Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Separating Trumbo's and Davis' contracts; Promoting Brian Ebel; McGregor headlines Hot Stove Talk in York - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Separating Trumbo’s and Davis’ contracts; Promoting Brian Ebel; McGregor headlines Hot Stove Talk in York

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Last week when I wrote about six moves to make the Orioles better this month, one of the more common comments on social media, and to an extent on this site, centered on potentially trading Mark Trumbo.

Some supported it and some dismissed it.

There also were several who lumped Trumbo and Chris Davis together. I’ve gotten that a lot this offseason.

They are both sluggers in their early 30s who had down years in 2017, have similar offensive games and signed extensions with the Orioles.

But let’s not confuse things. These contracts are not the same and, therefore, shouldn’t be lumped together.

Trumbo, who turns 32 next month, is coming off a rough season. His homers dropped in half (47 to 23) and his OPS fell 164 points. His .234 average and .289 on-base percentage matched or set career lows for a full season.

And, because of that, naysayers will suggest Trumbo had a career year in 2016 and that the Orioles fell for it and gave him huge money that could have been used for another need such as pitching.

I’ll agree with that to an extent.

The Orioles obviously didn’t know what they had in Trey Mancini, and the rookie’s emergence has made Trumbo’s skill set a bit redundant. That’s on the Orioles for not better evaluating Mancini, because, indeed, the Orioles could have allowed Trumbo to walk last offseason and have used that money to fill their greatest hole: Pitching.

You can also make the argument the Orioles misjudged their need for starting pitching by counting on Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and an injured Chris Tillman instead of fortifying a rotation that ended 2017 as the worst in club history.

But let’s not dump on the Trumbo contract altogether simply because, in retrospect, it didn’t address the club’s primary needs.

Trumbo was coming off a season in which he hit 47 homers, drove in 108 runs, compiled an .850 OPS, fit in perfectly in the clubhouse and played nearly every day (159 games).

Let us not forget that initially it was believed Trumbo might land a five-year deal in the $65-$80 million range. That didn’t happen. Likely because Trumbo was viewed as a defensive downgrade by most teams and that power wasn’t in as high demand as usual.

He signed last January for a three-year, $37.5 million deal. It seemed reasonable then.

And, frankly, it’s reasonable now.

He’s owed basically $26 million over the next two years and if he splits the difference between his two seasons and hits 35 homers and drives in 87 runs in 2018 and 2019 that’s worth the investment.

Consider that this offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies gave Carlos Santana, who is three months younger than Trumbo, a three-year, $60 million deal.

Like Trumbo, Santana is a career .249 hitter who had 23 homers last year. Yes, he’s considered an above-average defensive first baseman nowadays and draws a ton of walks (a .365 career OBP), but I think it’s hard to argue he’s worth nearly twice what Trumbo is.

Trumbo doesn’t get compared to Santana, though. Orioles fans prefer to link him up with Davis, and moan about the wasted money on those two.

Davis’ contract, however, is in a different world than Trumbo’s. When signed in January 2016, it was worth seven years and $161 million. Although there are deferrals and such that tinker with the present-day value, Davis, who turns 32 in March, is basically owed $115 million more in the next five years, meaning the contract is roughly worth $23 million per season through 2022.

That’s one year of Davis worth nearly two years of Trumbo. And the commitment to Trumbo expires after 2019.

So, when fans say that the Orioles need to trade Trumbo and Davis because their contracts are killing the team, I shake my head. Davis’ contract is unmovable at this point. The Orioles would have to eat a ton of money to make that fathomable. So, the Orioles are stuck hoping that Davis can figure things out and return to the form that got him that megadeal.

Trumbo isn’t easily tradeable either, but that’s more because he is viewed as a DH-only, limiting potential trade partners (coincidentally, Trumbo’s best defensive position is first base, but he doesn’t play there much because Davis has excelled at the position).

The sense within the organization is if the Orioles dealt Trumbo it would have to be for a similar contract – maybe a pitcher with $20-plus million and two years remaining — to better spread out the club’s financial resources.

I guess my point here is that Trumbo’s contract is not the albatross that so many make it out to be. And, in fact, it could end up being a solid buy if Trumbo has two career-representative seasons to finish it out. On the other hand, unless Davis turns things around quickly, his franchise-record contract is going to be panned for years, especially since he’ll be 36 when it ends.

Ebel the right choice for head athletic trainer

This really didn’t seem to be a question, but the Orioles made the right move when they announced Monday that Brian Ebel will replace the retired Richie Bancells as the club’s head athletic trainer.

Ebel, 51, has been with the organization for 34 seasons, including the last 21 as Bancells’ assistant. There’s something to be said about continuity, but the promotion goes beyond that.

Ebel like Bancells, is exceptionally well-respected within the game and the athletic training community. You hear that all the time from former Orioles who join other teams; they almost always make a point to return to Ebel and Bancells and thank them for their assistance.

The Orioles also promoted Mark Shires from Triple-A Norfolk and Pat Wesley from Double-A Bowie to assist Ebel. They’ve combined for 35 years in the organization.

