Every team experiences it. A former player goes on to excel elsewhere and the fans of his former team are left to lament about how he got away.
Baseball fans in Seattle are experiencing this phenomena.
You see, the Mariners traded Mark Trumbo along with pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser to the Baltimore Orioles for catcher Steve Clevenger last December. Few even recall that Riefenhauser was in that deal. All that lingers is the fact that general manager Jerry Dipoto dealt Trumbo for the second time in his career — this time for a backup catcher.
That’s right. Dipoto traded away a slugger who’s leading the majors in home runs for a reserve who slashed .221/.303/.309 prior to fracturing a bone in his right hand. This doesn’t sit well with a segment of Mariner supporters.
At the time of the deal, the consensus was that trading Trumbo gave the Mariners added financial flexibility. Inevitably, sending his $9.15 million salary to Baltimore permitted the club to acquire first basemen Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee.
That’s where the problems began.
You see, the first base platoon of Lind and Lee was expected provide production similar to Trumbo’s, who would’ve played first base if he remained in the Emerald City. The left-handed Lind was pegged to play the majority of the time, but not against southpaws — his kryptonite. Lee would take on those lefties as he adjusted to playing in North America for the first time.
Financially, Seattle’s new first base platoon cost about the same as Trumbo. Moreover, Lind owned a career .274/.332/.466 triple-slash entering 2016, while Lee was an accomplished slugger in both Korean and Japanese baseball. The plan made a lot of sense when the Mariners broke camp in Peoria.
Then, the regular season happened.
Unfortunately, Lind’s on-base percentage (OBP) is at its lowest since he became a full-time player in 2009. Lee has played better than his counterpart, although he slashed a meager .078/.230/.157 with just one home run during the first month after the all-star break. Things got so bad for the 34-year-old that the Mariners optioned him to Class-AAA Tacoma in mid-August.
Although the struggles of the Mariners’ below average platoon frustrated fans, Trumbo’s success in Baltimore was salt on an open wound.
As of today, the slugger has a league-leading 42 home runs — a career high with two weeks remaining in the season. Even worse, he’s hitting those dingers for a team that the Mariners are chasing in the wild card race.
“Same old Mariners” decry those who believe Seattle should’ve held on to their former player. This miserable demographic points to former Mariners — who left via free agency or trade — and went on to be stars elsewhere. Names such as Adrian Beltre, Omar Vizquel, Jason Varitek, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Shin-Soo Choo, Doug Fister, Michael Pineda, and Michael Saunders are examples cited as colossal blunders made by previous Mariner front offices.
As far as the disgruntled are concerned, Dipoto kept up the club’s tradition of inept deal making by shipping away a star for a player who was nothing more than a placeholder for Mike Zunino. Outrageous, right?
Personally, I don’t see why any Seattle fans view Mark Trumbo in such high regard. I tweeted as much last night.
I’m not sure why so many #Mariners fans complain about the Trumbo trade. Hitting & scoring runs hasn’t been they’re problem.
— Luke Arkins (@luke_arkins) September 15, 2016
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Trumbo as a player or person. I think he’s a good player. Just not the franchise maker that some believe he is now.
Yes, it’s understandable why highlights of Trumbo hitting another four-bagger on ESPN or MLB Network might infuriate baseball fans in the Pacific Northwest. Especially, when so little value was received in return.
The Trumbo deal comes down to a singular issue.
Would the Mariners be better off with him over their Lind/Lee combo? Review the player’s production and decide for yourself.
|Trumbo v Lind/Lee |
|Dae-Ho Lee / Adam Lind||682||155||23||34||.246||.299||.444|
When you compare Trumbo’s production to that of the Lind/Lee pairing, there isn’t a significant difference. Yes, Trumbo’s hits more home runs that the Mariners duo. But, their slash numbers — batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage — are relatively similar to the Orioles outfielder.
In fact, if you deducted Trumbo’s eight extra home runs and the corresponding at bats, his slugging percentage drops to .471 — even closer to Lind/Lee. Are disgruntled Mariners fans solely basing their anxiety on those eight dingers?
There’s no denying that Trumbo’s season numbers are better than the production of Seattle’s first base platoon. But, has the Mariners’ offense suffered without his presence in their lineup?
Look at how the club stacks up in the American League in several offensive categories. What do you think?
|Seattle Mariners Offensive Production |
Despite the offensive output of this year’s ball club, some may to point to their battle with the Orioles — and several other teams — for a wild card berth and opine that Trumbo’s power bat would be a welcome addition.
Perhaps, but Trumbo’s output since the all-star break is significantly worse than his torrid first half. In fact, the Lind/Lee tandem have been better. Look for yourself.
|Second Half Production|
Trumbo continues to be the superior slugger. However, Lind/Lee have been more productive. That brings me to another question.
Who would you prefer to have at first base with 16 games remaining and a wild card berth at stake? Mark Trumbo or the combo of Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee.
For me, it’s a no-brainer. I’m taking the latter.
Sure, Trumbo could go on a tear down the home stretch. But, both Lind and Lee have been better during the last month.
|Last 28 Days |
Even after seeing these numbers, I’m sure some will continue to believe Dipoto made an ill-fated deal by sending Trumbo away. I might agree with them if he was a starting pitcher or late inning reliever.
Trumbo is neither though. Rather, he’s a slugger with a penchant for being a streaky hitter with slightly more upside than Lind and Lee. But, not enough to fret over.
I’m sure opponents of the Trumbo trade will remind me of this piece if the Orioles edge out the Mariners for a wild card berth or happen to beat Seattle in the wild card game thanks to a Trumbo bomb.
That’s a risk I’m willing to accept. It was a risk Dipoto was willing to take too.
In 2014, Luke joined the Prospect Insider team and is now a contributor at HERO Sports also. During baseball season, he can be often found observing the local team at Safeco Field.
You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins
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