Despite having ‘meetings’ right in the title, the Winter Meetings are typically known for big signings and big trades. However, a ‘meeting’ is where the Orioles and free agent slugger Mark Trumbo currently sit.
According to Buster Olney, Trumbo and his most recent employer still have a mutual interest in continuing their relationship. While the terms still seem to be a sticking point though, the Orioles are still trying to find common ground with Trumbo, and Trumbo seems willing to listen.
Given mutual interest between Trumbo and the Orioles, they're meeting again today to try to work out differences.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 6, 2016
During the beginning of the Winter Meetings, the Orioles offered Trumbo a four-year deal reported to be in the $52-55 million range according to Olney. However, when Trumbo’s camp reportedly countered at the $75-80 million range with a no-trade clause, talks “stalled.”
Sources: O's willing to discuss 4-year deal w/Trumbo in the range of $52m-$55m; counter was $75m-$80m, w/ full no-trade. So it stalled.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
Considering that was less than 24 hours ago and a meeting has already been scheduled, it’s safe to say talks are no longer stalled.
Slowing down Trumbo’s market might be the fact that there are still some key sluggers remaining in free agency to come off of the board. More specifically, Edwin Encarnacion is still drawing significant interest from multiple teams. It might be in Trumbo’s best interest to wait for Encarnacion to sign for the sake of leverage. After all, the only other team tied to Trumbo at the moment has been the Rockies. While the signing of Encarnacion might eliminate one potential suitor, it could also force a couple others to realize the immediacy of the situation.
The 30-year old righty is coming off of a career-high season by home runs and slugging. While he still strikes out in over one-quarter of his plate appearances, Trumbo has shown a knack for driving the ball, and he hit 23 percent better than the league average last season according to wRC+. Unfortunately, Trumbo’s fielding costs him though, and his FanGraphs’ WAR sat barely above two wins.
This situation feels slightly reminiscent of the Chris Davis free agency of last season. While more teams seemed interested early in Davis, the Orioles downplayed their willingness to meet his specific contract desires. Of course, the Orioles couldn’t resist, and Davis was eventually signed for seven years at $161 million.
At $23 million of average annual value going to Davis—and with that contract being handed out one season ago now—there are two ways to read the situation. First, the Orioles may have a different salary structure that doesn’t involve signing sluggers to huge deals anymore. Also, despite the contract being only one season old, the Orioles front office may have learned that seven years to a 30-year old slugger is not necessarily a good investment in the long-term.
However, it could also be read the opposite way. That the Orioles are willing to spend $20 million or more per season on sluggers who are largely incapable of fielding. The Orioles led all of baseball in home runs, and it wasn’t particularly close either. Paired with an elite bullpen, the Orioles’ affinity for the longball overcame a terrible starting rotation to claim a wild card spot in the 2016 postseason.
Trumbo may not be a name that finds his landing spot by the end of the Winter Meetings, but asking for a similar salary to that of Davis is his prerogative. While it isn’t comparing apples to apples, Mark Melancon signed a four-year deal worth more than $60 million earlier this week as a reliever. With Trumbo factoring into more of the game than a closer, and being valued last season at $17.3 million by FanGraphs’ $/WAR estimations, a four-year deal nearing $70 million seems well-within the realm of possibility.