The Orioles hope that Mark Trumbo returns healthy from his knee surgery and plays well enough that there’s a trade market for him next July.
For now, the Orioles have no choice but to hang on to the slugger, who projects to be the team’s designated hitter if he’s healthy.
The team would have loved to have traded Trumbo last August, but he didn’t play after Aug. 19 and had surgery in early September. The rehab time for the surgery was estimated to be six months, which would should allow Trumbo to start the season with the Orioles.
Trumbo was acquired in December 2015 from Seattle to offset the possible loss of Chris Davis to free agency. However, Davis re-signed, and Trumbo led the major leagues in home runs in 2016 with 47. That’s 13 more than he had ever had. Trumbo also had a career-high 108 RBIs.
After that impressive year, the free-agent market for Trumbo was tepid, and a year after Davis re-signed for seven years and $161 million, Trumbo accepted a three-year, $37.5-million offer in January 2017.
Trumbo failed to follow up his robust numbers in 2017, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 65 runs while batting .234.
In 2018, Trumbo missed the first month of the season because of a quad injury. In 90 games, he had 17 homers, 44 RBIs and a .261 average.
Trumbo will be 33 when the season begins, and faces a crucial year if he wishes to extend his career beyond 2019.
His career numbers are superior when he plays right field (.282 average, .338 on-base percentage in 1,105 plate appearances) instead of DHing (.230 average, .289 OBP in 1,283 plate appearances).
But his defense is a liability. He has a career -9.3 Defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR), and last year in just 19 games in right field and three at first base had a -1.3 dWAR.
Because of his defense, Trumbo’s market is limited. In the American League, fewer teams are using a pure DH because more are going with 13 pitchers and three bench players.
Versatility is key, and while Trumbo still has the ability to drive the ball, a team may not want to commit a roster spot to him.
Because of his knee surgery, Trumbo can’t be traded now, and he’ll not only have to prove he has his stroke back, but his numbers must be closer to 2016’s than the succeeding season.
The Orioles may want to give Chris Davis more time as the DH next season and Trey Mancini more reps at first base. That would certainly make Trumbo expendable, but it’s highly unlikely that a market will develop for him until at least July, and possibly not until August.
A team is more likely to trade for Trumbo for the September run when the rosters expand, but he’s not likely to bring much in return.
Free agent non-frenzy
When the Winter Meetings begin in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, the Orioles are likely to be one of the quietest teams in terms of buzz. They should have a permanent baseball operations team in place by then, and perhaps a new manager, too.
But the Orioles are likely to be satisfied by watching others do the chasing, at least early in the proceedings.
The Athletic’s Jim Bowden is the only prognosticator who has included the Orioles as a possible landing spot for any of the top free agents.
Bowden lists the Orioles as one of 10 teams that could be interested in Adam Jones, who he ranks as the 30th most attractive free agent. He also has the Orioles as one of 10 possible destinations for Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who he ranks 32nd.
Gonzalez was a free agent last winter, and re-signed with Colorado when a market didn’t develop. The Orioles were listed as a popular suitor for Gonzalez a year ago, but nothing materialized.
Before dismissing any possibility that a secondary or tertiary free agent might land in Baltimore, remember that Vladimir Guerrero signed a one-year, $7.6 million contract with the Orioles in 2011.
Despite a hot last two months in 2010, the Orioles weren’t expected to contend in 2011, but Andy MacPhail, who was then running baseball operations, snapped up Guerrero in the early days of spring training, remarking that there was no such thing as a bad one-year contract.
We obviously don’t know who’s going to do the signing, but a late signing of an under-priced one-year free agent is possible.
When will there be a new management team?
Brian Graham, who’s been serving as the interim GM while the team searches for a new hierarchy, attended the General Managers meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., last week.
Candidates for the top job reportedly include Toronto assistant GM Ben Cherrington; former Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colletti; Houston assistant GM Mike Elias; and two candidates who work for Major League Baseball, Peter Woodfork, who supervises umpiring and instant replay as MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations; and Tyrone Brooks, who oversees diversity efforts.
Woodfork has worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox while Brooks, a native of Glen Burnie and a graduate of North County High School and the University of Maryland, has been with the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Another interesting name is Ned Rice, who spent 11 years in the Orioles’ front office before joining MacPhail and the Philadelphia Phillies in January 2016.
Known for his encyclopedic knowledge of MLB front-office rules and practices, Rice is in charge of analytics for MacPhail and the Phillies.
“I used to make poor Ned Rice in Baltimore come up and explain everything to me,” MacPhail said about analytics in 2015. “I would say, ‘What about this nonsense?’ And he would explain to me that I was old and dumb and needed to understand these things.”