OF Options For The Orioles
The Orioles have to feel good about bringing back Mark Trumbo, particularly in getting him on a team-friendly three-year, $37 million contract.
Trumbo is far from a perfect player. He should almost never play the field and he’s not going to walk a whole lot. But he is a great fit for this team and this ballpark, and odds are he’s going to continue to mash home runs at a prodigious rate.
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It always makes me laugh when I hear people say “Yeah but he really only does one thing well.” When people say this, they say it as if the one thing he does well is inconsequential. Like, “he’s really only good at blowing bubbles” or something. They seem to forget that the “one thing” Trumbo does well is “hit a whole lot of home runs.” And not only does he do it well, he does it perhaps better than anybody else.
This is like criticizing LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan because all he really does it block shots and dunk. When he blocks a bazillion shots and dunks a bazillion times, that happens to be fairly valuable, believe it or not.
It’s the same for Trumbo. He hits a lot of home runs, and nothing guarantees scoring runs more than hitting the ball out of the ballpark. And while ideally you don’t want to have a roster of full of guys who hit homers but never otherwise get on base – and don’t catch the ball either – if you surround a guy like Trumbo with the right type of player, you can get a lot of value out of those home runs.
Certainly three years and $37 million worth, anyway.
The Orioles have already made one move to help in this regard by bringing in Seth Smith, an outfielder who has a career on-base percentage of .344. A left-handed hitter, Smith’s OBP vs. righties is even better — .355.
When you combine Smith with Hyun Soo Kim, who had a .382 OBP last season (including .393 vs. righties), you’ve got two players who would look great ahead of Trumbo in the lineup – at least against right-handers.
Now, if Dan Duquette were to go out and sign one more outfielder, say a good defender who mashes southpaws — and to go with Joey Rickard (.367 OBP vs. lefties last year), you’ve got something that should produce some runs from both sides of the plate. Put them in front of Trumbo in the lineup and see what happens.
Here are five potential candidates who would not only fit the bill, but who should also be affordable:
My colleague Rob Shields mentioned Raburn recently, writing that he could be “our new Steve Pearce.” And that’s about right.
Raburn is a little long in the tooth, turning 36 in April. You also don’t like that he struck out 31.3 percent of the time last season. But you’ve got to like the 15.3 percent walk rate vs. lefties last season and the corresponding .356 OBP.
Raburn has never been much more than an adequate outfielder, and at his age he’s not going to be getting any better. But he also might be the most affordable of the bunch, having never made more than $2.5 million in a season. You can probably even bring him in on a minor league deal with an invite to camp.
It’s hard to believe Jennings is 30 years old. The Rays waited and waited and waited for him to fulfill his promise and it just never happened for him. Furthermore, the career .245/.322/.393 line and declining defense leaves a little bit to be desired.
But diving further into the numbers, you can’t help but notice the career .264/.346/.431 line vs, left-handers. Those numbers were significantly lower last season, but perhaps a change of scenery will turn things around.
As an added bonus, Jennings would be capable of giving Adam Jones an occasional break in center – though you would probably lean toward Rickard in that role.
Gutierrez once held such promise as a legitimate two-way star for the Seattle Mariners. In 2009, he hit .283 with 18 home runs, stole 16 bases in 21 attempts and caught EVERYTHING in center field, compiling a ridiculous 33.4 defensive WAR, per FanGraphs. (By comparison, Mike Trout’s best defensive WAR is 13.0, in 2012.)
Alas it was a series of health problems that held him back and he’s never played more than 98 games in a season since 2010.
Gutierrez, however, had something of a comeback last year in Seattle at the age of 33, putting up a .280/.373/.511 line vs. lefties, good for a whopping .884 OPS. In 217 plate appearances vs. lefties, he hit 12 home runs and seven doubles.
He’s no longer an elite outfielder, but could probably manage to spell Jones occasionally in center. And can you imagine that bat and eye for the strike zone high in the batting order? He’d be a great platoon partner for Kim or Smith. It’s just a matter of staying healthy.
Weeks is no longer the 20-homer, (and one-time All-Star) second baseman he was for the Brewers from 2010-2012, but he showed last season in Arizona that he can play the outfield and still be a credible threat against left-handed pitching.
In just 76 plate appearances vs southpaws in 2016, Weeks hit six home runs and four doubles, walking nine times and striking out just 15 times. It all added up to a .284/.368/.632 line. He even managed a .777 OPS vs all pitching, but it’s against lefties where he’d likely do the most damage. Even better, Weeks is well past his $10 million days and can probably be had on the cheap.
At 35 (he turns 36 in July), Pagan’s best days are behind him. But he’s still got some game and would bring nice versatility to the roster.
Pagan is a little different from the others mentions above in that he is a switch-hitter and does not possess a big platoon split. In fact, over the course of his career he’s been slightly better against righties (.751 OPS) than lefties (.709 OPS). His .291 OBP vs. lefties last season was significantly worse than that vs. righties (.351). That’s not a good trend for a guy you would look to split time with Kim or Smith.
However, at this point in his career, Pagan is a more versatile and better all-around player than the others on this list, and as the regular center fielder for the Giants for the last five seasons he is capable of spelling any of the Orioles outfielders at any of the outfield positions. On top of all that, he’s even good for 12-17 stolen bases.
Duquette might have to open his wallet a bit more for Pagan, though, as he made more than $11 million in 2016.
Added value to the Trumbo deal
These are just five names Duquette could consider. None of them are stars and none of them are likely to make Orioles fans take to the streets in celebration. Nobody is going to buy a ticket simply to see any of these guys play.
But any of them would bring solid value to an Orioles team that could use a little more pop against left-handed pitching and — more importantly – an upgrade in on-base skills.
Bringing in any of these guys as a piggy-back to the Trumbo deal would by itself make the Trumbo signing more valuable.
Yes, Trumbo is a one-trick pony, but his one trick is really, really amazing. And if the upper third of the lineup is filled with guys who are able to play a little defense and get on base 34-37 percent of the time (vs. righties OR lefties), that’s going to make Trumbo’s one trick even better.
Bob Harkins is a former editor and writer for Time Warner Cable Sports in Los Angeles, where he helped cover the Dodgers and Lakers. Prior to that, he was a senior editor and writer for NBCSports.com, leading the site’s coverage of Major League Baseball for nine seasons. He always believed that Major League catcher was the toughest job in sports -- until he wrote a series on professional rodeo cowboys. Talk about tough!