Baltimore Orioles: Finding a trade partner for Mark Trumbo
By Tim Smart
The Baltimore Orioles rebuild will push forward in 2019 and Mike Elias will assuredly try to trade the two remaining players with expiring contracts. Will Elias be able to find a new home for slugger Mark Trumbo?
After selling almost every asset they had last year, the Baltimore Orioles will head into 2019 with just two players on expiring contracts: first baseman/designated hitter Mark Trumbo and RHP Andrew Cashner. It seems clear that Elias will do everything in his power to flip both of them for whatever assets he can get in return, but will he be able to find trade partners for them, specifically Trumbo?
Coming off a season in which he struggled to stay on the field, Trumbo will be looking to prove that he’s still an effective hitter and can contribute on a good roster. However, finding a trade partner for him might be a bit of a challenge for Elias and co.
Trumbo played in just 90 games last year after suffering what was initially diagnosed as arthritis and cartilage damage underneath his right kneecap stemming from an awkward slide in the middle of May. The injury nagged Trumbo for the remainder of the season; he was eventually shut down in late-August and underwent surgery to correct the issue. As of right now, Trumbo is expected to be 100% healthy heading into spring training.
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Trumbo wasn’t particularly impressive in those 90 games in 2018, but at this point, he is what he is. In 358 plate appearances this past year, Trumbo hit .261/.313/.452 with 17 homers and a 107 wRC+. His 20.0% HR/FB rate was high but the 6.7% walk rate and the 24.3% strikeout rate were in line with his career averages.
For his career, Trumbo has been a .250/.302/.461 hitter with limited plate discipline and above average pop. He essentially has two good seasons under his belt, both 2012 and 2016. He’s never posted a wRC+ over 125, nor has he posted more than 2.8 fWAR in a season. Part of that is him providing negative defensive value but still, the bat needs to be better if he wants to remain a productive major leaguer.
For what it’s worth, Trumbo isn’t a bad hitter; there’s value in a low on-base percentage slugger but we’re seeing more teams move on from these types of players, especially at Trumbo’s price. Look no further than the Tampa Bay Rays who just designated CJ Cron for assignment after a respectable year in which he posted an .816 OPS with 30 homers.
Cron made just $2.3 million in 2018, and was heading into his second arbitration year. Trumbo is owed $13.5 million next year, and he also has following three years with deferred payments; he’ll be owed $1.5 million per year from 2020-2022.
Trumbo is just 32 but a good year for him in 2019 likely resembles the year Cron just had. If that’s the case, the Orioles will struggle to move him before the 2019 trade deadline. If the Orioles ownership group were willing to eat a portion of Trumbo’s salary, they might have an easier time trading him, but where could Trumbo end up?
It’d likely be a team close to contention dealing with injuries who feel they can make a playoff push and be comfortable to pay whatever remaining salary Trumbo has at that point. It’s impossible to predict injuries, and it’s tough to assume that Trumbo would be an upgrade over most designated hitters in the American League, but there are two potential landing spots that immediately come to mind.
If the Minnesota Twins are in contention, it’ll be because their pitching staff has played over their projections. After losing Joe Mauer to retirement and Logan Morrison to free agency, the Twins could be looking for an upgrade at the DH spot, and Trumbo could help provide a spark there.
The Twins didn’t look impressive in 2018 and there’s a chance they’re completely out of it in July, but if they’re in good shape, it could benefit them to plug Trumbo into that lineup.
Likewise, if the Chicago White Sox end up a year early on the rebuild and find themselves in the playoff hunt next year, Trumbo could be an upgrade over whoever the current DH in Chicago is. Outside of a couple hot weeks in April and May, Matt Davidson wasn’t particularly impressive in 2018, the Sox might not want to start Eloy Jimenez’ service time clock, and the they could be cycling through players at the DH spot for the entirety of 2019. Trumbo could provide some stability and a veteran presence in the White Sox clubhouse.
It’ll be tough for Mike Elias to find a new home for Mark Trumbo, but there’s no doubt that he’ll try. Trumbo likely won’t get much more than salary relief or a low-upside prospect in return but moving him would free up an everyday lineup spot that Trey Mancini could slide into.
Everything depends on Trumbo and whether he can stay healthy enough to be an asset at the trade deadline next year. But if he’s injury-free, Elias might be able to swing a trade and get something in return for Trumbo.