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There were times last year and during this offseason when fans were clamoring for the Orioles to dump Mark Trumbo.
Given what has occurred in the first month of this season, those people should be thrilled management didn’t listen.
(Full disclosure: I suggested this winter the Orioles deal Trumbo, but only if they couldn’t find starting pitching elsewhere, which they ultimately did on the free agent market.)
Trumbo is expected to make his season debut tonight against his hometown Los Angeles Angels after spending the first month on the shelf with a quad injury.
Getting him back is a big step for the Orioles, and, frankly, it couldn’t happen quickly enough.
You all know the narrative with Trumbo. The Orioles acquired him in a trade with Seattle for catcher Steve Clevenger before the 2016 season because executive vice president Dan Duquette wanted to replace Chris Davis’ power and assumed Davis would skip town as a free agent.
Instead, Davis stayed — on a $161 million deal brokered by ownership — and Trumbo hit 47 homers that season to lead the American League. Trumbo was expected to skip town on his own big free-agent deal after the 2016 season, but the market crashed on pure power hitters and Trumbo re-signed with the Orioles in what seemed like a reasonable, three-year, $37.5 million deal.
Trumbo then had a down year in 2017, slashing .234/.289/.397 with only 23 homers. Because of defensive limitations in the outfield, he started only 31 games in right. And because of Davis’ presence, Trumbo started just two games at first base, his best defensive position. The rest of Trumbo’s starts — 110 games — were at designated hitter — and, in his career, Trumbo has not performed particularly well as a DH-only.
So, yes, Trumbo, with his high strikeout totals and low on-base clip, seemed like a redundant piece for a one-dimensional offense, hence the murmurs about getting rid of him.
That was last year.
Right now, the trumpets should blare and the red carpet should be rolled out in Anaheim for Trumbo’s return to the Orioles lineup — assuming, of course, he can be more like the 2016 version than the 2017 one.
Jonathan Schoop, Tim Beckham and Colby Rasmus are on the disabled list. Davis is absolutely lost at the plate again and Adam Jones is currently in a funk.
Among Orioles’ hitters, only Manny Machado (.361), second-year-man Trey Mancini (.272) and rookie Chance Sisco (.255) are batting over .250. Those three and Pedro Alvarez are the only Orioles with an on-base percentage above .300. Seriously.
Initially, there was a concern about where Trumbo might fit into the lineup on his return, and some consternation that he could take away at-bats from Alvarez, who is second on the team in homers and third in RBIs.
But there’s plenty of room at the inn for Trumbo at this point. He can go back to right field, where a revolving door of Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander, defensive specialist Craig Gentry, an injured Rasmus and a demoted Joey Rickard has unimpressed.
Trumbo also could get some time at first base, especially against left-handers, considering Davis is 1-for-18 with 12 strikeouts versus southpaws in 2018. And, if Danny Valencia continues to deal with a hamstring issue, Alvarez could be forced to play more third base, leaving DH wide open, too. (Trumbo hasn’t started at third base since 2012, so I’d assume putting him at the hot corner, like the Orioles did for two innings in 2017, is purely reserved for emergencies only.)
The bottom line here is Trumbo had a disappointing season in 2017, but opponents still have to consider him when they gameplan for the Orioles. And having him back gives the lineup a little more street cred.
Prepare for the Machado to the Dodgers rumors
When news broke Monday that Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager will undergo elbow surgery and miss the rest of the season, the wheels began turning all over the blogosphere.
Our social media accounts began filling up with questions about whether the Orioles will talk to the Dodgers about a potential Manny Machado trade. From the outside, it makes sense.
The Orioles are flailing at the start of this season and don’t appear to be willing to pay pending-free-agent Machado what it’ll take to keep him in Baltimore long term. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have a good farm system, a large payroll (maybe too large, luxury-tax-wise, to fit a rental like Machado), serious aspirations for another World Series run and now a hole at short.
So, I’m sure the Orioles and Dodgers will talk — eventually. Although, right now the Dodgers seem prepared to use super-utility man Chris Taylor as their everyday shortstop.
This scenario is exactly why you wait until July to deal off your best pieces. It’s all about competition and a smidge of panic. I’m sure the Orioles could get a decent haul for Machado now from potential contenders who currently have a hole on the left side of the infield. But a lot of teams can’t fully assess who they are at this moment. That won’t come until closer to the All-Star Break. And, by that time, other players will get hurt and be lost for the season, too.
Competition will build. The Orioles (or any team with a top asset) can play clubs off each other and then choose the best package near the non-waiver trade deadline. That’s the way it works in baseball. Very rarely does an in-season impact trade happen before July.
Sure, the Orioles are taking a bit of a gamble that Machado stays healthy, since anything can happen in this game (as the Seager injury reminds us). Plus, you never can predict what the Orioles’ management will do in regards to these situations at crunch time (Zach Britton was nearly traded, and then wasn’t, last July).
If you are asking me if I have 100 percent faith that the Orioles will handle the Machado situation correctly in the next few months, the answer is nope.
But do I have faith that if they wait patiently until July, and Machado stays healthy, that they can maximize the package for him? About that, I say yep.
Sidestepping Ohtani on the mound and radio musings
Heading in to last week it looked as if the Orioles and their loose-swinging offense would end up in a collision with Los Angeles Angels’ Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani and his swing-and-miss arsenal.
The only thing good about that possibility was that Ohtani doesn’t hit the day before or after he pitches, so the Orioles had a chance to at least miss the 23-year-old, two-way star at the plate.
Ohtani, however, tweaked his ankle running the bases, and now won’t pitch until the weekend, completely missing the Orioles’ three-game series in Anaheim starting tonight. Yet, he likely will be available to hit, so he could start two or three games at DH against the Orioles’ pitching staff.
Everyone is seemingly intrigued by Ohtani; I certainly am. So I dedicated a large part of my radio show on WOYK 1350 in York, Pa., on Monday talking about Ohtani with longtime Los Angeles Times baseball writer Mike DiGiovanna.
DiGiovanna discusses Ohtani’s game, the pressure he’s facing as a modern-day Babe Ruth and what’s been most impressive about the player so far. DiGiovanna also dissects these 2018 Angels and how they are playing heading into the Orioles’ series.
If you love baseball, the Orioles or simply are intrigued by Ohtani, check out the show on either the station’s website, our archives or by clicking the arrow below. You can also go to BaltimoreBaseball.com’s section on iTunes and download this week’s show (and my other episodes) as a podcast.
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