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Even after disappointing season, Mark Trumbo's future with Orioles shouldn't be in question

Even after disappointing season, Mark Trumbo's future with Orioles shouldn't be in question
Orioles' Mark Trumbo connects for a two-run homer against the Yankees last season. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Somewhere over the course of this offseason, an idea took hold that has come to embody many of the issues the Orioles have developed over the last few years.

The idea that the Orioles could find value — or benefit really at all — from trading slugger Mark Trumbo one year into a three-year, $37.5 million contract is one fraught with complications.

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On the heels of his 47-home run season in 2016, Trumbo's 2017, which came after his free agency dragged into January, was obviously a disappointment. He hit .234 with a .686 OPS and 23 home runs in 146 games, and never seemed to find the swing that carried him to the home run crown a season earlier.

With two more years and $22 million non-deferred money remaining and that production his most recent output, getting any kind of value — no less a starting pitcher who can help the major league rotation — for Trumbo seems farfetched.

But there are personal implications and a league-wide ripple effect that dumping a contract the Orioles might regret for the second time in two seasons, and those should be bigger factors than anything else.

After the Orioles swapped a disappointing Yovani Gallardo one year into a two-year deal last winter, they benefited from having Seth Smith around, but cast a warning that even a short-term contract with the Orioles might not guarantee you play it all there. All players know the game is a business, and kudos to the executives who can get out from such deals.

Trading a second player one year into his contract would only add another obstacle to the Orioles' free agent pursuits, which are already complicated by their uncertain future in terms of the franchise's general direction.

Yet the Orioles were the main market for Trumbo last winter, and they believed that a player with his routine and steady attitude would be able to sustain a high level of production into his early 30s. That he didn't in 2017 can be chalked up to a variety of things.

He acknowledged that sometimes players just have down seasons, and he was in one. The team also knows full well that Trumbo is better at the plate when he's playing in the field rather than serving as the designated hitter, yet 467 of his 603 plate appearances came as the designated hitter in 2017. He went from hitting righties well in 2016 to hitting lefties well in 2017, and stands a chance to mesh the two next season.

Freeing up a roster spot by dealing a veteran like Trumbo and getting a pitcher in return might seem like a simple fix, but in an already-complicated offseason, doing so would probably create a host of other issues the Orioles don't need to stomach.

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