When the Baltimore Orioles take the field on Sunday afternoon against the Boston Red Sox, it will be the final time we see Mark Trumbo with an O’s jersey on.
With the 2019 Baltimore Orioles season coming to a close on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, we will say goodbye to a few players who put on an O’s uniform in 2019 as the offseason roster shakeup begins in a few weeks, but one player, in particular, had quite the impact in Birdland over the last four years.
Manager Brandon Hyde has already confirmed that designated hitter Mark Trumbo will be in the lineup for Sunday’s game in Boston, the slugger’s 407th and final game with the Baltimore Orioles. He is the only pending major league free agent on the roster. Sunday could also mark the final game of Trumbo’s career, due to a knee injury which kept him out of a major league lineup for more than a year and continues to prevent him from playing at his full abilities.
Since this is very likely the final time we see Trumbo with the Orioles, I wanted to take a moment and express my gratitude for his short, yet impactful time in Birdland. Trumbo has been on the receiving end of a large amount of criticism over the years, some warranted, but mostly the criticism has stemmed from displeasure with decisions from ownership and lackluster team performance.
Trumbo arrived in Baltimore back in December of 2015 from Seattle. Splitting the ’15 season with Arizona and Seattle, Trumbo hit .262 with 22 home runs, 64 RBI, and 23 doubles across 142 games. That offseason, Seattle sent LHP C.J. Riefenhauser along with Trumbo to Baltimore in exchange for catcher Steve Clevenger. Riefenhauser never appeared in a game for the Orioles, but the deal turned out to be a solid move for Baltimore.
Playing for a new contract, Trumbo was a 2016 All-Star and earned a Silver Slugger Award after hitting .256 with a career-high .850 OPS, a league-high 47 home runs, and 108 RBI. He was a key piece to Baltimore’s 89 win season and American League Wild Card birth. I’m sure you remember that Wild Card game just as vividly as I do. I still remember the exact feeling I had as I watched Edwin Encarnacion hit that gut-punching shot off Ubaldo Jimenez.
It was the first Orioles game my wife (then girlfriend) and I watched together. Little did she know, it was just the beginning of a complicated relationship (with both me and the Orioles).
Mark Trumbo played his part in that dramatic affair, hitting a two-run home run and driving in the only two runs of the eventual 5-2 loss.
The Orioles could have moved on from Trumbo after that season, instead, he was rewarded with a three year/$37.5 million contract to stay in Baltimore. Looking back at the deal now, it obviously wasn’t the best decision, but you know, hindsight. The Orioles didn’t know what Trey Mancini was going to develop into and the outfield competition consisted of Seth Smith, Joey Rickard, and Hyun Soo Kim. With aspirations of getting past the Wild Card round of the playoffs and with Trumbo coming off a monster 2016 season, it’s easy to understand why Trumbo was brought back.
The $37.5 million price tag is also a drop in the bucket compared to the notorious Chris Davis contract which will haunt Orioles fans for generations to come.
Trumbo played in 146 games in 2017, slashing .234/.289/.397 with 23 home runs, 65 RBI, and 22 doubles as the Orioles fell to 75 wins and a fifth-place finish in the American League East. He would play in just 90 games last season, hitting .261 with 17 home runs and a .764 OPS before being shut down after knee surgery.
His journey back to the bigs has been well chronicled and the fact that he is playing games at the major league level this month is astonishing. He tried to come back during spring training, but was shut down once the season started. He then attempted two more comebacks with minor league rehab games, but soreness limited his abilities and required more time off.
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Trumbo has now appeared in 11 games, going 5-25 (.200 average) with three doubles and three RBI. Watching him play again was a positive September moment and gave many a reason to tune in to a 100+ loss baseball team late in the year. Even my dad, who is struggling with this rebuild process (he’s getting older and more cranky, I understand), called me with a bit of excitement in his voice after tuning into a game recently and seeing Trumbo in the starting lineup.
Trumbo won’t go down in Orioles history as someone who transformed this franchise and will be remembered largely for one reason, his 47 home runs in 2016, but he was still a member of Birdland for four years and wanted to be here and play for his teammates.
You can choose to hang onto a ridiculous anecdote about pies or continue to show frustrations over a contract that was the organization’s bad decision, not Trumbo’s choice, but these words from current Orioles shortstop Richie Martin are just one example that describe what Trumbo meant to the clubhouse.
He doesn’t know if he will play in 2020, but if he does, I wish him all the best. I hope the knee continues to heal, but if he has to close the book on his 10-year career, I’m sure we will hear his name among the coaching ranks at some level in the near future.
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