Mark Trumbo's hot start with Orioles makes it easy to wonder why Angels, others dealt him

Mark Trumbo's hot start with Orioles makes it easy to wonder why Angels, others dealt him
Baltimore Orioles' Mark Trumbo celebrates with his teammates after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, May 20, 2016. (Kelvin Kuo / AP)

Combine his team-leading 13 home runs entering Saturday with back-to-back series against teams that have traded him, and the question begs to be asked: How have three ballclubs decided they'd rather not have Mark Trumbo in their colors?

"Good question," manager Buck Showalter said. "I was going to ask somebody out here. I don't know what — just different fits, timing. I just think our timing has been really good with him. A lot of guys [ages] 28 to 32 start kind of figuring out some things. You've got to be careful. … The guys that keep wanting it, they start figuring it out a little bit. You've got to be careful about writing them off and branding them as, 'This is who they're going to be.'"


The 30-year-old Orioles right fielder has spent the first seven weeks of the season hitting home runs and populating lists of the best acquisitions of this past offseason, vaulting himself into the conversation to make a second All-Star Game this summer. He homered against both of his former teams this week in the process.

It's easy to say that something about Trumbo has changed, making the Orioles smart and all three of the Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners less so. But his first major league manager, the Angels' Mike Scioscia, said that would be to undervalue Trumbo, and it's "just a coincidence" that he has bounced around so much.

All that's different this season, both Trumbo and observers say, is a player with a specific set of skills finding a place where they can flourish. The results seem to be in line with what Trumbo's ultimate ceiling has always been. His 13 home runs entering Saturday's game were tied for second most in the majors and his 31 RBIs led the team. He batted .306/.355/.599 in his first 40 games.

"He did a lot of the things he's doing in Baltimore with us," Scioscia said. "He made an All-Star team [in 2012]. You saw the talent that Mark had, and you always knew he was going to be a powerful hitter and a threat in the box at any time. He's continuing that in Baltimore."

"He's gotten off to a really good start, and it looks like he's determined to have a good year," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "He fits in good with the club."

To chart Trumbo's path to the Orioles, through the clubhouses of two of this week's opponents, you'll see several common threads, though he won't dwell much on them.

"They all have reasons behind it," Trumbo said. "Sometimes, the answer you're given may not be exactly the real reason, but I think you can sometimes read between the lines and figure out why things happen. It's really, you know, it's kind of futile to spend so much time even thinking about it. You're probably going to ponder about it a bit, but after a while you've just got to put it to bed. It's just wasted energy."

The first trade hurt, as first trades do, but for an Anaheim native who came up through the Angels system, the logic behind it took some of the sting out.

The Angels had signed first baseman Albert Pujols before the 2012 season and outfielder Josh Hamilton the next winter. In 2013, Trumbo's one season on the club with the two high-priced free agents, he led the team with 34 homers and 100 RBIs. But the Angels went 78-84 and finished 11th in the American League in ERA.

The Angels needed pitching, and had a power surplus, so Trumbo was dealt to Arizona in a December 2013 three-way deal for a couple of young pitchers, Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago.

"If you're going to look at it that way, two young, cost-controlled starting pitchers in this day and age obviously is huge," Trumbo said. "That's a huge haul. That one, I can understand. When I was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Mariners [last June], they needed a catcher and they got Welington Castillo, who has played great for them. This last one is what it is."

The last one was essentially a salary dump. In explaining the genesis of the deal, Duquette said the two teams first found a match for catcher Steve Clevenger, who went to the Mariners, and sending Trumbo back was the easiest way to clear a spot for him.

His arbitration salary that was set to be over $9 million played a factor, and Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who also traded Trumbo from the Angels, ultimately replaced him with a better plate-discipline guy who hit left-handed in Adam Lind.

"You can see the different points," said former Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz, Trumbo's teammate in Seattle. "You can see that some teams want him more than other ones. He's proven he can hit anywhere he goes. He's a great hitter. He always had a good swing. I think for me and him, guys who consider themselves long-ball hitters, to be able to put the ball in play is the most important thing, being consistent putting the ball in play and going the other way. I think he's found that pattern this year. "


Former major league pitcher Dallas Braden, an analyst on ESPN's Sunday Night Countdown, said Trumbo "just provides a certain type of service that sometimes can fit in, or not fit in, in the immediacy of roster shakeups."

"He's a guy who just, at some point in time, has been what a team is looking for, and then unfortunately for him, at some point in time has been exactly what a team can sort of part ways with," Braden said. "That's why he continues to find himself on the move, because he's got an absolute boomstick in his suitcase with him, but he just can't seem to unpack and get comfy above .250, .260 as far as the average is concerned."

Braden brings up the downside to someone like Trumbo. To whatever you attribute his hot start, it's just that — a start. Trumbo historically had his best stretches at the plate early in the season, and is still a career .253 hitter despite that.

The case for this year being different has everything to do with environment. Duquette smiled as he said "some of the metrics aren't really kind to Mark Trumbo," but the Orioles can overlook that because of his power. Showalter said Trumbo easily fit into the clubhouse, full of players someone else didn't want. The stadium is one he hits well in.

"This is most ideal for me, no doubt," Trumbo said. "Not only is it an incredible team with a long history of success, but for my personal skill set, I think this is probably the best scenario I could be in.

"I think it's the perfect place to be."