Last week we introduced the Inside the ‘Zona 2014-2015 Offseason Plan. If you haven’t read the post, I strongly recommend it. There are number of key moves that we laid out for the Diamondbacks to set themselves up for the future, when they’re most likely to get back to contention. Among them were several impactful trades, including moving Aaron Hill, Miguel Montero and Trevor Cahill. Those were pretty obvious moves and I seriously doubt anyone is going to be upset if any or all of those guys are playing for different teams next season. But one move we didn’t put in the offseason plan was trading a piece that just doesn’t fit on this team: Mark Trumbo.
The Offseason Plan isn’t a fantasy exercise. Instead, it’s rooted in the reality, which is sometimes painful and surely more difficult to complete. Trading Mark Trumbo definitely came up in discussions when we were compiling the plan, but didn’t make the cut as it just doesn’t seem even remotely likely. But if it were to be an option, I have a few reasons in mind as to why it should.
The biggest reason to deal Mark Trumbo is that he’s a poor fit for this baseball team. With arguably baseball’s best first baseman firmly entrenched and not going anywhere, Trumbo has to find another spot on the field to occupy. His best defensive fit is at first and while he’s not exactly an asset there, he’s best-suited for it. Instead, he’s been pushed to the outfield where his range is poor and he gets consistently average-or-worse reads on fly balls. He can make most of the routine plays, but in an admittedly small sample, he was poor as soon as the difficulty of the play increased beyond the easiest category, according Inside Edge Fielding data.
Of course, all of that data came from him playing in left field last year. In 2015, he’s expected to play right field. Considering that right field grades out as a more demanding defensive position than left, this position swap doesn’t appear to be a move made for the better, despite the fact that GM Dave Stewart thinks it’ll help his comfort and confidence. Will playing worse defense in right help him at the plate? I strongly doubt it. If he improves at the plate, it will be due to better plate discipline and increased quality contact, not his defensive positioning. Either way, he’s going to be playing a lot of right field next season, something that will hurt an already middle-of-the-road pitching staff. There’s simply no value added to having Trumbo in the outfield, anywhere you put him. It’s a bad fit all the way around and there’s nowhere else to play him. Essentially, he doesn’t fit.
Placing him in the outfield also takes opportunities away from younger players David Peralta and, more notably, Ender Inciarte. These two are slated to split time in left field with Trumbo occupying right, and I’d bet that it’s Peralta who gets more consistent starts, forcing Inciarte to the bench most of the time. We already know that Inciarte’s a defensive wizard with an improving offensive game while Peralta can really swing it and play adequate defense in left and right field. Both players are cheap, team controlled for the next five years, and in need of opportunities to prove themselves as part of the Diamondbacks’ long term plans. Instead of getting maximum opportunities to develop, they’ll split time as they share left field.
The Diamondbacks aren’t going to contend in 2015. Hell, they’ll be lucky to be contenders in 2016, if you ask me. Mark Trumbo will be passing through arbitration for a third time in 2016, likely netting a salary in the $7-9 million range, depending on his 2015 performance. Come 2017, he’ll be a free agent and will be unlikely to be retained pending the disappearance of Paul Goldschmidt. If you’re following my line of thinking, this should be the point in time when the Diamondbacks start to really mature with several of their current top prospects becoming established major leaguers and the organization has some improved financial flexibility. So just when the D-backs are ready to contend, Trumbo won’t be around, which makes you wonder why he’s around in the first place. There are a number of competitive teams who could use first base help (Pirates and Brewers) and a handful who could use a DH (Royals, Mariners and Rangers).
So why sink money and playing time into someone who won’t be part of your future? He’s going to hurt you defensively for sure and his offense is rather questionable. Arizona loses opportunities to maximize platoons and develop cheaper, younger assets by playing him in right. And to cap it all off, he won’t even be around when the team is ready to really challenge for the NL West crown. The Diamondbacks have a bunch of reasons to deal Trumbo, but they won’t.
Trading Mark Trumbo won’t happen and it’s why we didn’t put it in the Offseason Plan. Sure, there are a myriad of reasons to make a deal, including the fact that there are teams out there that could reasonably benefit from acquiring him by minimizing the negative implications of his defense while still collecting the power from his bat (sadly, the D-backs aren’t one of those teams). If he were dealt to one of these teams, I think Arizona could expect a B-level prospect in return, which might take the sting out of losing Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez in the Hellickson trade a little over a week ago. One B-level prospect in return wouldn’t signal any kind of major change for the organization, but opening up room to develop younger, more valuable players surely would. But we can keep dreaming, because it’s not going to happen. #DINGERZ
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