The Cleveland Indians’ signing of designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion in late December – it hasn’t officially been announced yet – likely makes Mark Trumbo the most feared slugger left on the free-agent board.
I know if I were a GM and looking for power, I’d take Trumbo over Jose Bautista and Mike Napoli, among others.
The question is what did Encarnacion’s three-year, $60 million deal do to Trumbo’s market?
You can look at it two ways.
The fact that Encarnacion received only three guaranteed years makes you wonder if Trumbo will only get three years. I, for one, thought four for Trumbo was a guarantee, and that a five-year deal might be in the offing from someone.
What helps Trumbo is that he is three years younger than Encarnacion, who turns 34 this week (Trumbo turns 31 later this month). I think it is obvious Encarnacion is a more complete offensive player, but Trumbo is a better bet, given their ages, to maintain his power over the next four years. And, despite being disparaged by some, Trumbo is a better defensive player than Encarnacion. They both can handle first base, although scouts tell me Trumbo is more fluid there (he only started four games at first for the Orioles because of the presence of Chris Davis).
There are some in the industry that believe Encarnacion and his people settled, and he should have held on for a longer deal. History backs that up. Nelson Cruz got a fourth-year heading into his age-34 season in 2014. Heck, Jayson Werth landed a seven-year, $126-million deal heading into his age-32 season back in 2010.
I thought Trumbo would be in the four-year, $60-65 million range heading into this offseason, and I’m sticking with that.
The reason is the second part of this: The Indians weren’t really on anyone’s radar for Encarnacion. So, Encarnacion’s signing didn’t take away one of Trumbo’s musical chairs. Teams like the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox, who were in the Encarnacion sweepstakes, could still use some power. I’m not positive Trumbo fits with either, but he’d certainly help both clubs if they have the money – and years – to give.
As for the Orioles, I’m hearing they are still in a holding pattern. They want Trumbo back at a certain price and are sticking to that – for now. In my year covering him, Trumbo struck me as a patient guy. So eventually someone – the Orioles, Trumbo or another team – is going to blink.
An ex-Oriole once told me about free agency: “It’s not about when you sign, but where and for how much. Mostly how much.”
Signing Montero is a low-risk Duquette move
FanRag Sports reported Tuesday that the Orioles agreed to a minor-league deal with first baseman/designated hitter Jesus Montero that would pay him $550,000 if he makes the majors.
Montero, 27, was once one of baseball’s top prospects when he was a catcher in the New York Yankees’ organization, but has never lived up to those expectations.
He doesn’t catch anymore and he won’t be playing anywhere for the first couple months of the season – he was suspended 50 games last September while with the Blue Jays’ organization for testing positive for a banned supplement. Montero also was suspended in 2013 because he was involved in the Biogenesis scandal.
So why would Dan Duquette give the right-handed hitter a shot with the Orioles?
Because he’s shown he can hit in the past – he blasted 15 homers and batted .260 as a 22-year-old with the Seattle Mariners in 2012 – and he’s still in his prime.
And this is what Duquette does. He takes low-risk chances, and every now and then one works. You may never see Montero in an Orioles’ uniform. But, then again, you might. That’s what this organization does: Provides an opportunity if you can play.
They’ll have to wait to see if Montero can play when the games begin to count, however.