21 November 2017

Is There a Potential Bad Contract Swap With the Giants?

Mark Trumbo (photo via Keith Allison)
A little over a week ago, Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball wrote an article that suggested a trade of Mark Trumbo to the San Francisco Giants could make sense for both teams. The return to the Orioles potentially centered around either Jeff Samardzija or Matt Moore, two of the Giant’s higher priced, but underperforming starters. He cited an article from the Chicago Tribune that suggested a similar “bad contract” trade in which the Cubs would send Jason Heyward. With the Giants looking to upgrade their outfield (they ranked last in fWAR in 2017 at 0.8), getting Heyward would actually improve one of San Francisco’s needs, although the likelihood that Heyward does not opt out of his current contract would complicate things. So could the Orioles do something similar with Mark Trumbo as Connolly suggests?

The better return for the Orioles here would be Samardzija, but he also comes with a heftier contract. Samardzija has 3 years and $18 million per year left on his deal. Ultimately though, a Trumbo/Samardzija trade on the basis of bad contracts doesn’t work because Samardzija’s contract isn’t bad as Connolly believes. Yes, he’s owed a lot of money over the next 3 years, but he’s a quality pitcher. Despite a 4.42 ERA in what looked like a down year, Samardzija’s 2017 season was actually very productive. His strikeout rate (24.2%) was the highest it’s been since 2012 (the year he began starting) and his walk rate (3.8%) was easily a career low.

Connolly correctly points out that home runs were certainly a problem for him in 2017, but everyone has been giving up home runs the last couple of seasons and Samardzija’s 13.8% HR/FB rate only ranked 33rd out of 58 qualified starters in 2017. Add everything up, and Samardzija was worth 3.8 wins above replacement in 2017 according to Fangraphs. Even if you prefer Baseball-Reference’s method of WAR, Samardzija was still worth 2.4 wins above replacement. While his contract isn’t a steal, Samardzija is a legitimately good pitcher, not a salary dump candidate. And with the Giants indicating their intent to contend in 2018 (it is an even year after all), I see no reason as to why they would want to part with Samardzija.

Matt Moore, similar to Samardzija, had a down 2017 season. He finished with a 5.52 ERA (a 4.75 FIP) and was worth 1.0 fWAR. At -0.3 WAR, Baseball Reference thought he was slightly below replacement level. It was easily the worst full season of his career. Still, Moore was almost a perfectly decent pitcher in 2016, throwing nearly 200 innings, with both an ERA and FIP just north of 4, and ending up at 2.3 fWAR. Moore is still young (2018 will be his age 29 season), was once a top prospect, is relatively cheap ($9 million, with another relatively cheap $10 million club option in 2019), and has previously shown electric stuff. This combination of factors makes him more desirable than one would initially think given how poorly he pitched last year. It’s why picking up his 2018 option was an easy decision for the Giants. As Connolly correctly points out, the Giants would likely want more than just Trumbo for Moore, but I disagree in that I don’t believe the Giants would want Trumbo at all.

I would assume that the Orioles would take either Samardzija or Moore in return for Trumbo (and change) any day of the week. These trade ideas don’t work is for two reasons. The first is that the contracts of Samardzija and Moore are not all that bad. Samardzija is a very good pitcher, and Moore’s contract is relatively small, especially if you take into account his pedigree and the chance that he bounces back even a little bit in 2018. The second (and most important) reason is that I don’t see how Trumbo fits anywhere on the Giant’s roster.

Connolly thinks Trumbo could fit on the Giants’ roster by mentioning that Trumbo and Brandon Belt can both play either first base or the corner outfield. While defensive metrics show Belt to be a slightly below average outfielder over his career (in about 460 innings), Trumbo is essentially unplayable in the outfield, especially if he’ll be playing most of his games in the NL West, where many of the stadiums have very large outfields.

Additionally, while the defensive metrics view Trumbo as a positive at first base, Belt is also the superior defender there, averaging 3 more defensive runs saved per 1,000 innings than Trumbo (Trumbo trails in UZR/150 by 0.9). And while Belt doesn’t have the power that Trumbo does, he’s been the much better (and more consistent) hitter over the course of his career (Belt owns a career 128 wRC+ compared to Trumbo’s 106). Mark Trumbo is simply not a fit for the San Francisco Giants roster.

Realistically, a trade involving Mark Trumbo would likely be a salary dump returning no one of significant value, and definitely not a quality major league pitcher in my opinion. There are probably teams with bad contracts that the Orioles should be talking to, but I believe they’d be wasting their time with the Giants. A couple of weeks ago, Jon tweeted the following with respect to a potential Trumbo trade.
Like it or not, that’s probably the best Orioles can hope for this offseason.


Unknown said...

In a heartbeat.

Unknown said...

What about Trumbo to KC for Ian Kennedy?

Unknown said...

Which prospect could the Os attach to make this deal more enticing for the Giants?

Unknown said...

Kennedy deal in a heartbeat, also.

Jon Shepherd said...

Ryan Mountcastle. Him and Trumbo would work if SF was willing to effectively pay 26 MM for Mountcastle.

Jon Shepherd said...

If I was KC, I would want someone with more of a line drive power swing than a full uppercut because in that park a hitter needs to have doubles power as well as home run power.