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MLB trade rumors: Why are the Oakland A’s interested in Mark Trumbo?

Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s have “reached out” to free agent slugger Mark Trumbo, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports on Wednesday.

This is not the first time this winter that Oakland has shown interest in a right-handed power hitter, as they made a run at Edwin Encarnacion in December but missed out when he signed with the Indians. Joe Stiglich of CSN also notes that general manager David Forst has left the door open to adding another right-handed bat, “which lends weight to [the] report they like Trumbo.”

Trumbo led the majors with 47 home runs last year, but his low OBP and negative defensive marks mean he was only about a 2-win player (1.6 bWAR, 2.2 fWAR). He played mostly RF last year, poorly but not disastrously, and has also played a decent 1B in the past. He’ll be 31 years old next season.

End report. Begin hot takes.

I don’t get it.

Let’s leave aside that I don’t think Trumbo is a good fit for the A’s right now, just as I wasn’t completely sold on pursuing Encarnacion. He doesn’t improve their MLB-worst defense, which still needs help even after signing Rajai Davis. He doesn’t boost their AL-worst OBP; adding Matt Joyce was a good start, but they’ve also lost their top two on-base men from last year (Reddick, Valencia). Trumbo brings a powerful all-or-nothing right-handed bat (albeit with no career platoon splits) and shaky corner defense. The A’s already have those things.

But hey, Khris Davis was arguably Oakland’s best position player last year, so maybe adding a second one would help. Let’s continue under that assumption.

Trumbo almost certainly enjoyed his career year in 2016, and I don’t want the A’s to overpay for it. His power is undeniable, but 47 dingers are a lot, even for him. If he “only” hits 30-35, which is a more normal total for him and still really good, then he’s a 2-win first baseman or a 1-win corner outfielder. Whoever signs him this winter, for multiple years at eight figures per (plus a draft pick), will be overpaying for that career year.

That doesn’t mean Trumbo is a bad player. He really does bring an elite skill, and he’ll probably help his next team. But last year he played on a one-year, $9 million deal, and I’m not entirely sure he’s a different guy now than he was then. Craig Edwards of FanGraphs shares a similar opinion.

If the A’s desperately needed power then I’d understand, but that’s not the case. Why go cheap on a CF stopgap, with nothing in the minor league pipeline to look forward to at that position, but then go big to sign a corner slugger who is almost a carbon copy of the one you already have, right as several more corner sluggers are emerging from Triple-A Nashville? It seems to me a bizarre allocation of resources, even if the A’s have a bit of extra cash to burn and a decreasing number of options to spend it on.

When the A’s were going after Encarnacion, I at least understood, even though I wasn’t completely sold on the idea. His bat is as sure of a thing as there is in MLB right now, and he would address the team weakness in OBP. But Trumbo is a significant drop down from Encarnacion, below the point where the same arguments hold water. Getting him would mean a double-whammy of overpaying for a bad fit.

For now, this is only a report about the A’s kicking the tires on Trumbo. Hopefully it doesn’t proceed beyond that point.