About two minutes after Albert Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels, the discussion among Pittsburgh Pirates fans (and any other team looking for a first baseman) shifted to “what would it take to get Mark Trumbo”? The theory is that with Pujols and Kendrys Morales, the Angels wouldn’t need Trumbo, and would look to deal him elsewhere. The Angels haven’t really said that they’d be trading Trumbo, and it doesn’t make sense for them to do so with the future of Morales uncertain. They’ve actually said that they’ll find a spot for Trumbo, mentioning third base, so any hope for a trade might be wishful thinking.
It’s no secret why Pirates fans want Trumbo. The Pirates don’t have a lot of power in their lineup. Pedro Alvarez has the best power potential on the team, and he’s a huge question mark going in to the 2012 season. Andrew McCutchen hits for power, but more along the lines of a number two power source. Trumbo hit 29 homers in his first full season in the majors last year. That followed a season where he hit 36 homers at the AAA level. He only hit 15 homers in AA during the 2009 season, but had 32 homers between high-A and AA in 2008, with most of those coming at the high-A level.
Pirates fans have become obsessed with power, to the point that they’ll want anyone with power. There’s no question that Trumbo has that power, but what else does he have? He walked just 4.4% of the time in 2011. He hit for a .254 average. The combination led to a .291 on-base percentage. His 29 home runs looked good, but what happens if his power drops to 20-25 home runs as a right handed hitter in PNC Park? That’s a major drop in value when you consider that the bulk of his value comes from his power.
To get an idea of what it would take to get Trumbo in a trade, let’s look at his trade value.
Explanation: Trumbo is under team control for five seasons. He had a 2.3 WAR in 2011, so I stuck with that number for the duration of his team control. I also went with the 40/60/80 scale based off of that WAR. Those numbers might seem high, but arbitration heavily values home runs, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to receive this amount if he continues putting up 25-30 homers a year.
What He’s Worth: A lot of Trumbo’s value comes from his two league minimum years. He’s a huge value if he can repeat his 2011 season under league minimum pay. If he was being traded prior to his arbitration years, he’d have about $14.4 M in trade value. That’s a little less than the value of a top pitching prospect, or the value of two lesser prospects. Right now he’s worth a top 10 hitting prospect, with most of that value coming in the first two years.
Analysis: The only thing that gives Trumbo value is his power. He hit 29 home runs last year, but so did Josh Willingham. Willingham also had a low average, with a .246 line. However, Willingham actually drew a few walks, leading to a .332 on-base percentage and a higher OPS. There’s not a huge demand to add Willingham to the Pirates, even though he hit 29 homers last year and has hit 20+ homers in four of his last six seasons (he had less than 400 at-bats in the other two). I’m not going to say that power isn’t a good thing to have, but it can’t be the only thing you have. At this point it doesn’t seem like the Angels will trade Trumbo, but even if they were dealing him, I wouldn’t give up prospects to get him when a player with similar value could be had on the free agent market for only the cost of money.