The Orioles’ mock lineup for 2017 contains fewer holes as the days tick down before spring training.
Seth Smith can be penciled into right field, at least in a platoon role, and Mark Trumbo can be tabbed as the primary designated hitter after agreeing to terms last night on a three-year, $37.5 million contract.
The deal becomes official after Trumbo passes his physical. I know all the jokes, but neither side is concerned about it. The only holdup is waiting for the results.
Two nights after releasing the list of autograph stations at FanFest on Jan. 28, the Orioles may need to squeeze in Trumbo. Maybe he also crashes a forum, depending on his availability.
We know that he can destroy baseballs.
The Orioles must be thrilled to get Trumbo at roughly $12.5 million per year, though there was an ongoing internal debate over the merits of receiving the draft pick attached to him before the new collective bargaining agreement takes hold.
There was a common assumption made that Trumbo would rake in at least four years and maybe five after leading the majors with 47 home runs and hitting another one in the wild card game at age 30. The market was flooded with power hitters, it moved slowly and Trumbo “settled” for three.
He’s not going to lose any sleep over it. He earned a healthy raise after making $9.15 million last year while avoiding an arbitration hearing.
Trumbo wanted to stay in Baltimore but understandably also wanted to test the market. I’ve heard that reports on the negotiations were riddled with inaccuracies. Trusted sources don’t all bat 1.000.
So what’s next for the Orioles?
They still need another left-handed bat, with Trumbo’s return making them lean even more to the right. But how would it fit? Pedro Alvarez held the Orioles’ interest, but they weren’t going to platoon him with Trumbo and they weren’t going to play him in the field. Not that there’s a spot available.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette wants another left-handed hitting outfielder with a trusted glove, which keeps Michael Bourn in the picture, but not in the everyday lineup.
Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez bats from the left side, but he’d also project as a backup if he makes the club.
Anyone still holding out hope that the Orioles re-sign Wieters and make him a DH/catcher after committing $37.5 million to Trumbo and perhaps $13 million to Castillo if he exercises his option?
Can we finally put the Chris Carter rumors to rest?
Meanwhile, Joey Rickard can platoon at one of the outfield corners and Trumbo might be used more in right field than so many people - including myself - have anticipated from a club that’s preached the need to improve its outfield defense.
Smith is a career .202 hitter versus left-handers. This would be an ideal time to find out whether Hyun Soo Kim can hit lefties in the U.S.
I’ve been asked how Trumbo’s signing impacts rookie Trey Mancini. Good question. The Orioles have indicated that there’s no reason to return Mancini to the minors. There’s no 4A and he deserves to break camp with the team. They’ve also shown no concerns over having him sit on the bench rather than play every day at Triple-A Norfolk, insisting that it won’t stunt his development.
That said, they could decide this spring that there simply aren’t enough at-bats for him with Trumbo also able to back up Chris Davis at first base.
Davis, by the way, isn’t moving to right field. The Orioles want his defense at first. He was a finalist for a Gold Glove Award. There’s no interest in making him a full-time outfielder.
Besides another left-handed bat, the Orioles also want to improve their depth in the starting rotation and they’re still checking on available left-handed relievers. They’ve still got work to do, but there’s a real sense of satisfaction in the warehouse with the additions of Castillo, Smith and Trumbo, plus the two Rule 5 picks, and the money saved by moving Yovani Gallardo.
Closer Zach Britton tweeted last night that he hoped the Trumbo rumors were true. No worries.
“He’s a great teammate,” Britton said on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “He’s kind of the quiet leader, but the thing about Mark that really drew me to him and the thing that I feel like kind of got overlooked was his preparation and the work he put in. He was constantly watching video, constantly in the cage doing stuff.
“Even before a lot of guys showed up to the field, Mark was already in there doing stuff. And those are things that as a teammate that you go, ‘You know what? Whether or not this guy is doing well or is struggling, you appreciate the effort that he’s putting in.’ And I think that’s all you can bring to the table as a teammate is your effort level every single day, and that wasn’t lacking ever and that really impressed me.
“There’s guys you play with throughout the course of your career that something stands out, and that really stood out for me with Mark, how he got to the field every day. There was a rhyme to the reason. Everything he did was calculated.
“Mark’s going to be a great clubhouse presence, but at the same time, I know our ballpark’s perfect for him. That’s why it’s crucial. To get CD back last year and to get Mark this year to keep that power in the lineup is really important.”
Rookie left-hander Donnie Hart appeared in 22 games with the Orioles. He didn’t need much exposure to the majors to appreciate Trumbo’s presence.
“Mark’s a good guy,” Hart said. “Mark’s a quiet guy, he’s a quiet leader. That’s for sure. He’s a very intense competitor. I know there were times when I was in the dugout between innings when I came off the mound, he’s one of those guys who, when he walks by you, you know to keep to yourself. He doesn’t need anybody to tell him that he’s doing a good job.
“He’s one of those guys who, when he speaks, you listen. He’s got the numbers to prove it, obviously, on the field, but in the clubhouse, he’s a great guy. He’s nice to everybody, he’s welcoming to everybody. If it’s true that he’s coming back, that’s awesome. I’m super excited about that.”
Someone has to come off the 40-man roster to accommodate Trumbo. Let’s take another look:
Hyun Soo Kim
Note: Tickets are on sale for the 17th annual Casey Cares Emerald City Gala on March 25 at the American Visionary Art Museum.
The event runs from 6:30 p.m.-11 p.m and features a cocktail hour with live jazz, premium open bar, seated dinner, dancing, live and silent auctions and more. Proceeds directly benefit Casey Cares Foundation’s programs for critically ill children and their families.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Shameless plug alert: I’m back on “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” from 5-6 p.m. on MASN.