Another offseason saga of whether the reigning major league home run champion would return to Baltimore after testing free agency came to an end Thursday when the Orioles agreed to re-sign outfielder/designated hitter Mark Trumbo.
After more than two months of wrangling, the two sides have a three-year agreement in place pending a "rigorous" medical review, according to an industry source. While the Orioles have a reputation for a meticulous physical exam process, Trumbo is a known commodity.
Trumbo's deal is worth $37.5 million, according to an industry source. That figure is dramatically less than the $75-80 million Trumbo was initially seeking in free agency.
Closer Zach Britton, speaking Thursday night on the Orioles Hot Stove Show on 105.7 The Fan, was pleased with the news.
"He’s a great teammate," Britton said. "He’s kind of like the quiet leader, but the thing about Mark that kind of really drew me to him and the thing I feel like kind of got overlooked was his preparation and the work that he put in. He was constantly watching video, constantly in the cage doing stuff. Even before a lot of guys got to the field, Mark was already in there doing stuff.
"That’s the thing that, as a teammate, where whether or not this guy is doing well, you really appreciate the effort they’re putting in. That’s all you can bring to the table as a teammate: your effort level, every single day. And that wasn’t lacking, ever. … I know our ballpark is perfect for him. To get [Chris Davis] back last year and Mark again this year, to keep that power in the lineup is really important."
Trumbo, who led the majors with 47 home runs in 2016 in his first year with the Orioles, rejected the club's qualifying offer and had a first-round draft pick attached to him during his first foray into free agency. If he had signed elsewhere, the Orioles would have received a draft pick at the end of the first round.
Waiting out the market seems to have benefited the Orioles, who under executive vice president Dan Duquette have been remarkably savvy in signing high-value free-agent deals late in the offseason.
For Trumbo and some of the market’s top sluggers, it seemed the free-agent landscape never quite developed. Edwin Encarnacion landed a three-year, $60 million deal from the Cleveland Indians, Jose Bautista returned to the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year deal and now Trumbo is back with the Orioles.
Initially, the price for Trumbo seemed to be out of the Orioles’ range. But when the market came down, a reunion between a player who thoroughly enjoyed his time in Baltimore and a team that grew to admire his steady presence, not to mention his power, was forged.
The addition further embeds the Orioles as one of the game's premier power lineups. Trumbo will return to a batting order that also includes Davis (38 homers in 2016), Manny Machado (37), Adam Jones (29) and Jonathan Schoop (25).
His return means the Orioles are bringing back largely the same group that fell in extra innings to the Blue Jays in last year’s wild-card game. Free agent Welington Castillo replaced longtime catcher Matt Wieters, platoon outfielder Seth Smith has been added to the mix and young right-hander Dylan Bundy is in position to spend a full year in the rotation, with Yovani Gallardo dealt to the Seattle Mariners.
This year, however, with more confidence in Hyun Soo Kim, a healthy Joey Rickard and Smith now a right field option, Trumbo could see more time as the team’s designated hitter. Prior to his first year with the Orioles, Trumbo was primarily a first baseman.
The team acquired him as something of an insurance policy before Davis signed a club-record seven-year, $161 million contract last January, and the addition of designated hitter Pedro Alvarez in early March meant Trumbo needed to get acclimated to right field quickly.
This offseason, the club has cited a desire to improve defensively in the outfield, with Smith presenting a marginal upgrade and Rule 5 draft pick Aneury Tavarez also a good defensive option.
Because of that, Trumbo will likely be the team's primary designated hitter in 2017, but could still see time in the outfield.
Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.