Trumbo runs the same question through his head. He turns 33 later this month, is recovering from knee surgery and is approaching the final year of a contract that pays him $11 million this summer with deferred payments of $1.5 million from 2020-22.
There’s the potential for run production in the middle of the lineup. There’s a leadership role that’s been vacated by trades and free agency. And, if healthy and delivering, there’s the chance to become a trade chip, though he can block deals to seven clubs.
“Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like it’s totally obvious,” he said. “Older, veteran player, team going very young. Call it what you want, the process that the team is going to be going through the next couple of years. But I really feel that my job is to be a professional. Set a good example for the guys that are in their first few years, because I had some really good examples when I was their age.
“I saw a lot of guys who took it quite seriously and tried to teach the game to the best of their ability. And I think that’s really important, especially on a team with quite a few guys who are zero-to-three (years) and some of them in their first season. They’ve got to have guidance somewhere.”
This is a point that needs to be driven home as I read and hear suggestions that the Orioles should just toss all of the kids into the deep end of the pool. Who’s going to assist in keeping them afloat?
“You can’t have 25 guys who are in their first or second year. That’s really tough,” Trumbo said. “So, we do have a few guys who have been around a little bit longer, and I think despite the fact that the team is going in a certain direction, it’s important to have a few guys who have been around a little bit longer, at least.”
Other veterans likely will filter onto the roster before opening day via the free agent and trade markets, providing at least temporary options in the outfield, infield and pitching staff and behind the plate. Starters Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner will continue to serve as the leaders of the rotation based on their service time and past success.
Trumbo is respected and can be a good sounding board for the young hitters. He’s already helped Trey Mancini, who credited Trumbo with helping the outfielder regain his stroke at the plate in the second half. But new manager Brandon Hyde also will need more production out of Trumbo if his surgically repaired knee cooperates, especially with no assurances that Chris Davis will revert to 2015 form or anything close to it.
Hitters who aren’t suited for the middle of the order shouldn’t be forced into it.
Trumbo has no idea what the future holds for him. He wants to keep playing beyond the 2019 season, but is prepared to walk away and move onto the next phase of his life. He loves baseball, but won’t feel lost without it.
The condition of his knee following a September procedure to repair the cartilage could dictate what he does. The industry could force his hand.
“I am aware of the market for aging DHs, so my suspicion is that if I play at a very high level, there will be some opportunities. And if not, there probably won’t be, to be quite honest,” he said.
“I think my outlook is to try to have as much fun as I can and enjoy the time that I’ve had in the game. I’m going to give the absolute best that I can and set myself up for another opportunity if it presents itself. But if it doesn’t, you’ve got to deal with that.”
Trumbo earned his three-year deal after he led the majors with 47 home runs, drove in 108 runs and won his first Silver Slugger Award. He slashed .234/.289/.397 with 23 homers, 65 RBIs and a minus-0.5 WAR in 146 games in 2017 and appeared in only 90 games last season, batting .261/.313/.452 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs.
“I think best-case scenario, I go out and have a season reminiscent of some of the other ones I’ve had and there’s another year or two potential,” Trumbo said. “But those are kind of what-ifs at this point.”
Notes: Former Orioles executive John Stockstill has been hired by the Tigers as a major league scout.
Stockstill worked for the Orioles in a variety of roles, including director of player personnel, director of player development, director of international scouting and major league scout.
Also, former Orioles bench coach John Russell told The Athletic that he was hired as technical director of baseball at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The position is similar to a field coordinator.
Russell’s son, Stone, is an eighth-grader who plays baseball at IMG.