In a few weeks, media members who regularly cover the Orioles will be asked to vote on the annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable.
Some years, the Most Valuable Oriole is an obvious one. Other years, there are many good choices, but in this strangest of all seasons, there are only two credible ones: Adam Jones and Mark Trumbo.
Even in 1988, when the Orioles lost their first 21 games and finished 54-107, an award was given out. Hall-of-Famers Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. shared the honors.
The immediate reaction is to say it’s Jones’ award. Jones, who won MVO honors in 2011 and 2012, could have been traded last month if he had accepted a move to the Phillies, but he vetoed the deal, which he could based on his 10 years in the majors and five with the Orioles.
Jones has moved to right field and is mentoring Cedric Mullins, who played his first four games in center field over the weekend. He welcomed Mullins to the team on Friday, and allowed him to lead the players on to the field as the team’s center fielder.
This hasn’t been a terrific season for Jones, but his numbers are solid. His .283 batting average is five points higher than his lifetime mark. But, with 12 home runs and 47 RBIs, Jones is likely to fall below 25 homers and 73 RBIs for the first time since 2010.
Jones’ 0.5 Wins Above Replacement is his worst since he became a major league regular in 2008.
However, Jones is still a strong candidate. His outgoing nature, connection with fans and acceptance of the move from center to right will ensure that.
Trumbo has had an offensive season that’s probably the equal of Jones’. Trumbo led the major leagues with 47 home runs in 2016, his first season in Baltimore.
That didn’t give him enough MVO votes. Manny Machado won the award, and Zach Britton, who was an American League Cy Young Award contender with his 47 consecutive saves converted, earned serious consideration.
Last year, second baseman Jonathan Schoop was a good choice for the award.
Trumbo, who was scheduled for an injection on his sore right knee Monday, is hitting .266 with 17 home runs and 42 RBIs despite missing the first month of the season because of a quad injury.
His WAR is 0.6, a tick ahead of Jones, and Trumbo’s defensive Wins Above Replacement is -1.3. Trumbo has played just 22 of his 85 games in the field (19 in right, 3 at first).
Jones’ overall WAR number is brought down by a -1.5 dWAR. Analytics have never been a friend to Jones in the outfield. When he was winning his second of four Gold Gloves in 2012, Jones had a -1.0 dWAR.
Trumbo, who is the subject of an upcoming book aimed at young readers, “Orioles’ Big Bird: Mark Trumbo Speaks Softly, But Carries a Big Stick,” authored by The Sun’s Peter Schmuck, isn’t the media magnet Jones is.
However, Trumbo is thoughtful, accessible and insightful. He and Jones are the team’s leaders.
No other regular can make a case. If left fielder Trey Mancini continues to get hot in the next few weeks, he could get some votes. So could starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, but he’s 7-10 with a 4.75 ERA. Had relief pitcher Richard Bleier not been injured and stayed with the club past the trading deadline, he might have been considered.
A pitcher hasn’t won the MVO award since Rodrigo Lopez captured it in 2002. That was the year the Orioles finished 4-32 and lost 92 games. Lopez went 15-9 with a 3.57 ERA.
In order to be eligible for MVO, a player must be with the team at the time of voting. If Trumbo is dealt before Aug. 31, he’ll become ineligible.
Assuming Trumbo stays with the team, the tussle for the team’s most valuable player won’t be much of a story, but it will be interesting nonetheless.