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Trading Trumbo

Or, great mistakes of the past.

And then I thought, "I'd run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama."
And then I thought, "I'd run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama."
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I don't know your level of awareness during Spring Training. I don't know what your favorite breakfast cereal is. Hell, I don't even know what your favorite color is or if you'd rather go to Madrid or Paris. I don't know you. However, if by chance you have the energy or time or level or care/insanity to follow stories beyond the Seattle Mariners during March, you've heard that Mark Trumbo has made quite the impression in the corners of the Baltimore outfield.

It's no fault of his own. Mark is a known potential disaster when asked to patrol the outfield grass. It was because of this, and the $9.2 million he ended up making in arbitration, that once Jerry Dipoto was installed as the new GM of the M's, Trumbo going in the offseason was a foregone conclusion. Add the lack of flexibility and nearly $10 million salary to the fact that Jerry had already traded Mark away once before, and I'm sure Trumbo was packing his bags mid-September. He would eventually be packaged for essentially Steve Clevenger in a trade with the Orioles, a deal that optimistically could be named a salary dump. This finally closed the famed Clevenger-for-Yoervis Medina trade loop we all anticipated last March.

Before his eventual departure, I pretty adamantly privately and publicly called for Trumbo to stay as the M's primary first baseman for the 2016 season. Arguments against him staying were many, and understandable. Nine-million dollars was a lot for a player who had a month-long cold streak last year, has no (useful) other position beyond DH, and surely there was a better option on the open market. For what it's worth, ZIPS projects Trumbo for 1.7 WAR this coming season, and some of that value is likely tied to him playing OF, not solely first base. However, there's a chance he's more valuable as a primary first baseman, due to his very poor OF defense.


Now, let's get up to the modern day Seattle Mariners, stop talking about players of the past. The Seattle Mariners traded for Adam Lind who this year is owed $8 million to fill the starting role at first base. As of right now, let's assume the M's roll out a seven-man bullpen. That leaves two non-bullpen roster spots up for grabs. One of those spots will go to the winner of the utility infield battle between Chris Taylor and Luis Sardinas, the other will go to the winner of the LHP-platoon hitter who will spell Adam Lind whenever a lefty is starting. See, Adam Lind comes with a bit of baggage. Over the past three years, almost 250 PA's due to being so heavily platooned, Lind has a wRC+ of 41 against southpaws.

So what is this post getting to? Well, the Seattle Mariners would be much better off right now if Mark Trumbo was still their player.

In terms of defense, Mark Trumbo is by far the superior first basemen. He ranks in the top tier of defenders at first, and his over 1500 innings the past three seasons at the position give him a Def rating by Fangraphs of -7.7. Bear in mind the penalty given to first basemen, and that no single starting first basemen had a positive Def in all of the MLB last year, and Trumbo, for whatever it is worth, is nearly elite relative to his peers. Adam Lind's Def rating? It's -22.4 in over 2100 innings in the same span of time.

What's more is that Trumbo doesn't appear to require a platoon partner to make himself viable at first. Over the past three seasons, Mark has a wRC+ of 138 in 450 PA's against lefties. His 1100 PA's against righties aren't as impressive, where he has a wRC+ of 90. His career wRC+ is 108. It still beats the hell out of being unplayable against his weaker side, as Lind is. A lot of the reason you keep Mark Trumbo is that he doesn't take up two roster slots. He is essentially a 1.5-2 win player at the spot (can you imagine?), good for 20-25 bombs (in 2015 he hit 22 out in essentially 540 PA's). This represents a major upgrade over the 500+ PA's given to Logan Morrison to put up a whopping -0.2 WAR last season. Likely, Mark Trumbo would be the best Mariner first basemen since 2009 Russell Branyan.

So, how can Adam Lind make losing Mark worthwhile? Well, he has to absolutely mash when he plays. Last year, in nearly 600 PA's, Lind put up just a touch over 2 wins while hitting 20 dingers (sound like someone you know). To make the two roster spots he requires, and essentially a flush salary considering the two spots to Mark's one, Lind and his platoon partner have to have a stronger year at the plate. Is it possible? Absolutely. However, the lack of roster flexibility may end up biting this team in the long term. What if Leonys is an absolute disaster against lefties. Who spells him in CF? Aoki? Guti? Is that a sustainable roster construction? Room for Boog Powell or Shawn O'Malley looks to be lacking when it really is at a premium.

Production may level-out at first base between a full year of Lind and Montero/Lee vs. Trumbo, however, the effects may show themselves in other places due to reduced roster flexibility. Of course, none of this takes in to account the acquisition of Steve Clevenger, who for all I know is a great dude and could absolutely rake this year. Crazier things have happened (not many, though).

Trading Mark Trumbo away just may prove to be the huge mistake of Jerry Dipoto's first offseason. What was a salary dump really ended up being an essentially flush-cash lateral move to acquire an even less-flexible piece. Even worse, all this was done at the expense of roster flexibility. Let's all hope Adam Lind tears the cover off the ball.


I loved the "Trumbo Jumbo" call by Dave Sims whenever Mark absolutely mashed a ball. I loved the elite power, only second to Nelson Cruz. And most of all, I loved the man.

Be well, Mark. May you find a home at first base in some yonder field.