09 January 2018

Making Faulty Comparisons Doesn't Improve Mark Trumbo's Contract

Hey, I get it. This Orioles offseason seems to be making all of us crazy. No one knows exactly what the O's are doing, and some of us are on edge.

Still, it shouldn't lead to write-ups like this defense of Mark Trumbo and his contract:
Let us not forget that initially it was believed Trumbo might land a five-year deal in the $65-$80 million range. That didn’t happen. Likely because Trumbo was viewed as a defensive downgrade by most teams and that power wasn’t in as high demand as usual.

He signed last January for a three-year, $37.5 million deal. It seemed reasonable then.

And, frankly, it’s reasonable now.

He’s owed basically $26 million over the next two years and if he splits the difference between his two seasons and hits 35 homers and drives in 87 runs in 2018 and 2019 that’s worth the investment.

Consider that this offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies gave Carlos Santana, who is three months younger than Trumbo, a three-year, $60 million deal.

Like Trumbo, Santana is a career .249 hitter who had 23 homers last year. Yes, he’s considered an above-average defensive first baseman nowadays and draws a ton of walks (a .365 career OBP), but I think it’s hard to argue he’s worth nearly twice what Trumbo is.

Trumbo doesn’t get compared to Santana, though. Orioles fans prefer to link him up with Davis, and moan about the wasted money on those two.
Go read the whole thing if you want to take in the larger, though obvious, point that Chris Davis and Trumbo have very different contracts. These two players seem to get lumped in because they're powerful but lumbering 1B/DH types. No, Trumbo's contract is not killing the Orioles, but it's not helping either - and that's because the Orioles invested in a 1B/DH who isn't an effective DH (and is a terrible outfielder) when first base is occupied by Davis.

As noted, Trumbo being owed $26 million the next two seasons isn't great, but it's not crushing. It would be better if the O's could play him at first base. He's movable, but the O's would either have to include money in a potential deal (not their style) or take on a bigger contract (not likely, but possible).

Anyway, all of that about Trumbo's situation has been hashed out already. The Manny Machado saga has seemingly pushed everything to the back burner, so it's not like getting Trumbo out of town is a huge priority. But it's something that could help the Orioles. And when discussing that, it's important to be clear about what Trumbo's value is. And guess what? He's not close to the same player that Carlos Santana is.

I guess Santana is relevant because he just signed that deal listed above, so let's break a few things down about the "... it’s hard to argue [Santana's] worth nearly twice what Trumbo is" line. Let's look at the past five seasons for both Santana and Trumbo:

Carlos Santana, 2013-2017: 15 fWAR, 14.7 bWAR
Mark Trumbo, 2013-2017: 3.2 fWAR, 3.6 bWAR

In that span, Trumbo has had two negative-WAR seasons and zero years above 3 WAR. Santana has had zero negative-WAR seasons and three years of 3 WAR or better.

Don't care about wins above replacement? Santana had a wRC+ of 117 or higher in four of the last five years (high of 132, low of 107). That also includes an OBP of .357 or better in each season. Trumbo had a wRC+ of 107, 90, 107, 125, and 80, respectively. In three of the five years, he posted a sub-.300 OBP, and his high in OBP was .316 in 2016.

You don't even need to include defense to see just how much better Santana is than Trumbo. That doesn't make Trumbo horrible, necessarily, and clearly the O's figured they'd get production closer to the 2016 version of Trumbo than the 2017 one.

Steamer projects 2.6 fWAR for Santana and 0.6 fWAR for Trumbo. FanGraphs' Depth Charts projections have 2.8 fWAR for Santana and 0.9 fWAR for Trumbo. There are more, but you get the idea. By a fair analysis, Santana is worth at least twice what Trumbo is, and it's closer to 3-4 times. Looking at batting average and home run totals is an outdated way to do things, and a far superior OBP means a lot.

Considering how bad Trumbo was last year, he'll need to do more than just split the difference between his 2016 and 2017 seasons. He needs to be much closer to the 2016 version. While not impossible, how confident are you that that'll happen?


Mike Bonsiero said...

I have to say, I'm fairly inoculated against bad baseball takes by the lower tier of sports pundits, but I was not ready for "Trumbo is pretty similar to Santana, actually."

The idea that Trumbo's contract is reasonable fails in the face of:
1) Basic logic
2) That nobody else even thought about offering something similar last year.
3) The fact that if the Orioles announced right now that they were giving away Mark Trumbo for free, nobody would even think about taking them up on it.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yeah, I don't understand it either. I guess he was just trying to defend Trumbo, but it quickly went off the rails.

Unknown said...

Cept Santana has a CAREER OBP of .365 compared to 301! for Trumbo. HUGE difference.

Pip said...

Everyone knows this except the guy who makes the contracts.
I hope you share this article with Mr Connolly.
Thank you for sharing it with us.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Elisabeth, the OBP of both players is discussed above.

Unknown said...

No, it is not mentioned in the article, and that is a HUGE difference.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yes, OBP is clearly mentioned in the article. Please try reading before commenting next time.