Major League Baseball’s hot stove season has just started to simmer with the general managers’ meetings in Arizona this week.
Traditionally, that’s the time when front offices begin to get a sense as to what’s available on the market and how to best fill needs. Trade groundwork starts, and so do general conversations with representatives for this offseason’s free-agent class.
A few signings and trades occur, but nothing too surprising or shocking.
The one that caught my attention this week was the Toronto Blue Jays’ reportedly signing designated hitter Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33 million contract.
It’s compelling for several reasons that affect the Orioles.
For one, Morales is another good bat going to the division rival north of the border. He’s a switch-hitter with pop, batting .263 with 30 homers and 93 RBIs last year for the Kansas City Royals and could really thrive in a hitter-friendly home park like Rogers Centre.
But don’t weep Orioles’ fans. By signing Morales, you’d have to think they just used a chunk of their budget to fill a power need without improving their corner outfield situation.
So, re-signing first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion becomes at least a little less of a possibility for the Blue Jays. And getting Encarnacion out of Toronto would be a boon for the Orioles – that is, if he doesn’t end up in Boston to replace David Ortiz.
The Orioles have liked Morales for years, and it was probably no different this year. But they weren’t going to agree to three years for a DH-only who turns 34 in June. Morales is definitely the kind of guy the Orioles like to wait on to see if his market falls. Instead, the Jays were aggressive. Give them credit for that, but we’ll see whether the quick strike was smart, or if they overpaid.
For me, the Morales signing is most germane because it gives us a sense of what Mark Trumbo could be seeking. Trumbo is younger (he turns 31 in January) and is coming off a season in which he led the majors in homers with 47.
Much has been made of Trumbo’s limitations defensively, but he’s certainly more of a defensive asset than Morales. And he’s a much better baserunner.
The sense is that Trumbo has one-tool: significant power. And that could limit him to the AL, where he can DH at least part of the time. But I’m not sure that’s the case.
I’ve been told by several evaluators that Trumbo is an average first baseman – better at it than right field – and several teams will pursue him there. He just didn’t get a chance (six games, four starts, no errors) in Baltimore, because Chris Davis played Gold-Glove-type defense at first this past year.
Trumbo will reject the Orioles’ $17.2 million qualifying offer – and that means any team that signs him will have to forfeit either a first- or second-round draft pick. So, that should limit his market, too.
Ultimately, the Orioles would love to have him back and Trumbo would like to come back. But he’s not a great fit in that the Orioles have to improve in other areas besides power, and aren’t looking to make a major splash in free agency.
The website, mlbtraderumors.com, predicted that Trumbo will return to Baltimore for a four-year, $60 million deal. That price tag seems about right – especially given Morales’ deal Friday.
But I just think that’s more than what the Orioles want to spend given Trumbo’s skills set.
It’s an interesting dilemma, because the guy fit in great in the clubhouse and helped carry the Orioles to the playoffs. But the 2017 offense needs to become less reliant on the all-or-nothing swing, and so the money saved in not re-signing Trumbo could be used to diversify the offense.
Yet Trumbo’s departure makes the Orioles offense a whole lot less formidable.
The Morales’ deal is the first domino to fall. If Trumbo is the last – if it drags into late January because of the draft pick albatross hanging around his neck — I could see Trumbo returning to the Orioles.
The more likely scenario, though, is that another team jumps in a lot quicker, knowing how rare of a commodity power is.