Posted on December 11, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Of all the teams in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles are facing some of the toughest decisions this offseason. Two of the top free agents still available were both with the Orioles in 2016 in Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters, and while they would like to re-sign both, doing so may not be realistic. Meanwhile, not being able to sign either one would leave them in a precarious position following a season in which they reached the postseason. Thus, the team faces some difficult decisions ahead, and at least for now, the Orioles appear to have chosen Trumbo as their top priority.
Recent reports out of Baltimore signal that Trumbo has become the team’s focal point among free agents, and with good reason. Trumbo is coming off a season in which he led the majors with 47 home runs, becoming a huge part of Baltimore’s lineup during his first season with the Orioles. The soon-to-be 31-year old appears to be in the prime of his career and may have a few more seasons like 2016 still left in him. Trumbo also fits well into Baltimore’s approach at the plate as a team that loves hitting the long ball.
Right now, the Orioles reportedly believe that the offer they’ve made to Trumbo is the best one he has received thus far. There are rumors that Trumbo and the Orioles have the framework of a four-year deal in place but are not all that close on the details of the deal. Meanwhile, Trumbo appears to have at least a few other suitors, including the Mariners, Rockies, and Indians. There has also been speculation that a team like the St. Louis Cardinals could make a late play for Trumbo, potentially giving the slugger plenty of options.
At the moment, there’s reason for the Orioles to be optimistic about re-signing Trumbo, but the team also appears aware of its other options. The Orioles appear to be willing to give first base prospect Trey Mancini a chance to be the team’s DH if Trumbo isn’t back in Baltimore in 2017. Mancini hit 20 home runs and 26 doubles in the minors last season. He then had five hits in 14 at bats, including three home runs, during a short stint in the majors. Mancini may not have Trumbo’s power, but he may be a more well-refunded hitter. Also, if Mancini isn’t the DH, there may be no place to put him, as he’s blocked at first base by Chris Davis.
There are also reports that the Orioles have significant interest in catcher Welington Castillo. The Orioles appear willing to offer Castillo a two-year deal, while the veteran backstop wants three years, so nothing is imminent, but there is a strong connection between Baltimore and Castillo. Signing Castillo would mean the Orioles wouldn’t bring back Wieters, which could make them more likely to pursue Trumbo and make sure he returns in 2017.
Looking at the shape of Baltimore’s lineup right now, they definitely need to sign at least Trumbo or Wieters, possibly both. Right now, Trumbo appears to be their top choice, and there seems to have been some progress in the talks between the two sides. However, nothing is set in stone, and the Orioles still have some difficult decisions ahead of them.