At the end of the 2015 season, the Orioles had many more questions about their lineup than they do this season.
Last year, the team wasn’t sure what they would do about catcher, first base, the corner outfield positions and at DH. They also had questions about pitching. There are many fewer questions this season.
It’s possible that barring trades as many as 11 pitchers have solidified spots for next season, including six potential starters (Dylan Bundy, Yovani Gallardo, Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and Chris Tillman) as well as five relievers (Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart and Darren O’Day).
Their entire infield and two starting outfielders (Adam Jones and Hyun Soo Kim) will be back in 2017.
As the offseason begins, the Orioles’ main questions are whether they’ll re-sign Matt Wieters and Mark Trumbo.
I’ve suggested many times that the Orioles ought to re-sign Wieters, and here’s a vote for taking a shot at Trumbo.
Trumbo is a one-dimensional player. His play in right field leaves a lot to be desired, but his major league leading 47 home runs were important.
Even though Trumbo said he was helped by playing for the first time at a hitter-friendly ballpark, he still hit 22 of his 47 home runs on the road, and while his batting average was about the same at home (.254) as on the road (.258), his on-base percentage was far better at home (.334 vs. 299).
Trumbo had a terrific start to the season, hitting .288 in the first half, and while he had a rough post All-Star Game patch that morphed into a .184 August, he rebounded smartly in September, and in the season’s last two weeks, he hit .333.
One of the reasons for Trumbo’s rebound was the acquisition of Michael Bourn. When Showalter put Bourn in the outfield and had Trumbo as the designated hitter the team was better both offensively and defensively.
While it seems that manager Buck Showalter prefers not having a fulltime DH in order to rest regular players, this year, he used Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez as his designated hitter in all but seven games. (Wieters and Davis were the DH twice and Trey Mancini (three times).
The Orioles would benefit from bringing Trumbo back as the DH and perhaps re-signing Bourn.
Joey Rickard, whose ligament injury in his right thumb cost him nearly the entire second half, is also expected back.
If the Orioles have Bourn, Rickard and add another outfielder, they can allow Trumbo to be the DH.
After playing for four teams in the past four seasons, Trumbo is eager to find a long-term home, and would prefer that home be in Baltimore.
The Orioles are likely to have stiff competition in re-signing Trumbo. Boston will lose David Ortiz to retirement, and Trumbo would fit nicely in Fenway Park. Toronto could lose Jose Bautista to free agency, and Trumbo might fit in nicely there, too.
Both the Red Sox and Blue Jays don’t seem to have the payroll restrictions the Orioles do.
Trumbo’s market is likely limited to the American League because of his defensive liabilities, and if the Orioles, as expected, slap a qualifying offer on him, his market may tighten—as Chris Davis’ did a year ago.
For some time it seemed unlikely that Trumbo would return. Why would the Orioles, a year after paying a record seven years and $161 million, want to pay another slugger big money?
Unlike Davis, Trumbo isn’t a superior fielder and would be fortunate to get half of what Davis did. He also doesn’t have the equity that Davis built with the fans with his big 2013 and 2015 seasons.
But, the Orioles would be a better team knowing who the DH would be for three or four years. While Trumbo will be 31 at the start of next season, he keeps himself in good shape, and is popular among his teammates.
Trumbo is not a publicity seeker, but he is readily available in the clubhouse, both before and after games.
The Orioles best shot at signing Trumbo may come, as Davis’ did, late in the free agent process, when other teams decide they don’t want to spend big bucks on a DH.
And, the Orioles aren’t going to outbid the Red Sox or Blue Jays for Trumbo. If they’re willing to pay, say four years and $80 million in a market that won’t have many boldface names, they’ll sign him.
Here’s hoping the Orioles are able to bring Trumbo back. It would be a good deal for both sides.