Since the day he was acquired, Mark Trumbo has been sort of a lightening rod for the Arizona Diamondbacks. There are those who can’t wait to see “Trum-bombs” all over Chase Field and there are those who think the team made a mistake dealing for a guy who has a propensity for home runs and not much else. Either you think he will do an outstanding job “protecting” Paul Goldschmidt or you think the club paid a high price in trading Tyler Skaggs and also surrendered cost control with Trumbo having just completed his first brush with arbitration. Both viewpoints are strong but because there seems to be high emotions on both ends. I’d like to examine why you should be happy the new left fielder but also take a reasoned approach as to why he will benefit the D’backs.
While numbers are an excellent indicators of performance, they should not be relied on as the be all, end all in player evaluations. My first thought when I heard about the negativity regarding Trumbo’s all around game was the trade the New York Yankees made 21 years ago to help build their most recent dynasty. By 1992, there were two big names on the Yanks during a depressing stretch of baseball in the Bronx. One was Don Mattingly and the other was Roberto Kelly. Kelly was the team’s lone All-Star that year and the first guy who came up through the system and succeeded on the Major League level since………Don Mattingly. Gene Michael, one of the most underrated talent evaluators of all time, decided to trade Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for right fielder Paul O’Neill. Yankees fans were incensed. The team traded their only All-Star for a guy two years older and who came off a season hitting a career-low .246. If you are any kind of fan, you know the rest of the story. While O’Neill was a fine player in Cincinnati, helping them win the World Series in 1990, his Yankee numbers, which included a batting title and four straight 100 RBI seasons, dwarf his Reds’ numbers.
The point is that I believe Trumbo will be a better player because of a change in scenery. While his homers and RBI’s increased in 2013, on-base and slugging decreased while strikeouts rose by 31. How much of that can be attributed to the fact the Los Angeles Angels underachieved badly last season? There is no way to quantify that but you can’t tell me that the dismal team record had nothing to do with it. I am not looking for the guy to become an above average defensive outfielder with an on-base average of .350. I don’t expect that. I do expect that he can be adequate in left (he does have A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra to cover a lot of ground for him) and that he can cut down on his strikeouts. The home runs will be there, the RBI opportunities will be plentiful. The one thing he CAN NOT do is leave guys at third with less than two outs. I am confident he will come through more often than not.
Now, before the comparison to O’Neill gets too far, I don’t believe his numbers will show that drastic a jump like Paulie’s. Nor do I think he will become a D’back icon like O’Neill was to Yankee fans. That’s OK. You don’t need an All Star at every position and you don’t need a diamond full of players with WAR’s of 5.0 to be successful. Find the right mix of character, talent and hustle. Mark Trumbo will fit in nicely in Arizona and help them be a winner.