Clubs willing to overlook free-agent homer champion's second-half slide
By Joe Trezza
Mark Trumbo hit the free-agent market coming off a career year -- a dream scenario for a player, and he's likely to cash in. Fitting since Trumbo's entire season could be considered a dream scenario from the Orioles' perspective after Baltimore acquired the 2016 home run champion from the Mariners for backup catcher Steve Clevenger last offseason.
In Baltimore, Trumbo finally blossomed into the prestigious power hitter scouts long dreamed he could be. Most of his free-agent value is tied into that power. Now, million-dollar questions linger: How much will teams be willing to pay for that power after Trumbo slumped in the second half? And can Trumbo repeat his monster year?
Here are five reasons teams are willing to bet millions the answer to that last question could be "yes."
Light-tower power: This year, Trumbo became the fourth straight Oriole to win the Majors' home run crown. His 47 home runs weren't just a career high, they were also the most by a right-handed hitter since Jose Bautista slugged 54 in 2010. Trumbo shattered his previous career high of 34 and more than doubled his homer total from 2015, which he split between Arizona and Seattle.
Not just a homer-homer guy: It would be easy to see Trumbo's sudden power boost and credit his new homer-friendly home ballpark, Camden Yards. And yes, Trumbo took advantage of the cozy confines, posting an OPS 66 points higher at home than on the road. But Trumbo also proved he can hit a baseball out of any park. If you just look at Trumbo's home runs, moving into a hitter-friendly park didn't result in any drastic splits. He hit 47 percent of his homers on the road in 2016, right around his career average of 52 percent entering the year. Over his career, Trumbo has hit 89 home runs on the road and 89 home runs at home.
Early returns: Trumbo's splits become much more dramatic when you separate his numbers using the calendar. This may alleviate some worry about whether Trumbo can repeat his 2016 performance. Because while so much of Trumbo's production came in the first half -- he hit .288/.341/.582 with 28 homers before the All-Star break, then just .214/.284/.470 with 19 homers after -- that's the type of player he's been his whole career.
Trumbo has always been a first-half hitter, as evidenced by his .830 career first-half OPS. That number drops more than 100 points, to .717, in the second half, over his seven-year career. All of which proves Trumbo didn't really do much different this season. He just did the things he does well, better.
He hits them high and deep: This brings us back to what Trumbo does best -- hit home runs. According to Statcast™, his homers went an average of 411 feet and at an average exit velocity of 106.5 mph. Both of those numbers rank ninth among players with at least 20 homers.
He mashes righties: Finally, teams will likely look at the strangest part of Trumbo's season as a positive. In spite of his near identical career platoon splits, Trumbo stopped hitting left-handed pitching in 2016, weird for a right-handed-hitting power hitter. But he increased his numbers substantially against right-handed pitching, by far the more common opponent. Trumbo hit .284 against righties, 34 points better than his career mark, ninth-best among players with at least 20 homers, and better than high-average hitters like Martin Prado, Paul Goldschmidt and Buster Posey.
It's no secret Trumbo's swing, while powerful, comes with several holes. But he faced right-handers in 75 percent of his plate appearances in 2016, suggesting those holes could be closed more often than not.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.