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.