Mark Trumbo enjoyed a monster rookie season in 2011. The 26-year old slugging first baseman stepped into the starting lineup and stayed there last season when Kendrys Morales was forced to miss the entire season with a second surgery to repair his broken leg. In his absence, Trumbo shined, leading the team in home runs, with 29, and RBIs with 87 while hitting .254. He delivered on his potential as 30-homer a year prospect, a mark he likely would have hit had his season not been cut short by a stress fracture in his foot. Trumbo had surgery to repair the foot, and doctors have officially cleared him to resume baseball activities, just in time for the start of Spring Training. However, Trumbo finds himself a man without a position. With the free agent signing of Albert Pujols to a hefty 10-year deal and the team’s show of faith in the still injured Kendrys Morales for the designated hitter position, Mark Trumbo is going to have to find a new spot to rest his fielding glove if he hopes to continue on as a contributing member of the Angels. Let’s break down his possible spots in the lineup.
This would be Trumbo’s natural position and the one he had his breakout year in last season. This year, however, Trumbo will have a difficult time getting this spot back as the Angels went out and gave Albert Pujuls a 10-year $240 million contract, which pretty much bricks over the glass ceiling keeping Trumbo from breaking into the starting lineup permanently at this position. Add in the fact that the Angels have given their vote of confidence to Kendrys Morales and his rehabilitation with a one year, $2.975 million to serve as the teams primary designated hitter and likely backup to Pujols when he gets a day off, and Trumbo gets pushed further down the depth chart at first base. Looking ahead to the future doesn’t help his case, either, as the Angels have prospect C.J. Cron who is projected to be another 30-home run bat at first base as insurance in the event the Morales plan doesn’t pan out long term. Barring injuries to some high priced talent in Spring Training, first base looks to be closed to Trumbo.
Third base has been reported as a position that is still in flux, with no sure starter penciled in yet. Alberto Collaspo stepped into the position last season and filled it well leading the team in batting average (.288) and on-base percentage (.366). He also provided a steady presence on defense, posting a .959 fielding percentage from the hot corner. His primary backup last year was utility man Maicer Izturis who also provided a steady defensive presence. Neither player has the offensive power that Trumbo brings to the lineup, but there is serious questions about whether he could play the position without being a defensive liability. His size works against him, as a 6’4″ frame is not always conducive to great reaction time for a third basemen. Add in the fact that he’s coming off a stress fracture injury in his foot, and there are serious questions about his lateral range that come into question. Offensively, Trumbo is without a doubt an upgrade in the power department, but he doesn’t get on base as much as Callaspo or have his speed on the basepaths. The questions about his defensive ability in a brand new position make it unlikely for Trumbo to replace the incumbent Collaspo at third base.
Last season, outfield was the only other position that Trumbo saw playing time at, appearing in right field for ten games and left field for one. However, the Angels are pretty well set with their outfield at this point. In left is the albatross contract of Vernon Wells who is scheduled to make more than $26 million this season, and has received a vote of confidence from general manager Jerry Dipoto who says, “Vernon’s our left fielder,” according to ESPN.com’s Mark Saxon. The enormous amount of money that the Angels owe to Wells pretty much guarantees him a spot in the lineup, as you aren’t going to sit a guy making $26 million on your bench, no matter how low his batting average (.218) or on-base percentage (.248) fall. In right field, Torii Hunter proved that he still has something in the tank during the second half of last season and is currently in the last year of a deal that will pay him $18.5 million this season. His defensive ability and big salary make it doubtful that Hunter will be displaced. If any spot were to open up in the outfield, however, it would most likely go to super prospect Mike Trout, who is eagerly waiting in the wings for an opportunity to take his spot in the Angels’ outfield. It’s a crowded outfield for the Angels, which leaves no room for Trumbo to make a home out there.
When you think of where to put a big bat who isn’t likely to beat out anyone for a defensive position, designated hitter is the obvious answer to turn to. However, the Angels have already laid out their plans for the DH in 2012, and Trumbo doesn’t seem to be a part of it. To start the season, the DH role belongs to Bobby Abreu, who is slated to make $9 million this season (another contract you can’t sit), who acted in the same capacity last season. In 2011, Abreu hit .253 with only 8 home runs, but his on-base percentage was .353 and he was excellent at making pitchers pitch to him as he took 78 walks last season (9th in the AL). The Angels are committed to Abreu at the DH just as long as Kendrys Morales is not cleared to return to the team. They have shown their confidence that he will be back, however, and when he is cleared, he will step into the role of primary DH for the Angels, where they hope he will step back into his 2010 pre-injury form. At that point, Abreu will hit the trading block which could open up a backup spot on the bench for a DH type or the Angels may prefer to use the roster spot on a more versatile position player that can fill situational needs for the team as they come up. Either way, Trumbo will not be first in line for the DH spot barring injuries in Spring Training.
Congratulations on your breakout season, Mark Trumbo! Now prepare to be trade bait. Basically, the Angels find themselves with a surplus of first basemen, and Trumbo finds himself as the odd man out. Pujols will be starting there as long as he can stand up or his decade-long contract expires, and the Angels are committed to giving Kendrys Morales every opportunity to return to form. Trumbo is a good commodity and would be able to bring excellent value back to the club. As ESPN Insider Jim Bowden suggests, trading Trumbo for a solid arm, such as Wade Davis from Tampa Bay, would benefit both clubs (as the Rays find themselves overrun with quality pitchers). The Rays could get a young power bat to solidify first base for them for years to come, and the Angels could gain a fifth starter or a potential back end of the bullpen arm to pair with closer Jordan Walden and really firm up their late game bullpen.
In any case, the future is uncertain for Mark Trumbo as an Angel after his impressive rookie season. What would you like to see the team do with Trumbo?