Mark Trumbo had a tremendous 2016 season. He led the majors with a career-best 47 home runs, drove in a career-high 108 runs and was seemingly in the middle of every key Orioles’ rally.
He certainly deserves recognition for that season-long performance, and he received some Monday. Some recognition that I thought was a little odd, however.
Trumbo was awarded The Sporting News’ American League Comeback Player of the Year, beating out Texas’ Ian Desmond by one vote. Trumbo is the third Oriole to win the award (Boog Powell did it in 1966 and Rick Sutcliffe, 1992). This year’s voting was completed by a panel of 174 American League players.
Here’s the rub for me: I’m not really sure what Trumbo had to come back from. He didn’t have a great year in 2015, but it was solid. Heck, it’d be a career year for some. He actually had a higher batting average last year (.262) than in 2016 (.256). He homered 22 times and drove in 64 runs in 2015 for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners.
Hey, I’m all for Trumbo being heralded nationally for his best offensive season, but I didn’t feel like he had to “come back” from an adequate 2015 campaign. But I don’t get a vote.
As for awards that writers have some say, I wouldn’t be surprised if Trumbo gets some Top 10 votes for AL MVP. But this year’s crop is really impressive – and most of the candidates are elite defenders as well, so that might hurt Trumbo’s chances of being in the Top 10 on ballots.
Trumbo’s chances of returning to Baltimore
It seems like every time a player is a free agent, he tells the local media he wants to return to his current team. And very few do return. Both sides have to want it, and oftentimes clubs don’t value their own players as much as other teams do.
But when Trumbo, a pending free agent, says he really enjoyed his year with the Orioles, I don’t think it’s lip service. This guy immediately fit into the clubhouse and culture, which isn’t easy to do for a veteran player coming to a veteran team.
I think the Orioles’ brass knew it was getting right-handed power that would work well at Camden Yards when he was acquired last December from Seattle, but I don’t think anyone realized how key Trumbo would become within the established group. Several players gravitated toward Trumbo such as Joey Rickard, Hyun Soo Kim and Caleb Joseph, to name a few.
So, yes, he wants to come back (pardon the pun) and the Orioles would love to have him back. If I look in my crystal ball, though, I don’t see it. Because the Orioles will have a payroll beyond $150 million even without re-signing Trumbo, and he is going to get a huge deal (deservedly so).
And I think the Orioles’ brass recognizes a need to diversify the lineup, and so any available free-agent money may go to acquiring an outfielder with a high on-base percentage and the ability to lead off.
It’d be a shame to lose Trumbo, though, because he proved he has value beyond homer-hitting.
Revisiting the Miller trade – briefly
With Cleveland reliever Andrew Miller wowing everyone in the postseason, I’ve received the inevitable correspondence from readers about how the Orioles never should have let him go. Or, the flip side, the Orioles never should have traded promising lefty Eduardo Rodriguez to Boston for three months of Miller in 2014.
I respectfully disagree with both. Because this kind of stuff happens in baseball.
Miller’s a great guy and an awesome pitcher. And the Orioles may not have made the postseason or gotten to the ALCS without him in 2014. So, Rodriguez was a price that had to be paid.
As for not re-signing Miller, well, the Orioles had a dominant lefty closer named Zach Britton, and so they weren’t paying closer money to Miller that offseason (he received a four-year, $36 million deal from the New York Yankees, who traded him to the Indians this July for a boatload of prospects).
In retrospect, we can all say the Orioles should have made Miller the same offer that winter – the truth is the Orioles made him no formal offer at all.
But, at the time, most people were blown away by how much the Yankees gave a non-closer. The Yankees can take those risks, and it panned out wonderfully for them. Most other teams have to be a little more budget-conscious.
No question, Miller is dominant. No question, he made the Orioles better in 2014. And he’d make them better now. But it’s hard for me to hammer the Orioles for what happened in July and December 2014 now that history has unfolded the way it has.
It was viewed as a rental then; that’s what it became. And it served its purpose.
Nothing like the World Series
I’ve always maintained that I am no longer a fan of any baseball team, because I have a job to do and I have to be impartial – or readers will question where I’m coming from. That said, I am like a kid when the World Series starts.
For my money, it’s the best championship in pro sports. Add in that this year’s October Classic features two teams that haven’t won in decades (and then some) and it should be even more exciting. Here’s hoping for seven games.