To Protect Paul Goldschmidt – What Mark Trumbo Does for AZ


It is December 11, 2013 and the Anaheim Angels, Chicago White Sox, and Arizona Diamondbacks work out a three team trade that brings Mark Trumbo to the desert, sends Adam Eaton to the south siders, and Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs end up in Anaheim.

Paul Goldschmidt needs protection” was the common thought regarding the logic behind this trade. In the world of baseball, it is often thought that your best hitter goes in the 3-hole, and that this hitter would be ‘protected’ by having another slugger behind him. The theory is that the hitter in the number 3 spot will get more pitches to hit, because walking him just paves the way to the number 4 hitter driving him in. Using this theory, Arizona makes the trade for Mark Trumbo to give protection to Paul Goldschmidt.

However, this thinking isn’t followed in the world of SABR. The common belief among sabermetricians is that this is strictly a theory, and has yet to be statistically proven one way or the other.

Mark Trumbo is kind of an enigma. He saw his first action in 2010, with Anaheim, but only played in 8 games and had 16 plate appearances. He spent those 8 games at 1B, RF, and DH – usually as a late inning replacement. In those 16 plate appearances, he hit .067, and drove in 2 with only 1 hit. Apparently, those numbers were sufficient for Trumbo to earn the starting job at 1B for the 2011 season, where his slash line was .254/.291/.477 with 29 HRs and 87 RBI. Given the power production, his OPS+ for 2011 was 114, where 100 is league average which is definitely good enough to stay in the bigs. So he has to keep his starting job at 1B for the Angels, right? Not so fast…

Come 2012, the Angels have a new look. First base can no longer be manned by Mark Trumbo, because there’s a much more familiar face there now – Albert Pujols. The Angels move Trumbo to the outfield, where he played a few games in 2010 and 2011, and what does he do? He makes the All-Star Team with a slash line of .268/.317/.491, while driving in 95 with 32 homers. This goes back to the “myth” of protection, as Trumbo spent most of his season batting 4th, behind Pujols – and all he did was put up the best numbers of his career.

2013 would prove to be Trumbo’s last year in Anaheim, as his numbers came back down to a little more Trumbo-esque .234/.294/.453 with an OPS+ of 109 – quite the deflation from his 2012 OPS+ of 124. However, even with a .234 BA, he drove in 100 and belted 34 homers, which was obviously enough for the Diamondbacks and Kevin Towers to take an interest in him in their pursuit to protect Goldschmidt.

Paul Goldschmidt was becoming Arizona’s First Baseman of the Future. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

2014 marked Trumbo’s arrival in Phoenix, and as he first dresses out in Sedona Red, some fans are ecstatic, other fans are mixed, and even more fans are (and have been) against Trumbo being a Diamondback since the day the trade unfolded. Tyler Skaggs for a guy with a career batting average below .250?

Trumbo hit .235/.293/,415 for Arizona in 2014, albeit in only 88 games due to an injury to his left foot, which cost him the remainder of the season. The positives to come from his 2014 injury-shortened season were 14 homers and 61 RBI, in only 328 ABs.

If Trumbo could come into ’15 fully healthy and find a way to hit at least .250/.300/.475, I’d be content with his numbers – and most fans should be as well. However, his production (or lack thereof) is no longer the only problem. As Arizona seems to like doing, they yet again have an abundance of outfielders.

Here is the ridiculous list of Major League ready outfielders for Arizona – Ender Inciarte, David Peralta, Mark Trumbo, AJ Pollock, Cody Ross, and most likely Yasmani Tomas as well. Although it has been rumored that Tomas could start the season in AAA or even manning 3B for the big club, it seems the decision has yet to be made.

In my opinion, Trumbo needs to be traded, but the chances are very good there wouldn’t be many teams with any serious interest. Trumbo is arbitration eligible for 2015, and in 2014 earned $4.8MM, a number likely to go up at least a little bit for 2015. While I am of the opinion that Trumbo needs to be traded – for multiple reasons – I just don’t see it happening. If it does, I would expect Arizona to absorb a substantial chunk of the salary, and get minimal return. That being said, a trade of Trumbo doesn’t seem worthwhile. If the DBacks are going to pay the majority of his contract, they may as well get something out of his 30 homers.

Trumbo’s worth is entirely dependent upon a belief that has yet to be statistically proven – that lineup protection is more than just a myth. There are numbers that support both sides of the argument, so it’s really dependent on individual perspective. Where does your opinion lie?