2016 Statistics: .256/.316/.533, 47 HR, 123 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR
Age on Opening Day 2017: 30
Thinking about Mark Trumbo and the Yankees brings me back to simpler times, when the Yankees spent freely and (somewhat) carelessly, throwing money around to sloppily plug holes in their offense as a short-term fix. The previously simple formula can be applied to the 2016-2017 offseason in this way: Yankees need power, Mark Trumbo has power, Mark Trumbo wants money, Yankees have money, therefore Mark Trumbo is on the Yankees. Although most the last sentence still holds true, the final part—signing Trumbo—may no longer prove to be accurate.
Starting with the first part of the equation, though, the Yankees need power. And when I say they need power, I mean they really need power. Although the 2015 Yankees, a playoff team, scored the second most runs in baseball and hit the fourth-most home runs in the league, much of the powerful offense which guided them into the first Wild Card spot is gone.
The majority of that production came from Alex Rodriguez (33 home runs, .486 slugging percentage), Mark Teixeira (31, .548), Brian McCann (26, .437), and Carlos Beltran (19, .471). Now, all four of those sluggers have departed: the first two from retirement, the latter two from trades. Now two years removed from that playoff season, the Yankees are, unsurprisingly, a team starved for power. While they have an emerging middle-of-the-order threat in catcher Gary Sanchez, the only other batters in the lineup with slugging percentages over .385 last season were New York’s middle infielders, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius.
So, yes, the Yankees certainly need some pop in the lineup. If they can’t add some, whether in free agency or via trade, next year’s offense could be an ugly sight to see. Luckily, this winter’s free agent market is flush with power options, and the Yankees are a decent bet to sign any of them. Considering the Yankees are, in fact, the Yankees, it would make some sense to go after the player with the most power of all, last year’s major league home run leader: Mark Trumbo.
As mentioned in the initial formula, Mark Trumbo has quite a bit of power. His 47 homers last season were the most in baseball by four (next was Nelson Cruz at 43 dingers) and his isolated power mark was third-best in the league. Looking purely at last season, Trumbo has sure-fire, elite power. The story isn’t that simple, though, as the first baseman’s track record isn’t quite as illustrious, and his overall offensive production isn’t nearly as prolific as one would expect. As a result, the 30-year-old could be overrated this offseason.
Over a full 2015 season, Trumbo managed just 22 home runs and a .449 slugging percentage, and his injury-shortened 2014 featured an even poorer SLG (.415). Seasons prior to 2014 were better in terms of power production, but they also paint the picture of a hitter whose 2016 was an aberration, not the norm. In addition, Trumbo managed a mere 123 wRC+ last season despite the 47 round-trippers, a result of his high strikeout totals and low walk rates, leading to a poor on-base percentage. While the home runs are nice, that’s about all Trumbo can do.
So, while the Yankees do have the money to sign Trumbo, it’s unlikely that they’ll chase after 2016’s home run champion and complete the formula we’ve all come to expect. His big numbers do pop, but Trumbo’s future probably won’t contain nearly the same gaudy power totals from last year.
Trumbo’s new contract may not reflect this, though, which means a team like the ‘new’ Yankees, now far shrewder and not nearly as heavy-handed as they once were in the free agent market, will probably be out of the running. This is probably for the best, especially considering the other decent power options (not including Edwin Encarnacion, who may also fall into the Trumbo bucket) in free agency this offseason.