There may be some truths that fans of the Toronto Blue Jays need to come to grips with. Melky Cabrera is probably not coming back. And, right now, his replacement will come from one of Kevin Pillar, Andy Dirks, John Mayberry Jr with Dalton Pompey all but guaranteed the starting CF job. It goes without saying that the above list is not going to replace Melky’s 2014 season.
Now, there may be an off chance that Alex Anthopoulos can find a replacement on the open market. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of adding Nori Aoki. But, what if the cost for an outfielder is beyond what the Blue Jays can or will spend? You know, because they’ve spend a ton on Pablo Sandoval or Jon Lester. Yeah, right.
So, they’ll have to try and pull off a trade. One place they may want to look is to Arizona and check on what it would take to get Mark Trumbo.
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There are those who would explode with rage if this happened. Here’s why. He is coming off a pretty ugly season where he was worth -1.1 WAR. His slash line is nasty .235/.293/.415/.707 If he hadn’t hit for power (15 doubles and 14 home runs) he may not have been even in the lineup. In fact, his oRAR (Offensive Runs Above Replacement) value of 2.2 is a dramatic drop off from the previous seasons where he averaged 23. Part of his struggles had to do with his fractured foot near the end of April that limited him to just 88 games.
And yet, in those 88 games, he managed 89 strike outs. Fans in these parts may cringe at this due to experiencing the many Ks by Colby Rasmus and Juan Francisco. Looking at his PitchFX swing rates at Fangraphs.com, we get a clearer picture of the whiffs. In fact, there is a positive trend to be found. The percentage of pitches he swings at outside of the strike zone (O-swing%) is trending downward to 34.1% last season compared to a whopping 51.9% when he entered the league in 2010. Too, the percentage of pitches swung at inside the zone (Z-swing%) has trended upward. So, he’s not chasing as many pitches outside the zone. While he sees 66% first pitch strikes, the number of pitches he sees in the strike zone is also trending downward to 43.9% in 2014. Are pitchers trying to get him to chase? I would. But, he is getting better at not giving in to that.
The biggest knock against Trumbo’s offensive game is his abysmal OBP. His 5 year average is just .298. Yet, over at Fangraphs.com, Tony Blengino puts him in a category of players who’ve enjoyed successful offensive careers. The list includes (among others) Blue Jays hero Joe Carter. The 5 time All Star had a career OBP of just .306. I think we can all agree that we were happy to have Joe Carter. I’m not suggesting that Mark Trumbo is Joe Carter. I’m not suggesting Mark Trumbo will deliver a World Series to Toronto. I’m just pointing out that while his OBP is brutal, he still has value.
The big draw of Mark Trumbo is obviously the power. When he is healthy, he’ll give you 30 HR and 80-100 RBI. Considering the launching pad that is Rogers Centre, these numbers are reasonable to expect if Trumbo collected regular at bats. Rogers Centre is slightly smaller than Chase Field in Arizona and gave up slightly more dingers than Chase Field, 1.3 per game compared to 1.194. So, it is logical to think these numbers are repeatable.
Perhaps the biggest knock against Trumbo is his defense. His 6’4″, 235lbs frame is a rather large one to be lumbering around in the left field. His UZR/150 (UZR runs above average per 150 Defensive Games) is nightmarish at -16.3! For comparison, Melky’s 2014 value was -4.8. In fact, EVERY defensive position he played in yielded a monstrously negative value in this category. He is a better first baseman than an outfielder, that is for sure. But, even then, we’re not talking Gold Glove here. In fact, his Fans Scouting Report is not very kind at all. He only ranks above 50 in the arm strength category and that is at just 56.
But, the versatility he brings to the Blue Jays roster can’t be ignored. He can fill the left field position, which is lacking right now. As well, with the departure of Adam Lind, Trumbo would provide a solid back up plan for a game here and there to allow Edwin Encarnacion to DH or take a day off. Unless the club is happy carrying the likes of Justin Smoak on the bench for those situations. Of course, some will argue that John Mayberry Jr may be able to do that with better results.
AA has talked about roster flexibility going forward. A move for Trumbo may provide that. He will be 29 and is arbitration eligible. Given the above knocks against him, it is hard to imagine that he’d see a substantial raise form his $4.8M salary. Yet, his offensive power numbers may drive that price up, which is an interesting area for Toronto. He would be cheaper than 2014 Melky, cheaper than signing Aoki or any free agent of value. Yet, he would be more expensive than plugging in one of the “in house” options currently on the Blue Jays roster.
Arizona needs pitching help. So, could the Blue Jays offer up one of their arms? They are finally in a position of relative strength in that area. Do they really want to give it up for Mark Trumbo? What would it take? Trumbo’s value is not as high as it was a couple years ago. Could they trade J.A. Happ to land the big righty? Should they? I wouldn’t give much more than that. I certainly wouldn’t be giving up Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez or Daniel Norris. But, Happ’s salary for Trumbo’s might be a small bonus.
Trumbo brings an appealing offensive game. It is a different game than Melky Cabrera, that is for sure. However, replacing the 2014 season Melky had is not going to be easy no matter which route they take. Yes, he brings lots of strike outs. But, we know the Blue Jays love their home runs. They have an offense that thrives on the big blasts. Trumbo would fit into that nicely. AA brought in Colby Rasmus and Juan Francisco for that very reason. He was willing to live with strike outs if it yielded the run production. Trumbo’s Steamer prediction has him hitting .245/.303/.461 with 30 HR & 88 RBI. Is that not worth exploring?