It really is amazing the continuity that the Orioles’ athletic training staff has had. Ebel is just the fourth head athletic trainer since the club came to Baltimore in 1954, joining Eddie Weidner (1954-67), Ralph Salvon (1968-88) and Bancells (1988-2017).

That run actually goes back further. Weidner, who was more a jack-of-all-trades than a traditional trainer, joined the minor league Orioles in 1923 and stayed with the pro team in Baltimore for 44 years.

McGregor is featured guest at Hot Stove Talk in York on January 30

I’m hosting my eighth annual Hot Stove Baseball Talk at Zion Lutheran Church, 2215 Brandywine Lane, York, Pa. on Tuesday Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.— and once again I’m thrilled with the guest list.

As always, MASN panelist and Sirius/XM host Mel Antonen is joining me as co-emcee, co-big-mouth. This year, our special guest is someone who has spent decades with the Orioles’ organization: former standout left-hander and current pitching rehab coordinator Scott McGregor.

McGregor has spent the past few years supervising injured pitchers at the organization’s spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla. In that capacity, he’s worked closely with many of the organization’s top arms. including right-handers Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, among others, and should be able to offer some great insight.

A member of the Orioles’ Hall of Fame, McGregor spent 13 seasons in the majors, all with the Orioles. He is fourth in modern franchise history in games started and innings pitched and sixth in wins. He threw the final pitch to secure the Orioles’ last World Series title, part of his complete-game shutout in Game 5 of the 1983 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

There is no admission fee to the event, but a freewill offering will be taken to benefit the church’s youth ministry program. All proceeds this year will assist the church in sending a contingent to the ELCA Youth Gathering this June in Houston. For more information, contact the church at 717-767-4673.

Trust me, it’s always a great, relaxed time for an excellent cause.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    January 9, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Spot on with you Trumbo vs. Davis contract comparison Dan, but let’s not lose sight of the reasoning for each of these signings

    I can’t help but feel that Davis contract, was management’s knee jerk reaction to the loss of Nelson Cruz, followed by his continued success in Seattle. Fear of fan reaction …loss of ticket sales etc. I can’t remember talk of ANY other team chasing Davis down that off-season. Why else would the O’s commit the better part of a decade, along with mega-millions on a guy that had only one decent year? Superstars don’t hit .260. The scary part is … that .260 average Davis had in 2015 is probably going to be his career best!

    On to Trumbo … since I whole heartedly support the Trumbo contract, I won’t say that Trumbo’s signing was “knee jerk”, however I do believe that in a smaller way, similar thinking was involved. They simply didn’t want to have another Nelson Cruz PR nightmare, AND the price was seemingly right at the time. (I think it still is)

    I’m not sure I blame Duquette (who I often defend) or the Angelos factor, but I feel that our fan base and other outside factors unduely influence our managements decision making … much to the detriment of the team. It’s like they run this team scared of chasing off what fans they have left.

    The Curse of Nellie.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 9, 2018 at 10:48 am

      I agree with most of what you say here Boog. Except the potential knee jerk with Trumbo. I don’t think that was it at all. The Orioles put a financial valuation on players and Trumbo’s dipped into that realm in a market that ignored his power. So they bought him at what they thought was a bargain. Has not worked out that way after the first year. But that was the thinking. As for Davis, totally different story.

  2. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    January 9, 2018 at 7:46 am

    I don’t think O’s fans are down on the Trumbo contract because the think the O’s can’t afford it — obviously, it’s not a huge financial burden.

    I think it’s more to do with the idea that he’s not really needed on the team, especially with 2017 numbers. What’s worse, the contract is big enough that they’ll be resigned to putting him into the lineup. The team is basically stuck with him and Davis, and the only real hope is that they recover to previous form. Probably more likely for Trumbo than Davis, and thankfully there is only two more seasons committed to Trumbo, as you mentioned Dan.

    But that doesn’t do much for 2018, with both of them clogging up the lineup with worthless at bats and strikeouts.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 9, 2018 at 10:53 am

      I’m with ya up to the point where you kind of make my point. Trumbo didn’t have a good year last year. And he struck out too much for my tastes as well. But even then he had some big hits. I think it’s a little premature to talk about him clogging the middle with Davis. No one talked about Trumbo clogging the middle in 2016 when he had 75 extra base hits. If he has a repeat of 2017 — the way Davis had a repeat of 2015 — then OK. I’ll give in on that point.

  3. Paul Folkemer

    January 9, 2018 at 8:43 am

    I don’t think the Trumbo/Santana comparison really works. Santana is a much better player than Trumbo. As you noted, Santana is an on-base machine (a career .365 OBP to Trumbo’s .301), which is a huge separator. And Trumbo is a defensive liability every time a team tries to play him in the outfield, whereas Santana can hold his own with the glove. And I know WAR isn’t the end-all, be-all, but Santana trounces Trumbo in that respect (24.5 career WAR for Santana, 9.0 for Trumbo).

    Personally, I would much rather have Santana on a 3-year, $60 million contract than Trumbo at 3 years, $37 million.

