NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — Every player is different, and every contract negotiation has its own unique traits, but the Orioles have plenty of experience on the road they're taking with Mark Trumbo.
Negotiations to bring back the 2016 home run king, who hit 47 home runs in his only season with the Orioles, seem a lot like the prolonged courtship that led the 2015 home run king, first baseman Chris Davis, back to the Orioles.
The Orioles' offers are being reported publicly, but the market isn't developing because of the qualifying offer and first-round draft pick attached to the player. Executive vice president Dan Duquette is saying "nothing really changed from our perspective" when discussing movement at the meetings toward a reunion.
Even if the Orioles aren't publicly admitting it, the similarities are striking.
"I think every situation is different," Duquette said. "It'd be interesting to see how this qualifying offer plays out in this market, because the qualifying offer this year is still strong from a compensation perspective. The team gets a stronger compensation package in exchange for qualifying offer when players sign with another club."
The Davis and Trumbo situations are too similar — and the stakes too high — to call them anything but parallel. At last year's winter meetings, it was the widely reported seven-year, $150 million contract offer to Davis that carried the day. On Monday, at the first day of this year's winter meetings, multiple reports had Trumbo getting a four-year offer from the Orioles, with ESPN reporting that it was for around $13 million per year.
However, the market for Trumbo doesn't seem to be as high as he'd like it to be. Likewise, Davis' market didn't develop the way he wanted it to, either. Then the Orioles came in with a seven-year, $161 million contract offer loaded with deferred money in mid-January and he returned.
Whether the Orioles up their offer to meet Trumbo's asking price remains to be seen. They've let players walk before, like outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in 2014. They've also boosted their offer for a player they really wanted back, as they did last year to reliever Darren O'Day.
But the fact that a team signing Trumbo, like Davis, would be giving up a draft pick to sign him could mean other clubs sit out his free agency and opt for a slugger without a qualifying offer attached like Chris Carter, or a more complete hitter who does have one, like Edwin Encarnacion.
That would lead to the Orioles bidding against themselves for a player whose options are limited, and if the results of that are another outsized contract, the Orioles might hope the parallels with Davis' deal end there.