LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - While the Orioles fielded trade offers for their star third baseman and top relievers at this week’s Winter Meetings, they also checked on the level of interest in designated hitter Mark Trumbo.
The Orioles are open to moving Trumbo and freeing up the designated hitter spot while he has two years and $26 million remaining on his contract. One source said teams counterpunched with the request that the Orioles absorb a portion of the remaining money.
Trumbo led the majors with 47 home runs in 2016 while crafting a .256/.316/.533 slash line with 27 doubles and 108 RBIs. He appeared in 13 fewer games this summer after re-signing with the club and batted .234/.289//.397 with 22 doubles, 23 home runs and 65 RBIs.
While the Orioles were falling out of contention for the wild card in September, Trumbo went 14-for-73 (.192) with three home runs and 25 strikeouts, and his opportunities dwindled as manager Buck Showalter began the process of evaluating young players called up from the minors.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette has talked about the need to find more left-handed bats and suggested designated hitter as a place in the lineup that could hold one, at least on a part-time basis. Trumbo’s offensive stats over his career are better when he’s playing in the field, but the Orioles have Chris Davis at first base and want a defensive upgrade in right - another place for a left-handed hitter.
For what it’s worth, I’m predicting that Trumbo has a much better season in 2018.
* I can confirm via multiple sources that the White Sox’s offer for Manny Machado wasn’t as impressive as reported at the meetings.
The Orioles aren’t prying away pitchers Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech unless the White Sox craft another proposal. And if the southsiders really are the frontrunners, teams seriously need to step up.
The inability to obtain a 72-hour window to negotiate an extension is preventing rival executives from digging deeper into their farm systems for the necessary prospects.
I’ll repeat that I certainly understand why Duquette said he’s going to listen to all offers and not shun the Yankees, but there’s currently no chance of Machado wearing those pinstripes unless he’s flipped by another team or signs as a free agent.
* The Orioles didn’t leave the meetings with a veteran catcher, but they still intend to find one to provide more depth at the position.
The Yankees re-signed Erik Kratz after he elected free agency over accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A. The Orioles didn’t show any interest and continue their search, one of the lesser items on their shopping list but still important in terms of improving depth and providing insurance for rookie Chance Sisco.
The tandem of Sisco and Caleb Joseph would break camp with the team if the season started today. Sisco’s bat has enabled him to climb the organizational ladder, but defense will keep him in the majors.
“I really very quietly think, because of the way J.R. is, John Russell, I think we have one of the best catching instructors in all of baseball and I really lean on him,” Showalter said. “John has shown a real propensity for taking whatever weaknesses may be perceived or reality in a catcher and really (helping them). So when he tells me that he thinks he and Austin Wynns ... Of course, we all know what we have in Caleb. He thinks a lot of them. Unfortunately, you need four or five in today’s game. Really four. Francisco Peña left us. We were hoping to get him back.
“I think that the continued growth as a thrower, I think (Sisco) is going to be fine receiving. I think he’s going to be fine with his fingers as he grows. But it’s a tough place to cut your teeth in the American League East and have that confidence with pitchers that really don’t know you and you don’t know them in some cases. So Caleb’s there and John’s there and I think he will be as good as he’s capable of being and he will come as quickly as his skills allow. He’s a good one.”
Sisco appeared in 10 games with the Orioles and went 6-for-18 (.333) with two doubles and two home runs. He hit .267/.340/.395 with 23 doubles, seven home runs and 47 RBIs in 97 games at Norfolk and is a career .311/.390/.426 hitter in five minor league seasons.
“I don’t even think about his bat,” Showalter said. “That’s just, it’s catching it, throwing it, fingers, and having the confidence of the pitching staff. We lost a good one in Cassie (Welington Castillo), but through that comes a good opportunity for some guys.
“I wouldn’t underestimate Austin. He’s got our attention, especially the things he’s been able to do recently.”
* The Orioles lost six players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft: catcher Yermin Mercedes, pitchers Mitch Horecek and Brandon Barker, infielders Brallan Perez and Angelo Mora and outfielder Jay Gonzalez.
Tears aren’t shed, though they were hoping that teams would bypass Gonzalez and Mora, the latter signed to a minor league deal earlier this month.
The selections are a tribute to the improved depth in the minor league system. Other organizations are taking notice.
“We’ve made some good strides overall in stocking the farm system with players, and that was reflected in the number of players that were drafted off our Double-A roster,” Duquette said.
“With the work that our scouts and player development people are doing over the last couple of years, the Orioles have a little bit more depth, particularly with position players in the minors. Other clubs saw that depth and made some selection and I think that’s a good compliment to the work our people have been doing the last couple of years.”
* The Orioles are waiting until their athletic training staff is in place before announcing that Brian Ebel has moved up to the head position.
Ebel is replacing Richie Bancells, who retired after 41 seasons in the organization.
Two assistants will be included on the staff, and there are a few solid in-house candidates, including Mark Shires at Norfolk and Patrick Wesley at Bowie.