The Orioles and RF/DH Mark Trumbo have agreed to a three-year deal for $37.5 million, and the most interesting thing about the agreement is that it’s for less than Baltimore offered him at the beginning of the offseason. It’s been a weird winter for power hitters.
Trumbo led all of baseball with 47 home runs last season, and $12.5 million a year for that sounds like a pretty good bargain. But the market for sluggers was a buyer’s market—power’s not at the premium it once was. And when Yoenis Cespedes, by far the best hitter available, kicked things with a reasonable deal with the Mets, the other dominos started falling. Edwin Encarnacion, a clear No. 2 on the market, accepted $20 million a year—which, in some years, would be the baseline for a lot of these guys. But teams could find relatively cheap, veteran power on low-risk one-year deals, like the ones that Jose Bautista and Carlos Beltran signed. And that’s how we get this deal for Trumbo, who signed for less years and a smaller AAV than Josh Reddick, who can’t hit lefties to save his life.
Trumbo’s return to Baltimore makes a ton of sense for both sides, and not just because another team would have had to surrender a first-round draft pick to sign him. Because while Trumbo is an awful outfielder, he fits right in with the Orioles’ organizational philosophy in that he can hit the dick off the ball. The 31-year-old’s 47 homers were a career high, but his underlying stats were right in line with his career numbers. Paced by Trumbo, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles led the league in homers by a significant margin—better than 12 percent more dingers than the second-place Cardinals. The O’s have apparently decided that power is the best way to compete with a middle-of-the-pack payroll, well behind division rivals New York and Boston—and the slow market for power this winter played right into their hands with Trumbo. They’ll return a lineup that’s not markedly different than the one that slugged its way to a wild card last season.
The Orioles’ window, such as it is, may not be open long. Jones, Machado, and Zach Britton are free agents after 2018, and all three may very well be gone. That’s around when the Yankees’ youth movement is scheduled to coalesce into a contender, while the Red Sox are already built to be very good for the foreseeable future. So for the Orioles: why change what works?