    I agree that Trumbo’s contract isn’t crippling by any means. It’s just that it’s unnecessary, as Zoey Dog said. He doesn’t provide much to the team that they don’t already have, and since he can’t play the field, he’s clogging up the DH spot that could be put to better use. He’s not a good fit for the roster right now.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      January 9, 2018 at 9:00 am

      Paul … would Trumbo ver 2.106 be considered clogging up the DH spot? I’m with Dan on this one. If he were simply to give us a career representative year, I’d be more-than-happy with his contract.

      • Paul Folkemer

        January 9, 2018 at 10:03 am

        The problem is it’s hard to know what’s a “career representative year” for Trumbo, since he’s been all over the place in his career.

        If you take his 162-game averages, an average year for him would be .249/.301/.461 with 33 homers, 95 RBIs and a .763 OPS. I don’t consider those great numbers for a DH. The terrible OBP really puts a damper on the good power numbers.

        Of course I’d be happy with the 2016 version of Trumbo (without the playing-right-field part), but I don’t think we’ll see him approach that kind of production again.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          January 9, 2018 at 10:40 am

          I’ll certainly give you the Right Field factor certainly being a detriment, but I’ll take those 162 figures you’re giving me any day to go along … despite the OBP which I know you value. Speaking of OBP’s though, in my opinion, on this team, and without god given foot speed, it’s a bit overrated. Don’t get me wrong, as a lifetime Strat-O-Matic player, I’ve always loved the small ball game … it’s just that it seems to be lost in Camden Yards.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 9, 2018 at 11:21 am

      We’ll have to agree to disagree, Paul. I don’t think Santana is a “much better” player than Trumbo. Better, certainly. But not nearly twice the salary imo. First you’re stuck on Trumbo as a RF detriment. I get it. But frankly every evaluator will tell you he is better at 1B than OF. That he is at least league average at 1B and won’t hurt you. The same was said about Santana before last year. You know how I hate D metrics but Trumbo’s career runs saved above average at first base is 12, Santana’s is 2. Problem with Trumbo is that he is blocked at first by Davis (his career def runs saved is 1, fwiw). So that makes him a DH or a misplaced RF, hurting his overall value. Listen, I love Santana. I love the way he approaches an at-bat. One of my favorite guys to watch at the plate. And the OBP diff is significant. There’s also a 16pt difference in career slugging which should mean something at a power spot, CI/DH. My point in all of this is Trumbo’s contract is fine if he performs bw 16&17

      • Paul Folkemer

        January 9, 2018 at 1:58 pm

        Trumbo is a decent 1B, yes, but the Orioles knew that 1B was blocked when they re-signed him (Davis was one year into his seven-year extension). That’s what makes the Trumbo signing all the more mystifying to me. The Orioles knew they wouldn’t get any defensive value out of Trumbo because he was blocked at his best position. So he’s basically a one-tool player right now –power, and nothing else — unless he is traded to a team that has a hole at 1B.

        To me, Trumbo’s value right now is at a career low. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think his contract is crippling by any means, and as you say, it’s nothing like Davis’s. But it’s still money that could be better put to use elsewhere, especially for starting pitching.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 9, 2018 at 2:23 pm

      We agree on that part. He’s a bad fit given that Davis’ contract is immovable and given Davis’ D. I just have gotten a whole lot of fan feedback recently that the Davis and Trumbo contracts have killed the Orioles and will so for years. And that’s not reality.

  4. Orial

    January 9, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Agree to a degree. Though Trumbo’s resigning was justifiable after a monster 2016 season in hindsight it blocked the proper influx of hitters such as Mancini/Santander and forced the overuse of DH type players as the end result. Yes Davis is untradable and sure hope these off season hitting clinics will help him. It all comes down to OBP,less strikeouts,and PLEASE a little more speed. If all these things improve all our complaining may finally be stifled.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 9, 2018 at 11:22 am

      We’re not that far off here. Is Trumbo a good fit for the current roster, no? Is his contract a major sense of angst the way Davis’ has become? Shouldn’t be.

  5. jonniebmore

    January 9, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Hi Dan, a few opinions:
    Davis and his contract is all about Angelos. DD seemed to move on at the time, quickly trading for Trumbo, and he knew he had depth at AAA for 1st base (Mancini and Walker). But signing Trumbo last year is all on DD. Mancini was clearly a good risk at DH after a September call-up where he raked, and success at every stop in the minors before that. But DD blocked him. Going forward, I think Buck should platoon Davis and Trumbo, giving each the best chance to succeed against opposite hand pitchers and essentially limiting their AB’s. Mancini should get the lions share of playing time among the 3 at first base and DH. And they should go get a real left fielder, John Jay or even Cedric Mullins.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 9, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      I get your first point on the Davis deal. I just don’t envision a platoon between Davis and Trumbo. Especially when you already have limited options in the outfield. Hays and Santander could be ready at some point but not sure it’ll be April. Unless you aren’t playing for 2018 at all. Which would be a hard sell to management — especially if you want 32-year-old Jay

  6. MikeJ

    January 10, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    Did Ebel get his start as a trainer with Bluefield in the Appalachian League?

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