After three-time All-Star catcher Matt Wieters accepted their $15.8 million qualifying offer last month to remain in Baltimore, the Orioles have made their second-biggest move so far this offseason.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has acquired first baseman and outfielder Mark Trumbo from Seattle in exchange for backup catcher Steve Clevenger. The Mariners also included left-handed relief pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser in the deal.
With 2015 home run king Chris Davis now a free agent and the Orioles also looking to upgrade both corner outfield spots as well as at designated hitter, Trumbo provides another home-run hitting option to add to the mix. After averaging just under 32 homers per year with the Los Angeles Angels from 2011-2013, Trumbo battled injuries with Arizona in 2014 and hit .262 with 22 homers, 64 RBIs, and a .759 on-base plus slugging percentage in 545 plate appearances split between the Diamondbacks and Seattle this past season.
Trumbo’s best asset is his power, but the 29-year-old owns a career .300 on-base percentage and doesn’t walk as much as you’d like from a power hitter who strikes out frequently. The right-handed hitter has averaged 161 strikeouts and only 42 walks per 162 games in his career.
A solid defensive first baseman and a below-average corner outfielder, Trumbo would best be served to split time between the DH spot and first base if you’re trying to optimize your team defense.
Trumbo is projected to make roughly $9 million in arbitration for the 2016 season.
Riefenhauser, 25, went 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 29 games with Triple-A Durham in 2015 and has a 2.77 ERA over 191 career minor league games. In 24 career games in the majors, Riefenhauser has gone 1-0 with a 6.30 ERA in 20 innings of work.
Out of options next season and stuck behind Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph, Clevenger figured to have a difficult job making the Orioles’ 25-man roster this spring. The 29-year-old Pigtown native hit .287 with two homers, 15 RBIs, and a .740 OPS in 105 plate appearances for Baltimore last season.
In isolation, the Orioles are receiving good value in exchange for a backup catcher, but Trumbo should not be viewed as the centerpiece acquisition of the winter and certainly can’t be seen as a straight-up replacement for Davis unless significant upgrades were to be made elsewhere in an effort to improve an 81-81 club. Several reports indicate the Orioles aren’t backing down on their efforts to re-sign Davis, but that is still considered a tall order with the 29-year-old first baseman expected to fetch a nine-figure multiyear contract this winter.