Orioles' Duquette shows he's serious
If nothing else, the Orioles' relatively quick acquisition of power-hitting first baseman Mark Trumbo proves that Dan Duquette listened to the lesson of last year.
He spent a good part of the late summer — as it became apparent the Orioles would not repeat as American League East champions — getting pummeled for failing to re-sign team MVP Nelson Cruz and popular right fielder Nick Markakis. But the real failure was his inability last winter to find anyone who could come close to replacing them.
This year, he promised to be proactive and he delivered on that promise with the pre-winter meetings deal for Trumbo, who probably isn't going to make anyone forget Chris Davis if the Orioles lose the bidding war for this year's team MVP but would be a reasonable facsimile under the circumstances.
Trumbo is not Davis, but the more important thing is that he isn't Travis Snider. He's a proven power hitter who plays first base and the outfield and should benefit greatly by moving into homer-friendly Oriole Park.
The Orioles continue to pursue Davis, but Duquette knows how much money he has to spend and he might already have a good sense of whether it will be enough to lure Davis back to Baltimore. Trumbo's arrival may well be evidence of that, and fans should prepare themselves for the likelihood that Davis will get a megadeal somewhere else. But they can take some comfort in the fact that Trumbo has something in common with both Cruz and Davis. He has a puncher's chance to change the game every time he steps to the plate.
Of course, there are good reasons why Cruz got a rich four-year contract last winter and Davis is in line to break the bank as the premier power guy in this year's free-agent market, while Trumbo just got traded for reserve catcher Steve Clevenger. Trumbo is not their statistical equal and he certainly is not the solid, versatile defensive player that Davis has proven to be over the past couple of seasons.
Trumbo is a guy who has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBIs per 162 games played in his career, but he also strikes out nearly once per game who doesn't walk nearly enough to maintain a decent on-base percentage.
He isn't a perfect fit in the Orioles lineup, which will be tilted heavily right-handed if the Orioles do not bring back Davis or find a quality left-handed bat with strong on-base potential. And he won't be considered a huge bargain at about $9 million this year unless he jacks up a season like the one Cruz delivered after signing a one-year, $8 million deal in the spring of 2014.
There is room to hope for that, though it requires some mental and statistical gymnastics. Trumbo was a beast in his first three full seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year balloting in 2011 and making the All-Star team on the way to a 32-homer, 95-RBI season the following year. His run-production numbers jumped again in 2013, but the Angels had Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to carry their offense, so they traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-way deal that netted them pitchers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.
He hasn't been quite the same since, but there are reasons for that. He missed half of his first season in Arizona with a broken foot and spent most of last season in the spacious confines of Safeco Field, where his slugging percentage predictably declined but his batting average and on-base percentage improved.
The Orioles will still be playing offensive catch-up unless they find a way to keep Davis and add a quality corner outfielder, but that might not matter quite as much if ownership allots enough payroll to keep the bullpen intact and upgrade the starting rotation.
Obviously, there are still a lot of moving parts to this winter's roster reconstruction, but Duquette's first big deal showed that he was serious when he said that he would move more aggressively this offseason.
He just did ... and hopefully he's not done.