry was that the Orioles would bid against themselves when there didn't appear to be a market for Trumbo - like a miniature version of the market for Chris Davis, though the Tigers apparently had serious interest. Dan Connolly even guessed Trumbo would receive a contract in the "four-year, $60-65 million range" that didn't seem completely crazy, at least until the market collapsed for power hitters who didn't have other skills to offer.

But even if the O's seemed to get somewhat of a discount for Trumbo, the real concern continues to be his fit on the roster. Trumbo is a defensive liability in the outfield, but he doesn't hit well unless he's playing in the field. Jon has pointed out the following several times:

Trumbo as RF (1,028 career PA): 131 wRC+
Trumbo as DH (987 career PA): 90 wRC+

It should also be noted that he has a career 108 wRC+ at first base (1,434 career PA) and just a 88 wRC+ in left field (507 PA in stretches in 2012 and 2014).

If Trumbo were able to hit effectively as a designated hitter, that would be one thing. But that isn't the case. Because of the emergence of Trey Mancini (used in left field) and the acquisition of Seth Smith (a left-handed platoon partner in right field), Trumbo has seen much less time in the outfield (783 innings last year, 241 so far this year). He shouldn't be in the outfield anyway, but the O's need him to hit.

The Orioles have also decided that he's not really an option at first base. When Chris Davis has been injured and out of the lineup this year, the O's have used Mancini there instead. Mancini has seen 313 innings at first base. Trumbo has 15.

So the O's still owe $26 million to a 1B/DH who will barely be used at first base and can't produce effectively enough at DH. Is there any way the O's could unload him to a team that has a need at first base and/or designated hitter? There don't appear to be many options. Teams usually don't fall over themselves for a limited defensive player who hasn't played first base regularly for several seasons. He may still be useful there, but it's an unknown at this point. And it's not an encouraging sign that the O's rarely use him there.

The Royals have a bunch of noteworthy upcoming free agents, the most relevant in this situation being first baseman Eric Hosmer. Perhaps the Orioles could entice the Royals to take Trumbo in exchange for Ian Kennedy ($62.5M through 2020) or Jason Hammel ($9M in 2018, $12M mutual option in 2019 with $2M buyout). Could the O's convince the Rangers to swap Cole Hamels ($22.5M in 2018, $20M club option in 2019 with $6M buyout) for Trumbo? And here's an idea from Jon: Try to send Kevin Gausman and Trumbo to the Dodgers for Rich Hill (due $34M through 2019) and Hyun-Jin Ryu ($7M in 2018).

Then there are teams like the Red Sox and Rockies who will have openings at first base, but maybe they'll just bring back their current options instead of trading for a less ideal solution. All of these are just guesses, and many opposing fans would probably be horrified at the idea of dealing for multiple years of the Trumbo experiment.

When Trumbo first signed his deal, it seemed like it wouldn't be that hard for the O's to move him if they really wanted (except for the limited no-trade protection). Of course, that was before Trumbo posted career-worst numbers. Trumbo's a tough sell now, both to other teams and to fans, many of whom are rightfully upset that he's not hitting but are also irritated that he's the likely reason why the O's no longer perform their pie celebration. (Then again, do you really want to be on the same side as Jason La Canfora?) Regardless, there hasn't been much for the O's to celebrate lately, and that is hardly all Trumbo's fault.

Stats via FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. Salary information via Cot's.


Ace said...

I am very relieved to hear that Trumbo was signed to a three year deal. I thought it was a four year deal. Huge difference. Honestly, his deal wouldn't look so miserable if it weren't for Davis' horrendous contract on the books.

I like the possible trade scenarios you listed. But Trumbo's deal isn't that hard to swallow considering he only has two years remaining. Lets just cross our fingers and hope he has a .260avg/.330obp/30HR season left in him.

Also, the Orioles needs to adjust to Trumbo's futility by dumping him down in the lineup. Same with Chris Davis. I can tolerate their diminished production if they are both hitting in the 8th and 9th spot respectively.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

It would still look pretty miserable if Trumbo were hitting like this. But yeah, maybe he wouldn't if he were playing in the field at first base full time. That's a big maybe, and Davis has at least turned himself into a pretty good defensive first baseman.

You're right. The most likely answer is just hoping Trumbo hits better. The same is true with Davis, but that's a much larger concern.

Unknown said...

The best answer is a trade. O's have way too many slow guys who strike out too much.

rico notcarty said...

the best answer is to get some starting pitching
than you would be in contention for the division
and not worrying about an underperforming offensive
player, who could well swing back next year,
but even if he does and all the STAT guys starting
talking about wins above whatever and his hitp++
it will not matter at all, because there is still
no starting pitching, and no contention,
than who really cares

Jon Shepherd said...

I do find it amazing how time changes things. A statement like this would have been solid normal humor ten years ago. Now, it looks like archaic thinking because most fans understand metrics better, their limitations, their use, and how now all baseball organizations deeply utilize them.

Dustin said...

I don't know if I'd out-and-out expect a full bounce-back from Trumbo (though I feel like he is closer to his floor this year than what we should expect moving forward), but something that is in his favor is how his value comes from the long-ball. In the same way that last year was unsustainable, he could potentially string together another stretch of unsustainability. Look -- nobody's going to say that 3 years, 37.5 mil for Mark Trumbo is or was a great idea... But they're on the hook. If Mark Trumbo, who's probably a 30-HR a year guy, runs into a big year and hits 45+ HRs again, then you re-coup a chunk of the lost value of the deal from this year, right? If a bunch of his fly balls turn into HRs, then you're close to even again.

I wouldn't argue that the deal is a good one, though I might argue that Trumbo is more likely to recover with a big year than a guy who's 'Big' year would be 25 HRs instead of 15 (which there are a lot of those guys out there these days). If the Orioles can find a spot to hide him (a big IF), and he turns a handful of FBs into HRs (which can happen with simple year-to-year variance), I wouldn't be shocked to see him put together a 3.5-4 win season, which would largely negate the bad that's done this year. The Orioles are likely not to come out ahead on this, but it's not too crazy to think that this contract could come out being close to even.

Dustin said...

Lot of IFs with that comment, though...

Andrew said...

I like the idea of trading Trumbo for a pitcher that would help them more (maybe Drew Hutchison, Edinson Volquez). Kennedy would be a bad idea for so many reasons that it isn't even funny. Glad to be a red sox fan.

Jon Shepherd said...

It is arguable whether or not Edinson Volquez being on the DL all year recovering from TJ would be better than a full year of Trumbo actively playing.