Posted on January 8, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
The twists and turns of the Mark Trumbo-Baltimore Orioles saga this winter have been both exhausting and difficult to follow. The two sides broke off talks prior to Christmas, making a reunion appear less likely. However, the door has not been closed, even after the Orioles acquired outfielder Seth Smith in a trade. But in a rather interesting twist, Baltimore vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette hinted on Sunday during a radio interview that the Orioles may be willing to let Trumbo sign somewhere else so that can receive an extra draft pick, as Trumbo declined a qualifying offer from Baltimore at the start of the offseason.
“As far as the Orioles go, we kind of like the draft pick. The value of that draft pick has been enhanced with the negotiations of the new basic agreement,” Duquette said. He is referring to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will make it more difficult to receive draft-pick compensation for losing a free agent. Starting next winter, players can only receive a qualifying offer once in their career, and an extra draft pick will only be given if the player declines the offer and then signs a contract worth more than $50 million. “In other words, that’s about the last time you can acquire that level of pick for a compensation free agent,” Duquette added.
The Orioles don’t have a particularly impressive farm system, and so the extra draft pick could be useful for them. It seems unlikely that the promise of an extra draft pick would be the deciding factor in the Orioles closing the door completely on last year’s home run king. But it could give them a nudge away from Trumbo, especially after he declined a four-year, $52 million offer from the Orioles earlier this offseason.
During his interview on Sunday, Duquette admitted that Baltimore is looking to add an outfielder before the start of the season. He also said that the team could favor some of the other players available via free agency or trade who may not require the kind of long-term commitment that Trumbo is hoping to receive.
“We like some of the other options, some of the shorter-term options on the market that look to be a little bit more cost-effective for the club,” Duquette said. “That’s how we’re proceeding in terms of assembling our team to have a good, competitive team again next year. We’re still looking for some more outfield help.”
Without even mentioning Trumbo by name, Duquette’s comments are perhaps the most revealing we’ve heard about the slugger all winter. That’s not to say that Duquette and the Orioles would say no to Trumbo if he were to come around and accept an offer similar to the four-year deal that was on the table last month. However, Baltimore’s desire to gain an extra draft pick, improve defensively, and add players on short-term contracts would signal that the Orioles no longer have a strong interest in re-signing Trumbo.
A return to Baltimore always seemed like the most likely scenario for Trumbo, even after both sides walked away from the negotiating table last month. But based on Duquette’s comments on Sunday, that may no longer be the case.