The Orioles made their first splash of the offseason Tuesday night, acquiring power-hitting first baseman Mark Trumbo in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, according to an industry source.
The deal, which will send catcher Steve Clevenger -- a Baltimore native -- to the Mariners is pending physicals. The Orioles are expected to receive a second player in the trade, according to sources.
Netting Trumbo, who averages 31 homers and 96 RBIs per 162 games for his career, not only gives the Orioles a middle-of-the-order power bat, but also adds insurance if the team is unable to retain first baseman Chris Davis.
Re-signing Davis still remains among the club’s top offseason priorities, but the Orioles aren’t currently comfortable with the $150 million to $175 million long-term commitment he could command.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette would not comment Tuesday on any interest in Trumbo.
“We have said we’re looking for outfielders and first basemen,” Duquette said. “That’s on our offseason list.”
The Mariners had been looking to move Trumbo in recent weeks. The 29-year-old is expected to make about $9 million next season in his final year of arbitration eligibility before becoming a free agent following next season, so it was possible that he would be nontendered by the Mariners.
The deal comes one day before the deadline to tender offers to arbitration-eligible players, and even though the Mariners appeared ready to tender Trumbo a contract before Wednesday's midnight deadline, the price for acquiring him was nominal.
Clevenger enters the upcoming season out of minor league options. And the return of Wieters, who accepted the Orioles’ one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer earlier this month, likely left Clevenger without an Opening Day roster spot at catcher.
Trumbo will become the Orioles' fifth-highest-paid player, behind Adam Jones, Wieters, Ubaldo Jimenez and J.J. Hardy. His expected salary pushes the club's projected 2016 payroll near the $100 million mark with plenty still on the offseason agenda, including upgrading the team's starting pitching, adding corner-outfield help and attempting to re-sign Davis.
Still, there's no question that Trumbo can help the Orioles lineup. He has hit at least 22 homers in four of the past five seasons, the one exception being when he was limited to 88 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 because of a stress fracture in his left foot.
He hit .262 with a .310 on-base percentage, .449 slugging percentage, 22 home runs and 64 RBIs this past season with the Diamondbacks and Mariners. Arizona dealt him to Seattle in June as the centerpiece of a six-player trade.
Trumbo’s best seasons came with the Los Angeles Angels, with whom he averaged 32 homers and 94 RBIs from 2011 to 2013. Despite his track record, he didn’t appear to fit in the plans of new Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, the man who traded Trumbo to Arizona two offseasons ago when he was Angels GM.
Despite spending most of his time with the Orioles shuttling between the majors and Triple-A Norfolk, Clevenger, a Pigtown native, made significant strides with his all-around game this past season. He hit .305 with a .375 on-base percentage in 75 games at Norfolk while improving defensively, earning a major league call-up for good in mid-August. He hit .287 in 30 games with the Orioles in 2015.
Clevenger will fill an immediate need in Seattle playing behind recently signed veteran Chris Iannetta while also providing a left-handed bat off the bench. He also gives Seattle a cheap option at catcher. Clevenger made just $514,000 last season and won't be eligible for arbitration until 2017.
While Trumbo provides bona fide power to the Orioles lineup, he also adds another high-strikeout bat to their righty-heavy batting order. He averages nearly a strikeout per game (686 in 690 career games) and his career .300 on-base percentage doesn’t fall in line with the Orioles’ desire to improve their on-base capabilities, both reasons why the Mariners were shopping him.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Trumbo is also not known for his glove. He is serviceable at first base, but would best slot into the Orioles’ designated hitter role, especially if Davis returns. Trumbo made 70 starts in right field last year, but has played first base more than any other position in his career with 339 starts there.
The addition of Trumbo gives the Orioles 12 arbitration-eligible players, which is second most in the majors. The Orioles already have $57.6 million committed in salary to Jones, Wieters, Jimenez and Hardy.
Add a projected $34.9 million for their existing 11 arbitration-eligible players -- they aren’t guaranteed to tender all of them contracts Wednesday -- and it would already put next year’s payroll at $92.5 million.
With that projection, the addition of Trumbo pushes the club over the $100 million mark, and that’s without re-signing Davis and upgrading the starting pitching.