Josh Hamilton has agreed to a five year, $125M contract with the Los Angeles Angels this afternoon, locking up a corner outfield spot for the next few years. With Vernon Wells still owed $21M the next two seasons, that leaves Mark Trumbo or Kendrys Morales expendable. Morales doesn’t have much value to the Braves, but Trumbo could slide into left field at a nice price.
The best comparison I can give for Trumbo is Mike Morse. His plate discipline is awful, but the raw power is off-the-charts. In his first two seasons, the soon-to-be 27-year-old has hit .259/.302/.478 while playing a below-average corner outfield and decent at first base. He’s been just above average during that span, though he hasn’t been the most consistent player. After starting this past season with four great months, August and September were Uggla-esque, hitting .202/.246/.293. I don’t have any proof of this, but high-strikeout players seem to be streakier.
Trumbo is still one year away from arbitration, so he would only be making the minimum this coming season. This would give the Braves a chance to acquire a quality bench bat, likely after trading Juan Francisco. It would add even more strikeouts to a whiff-heavy lineup, but he is probably the only cheap impact bat remaining on the market. The lineup would have a lot of 5/6 hitters, but it would be better than having Francisco and Reed Johnson getting consistent starts.
This move also makes Peter Bourjos a likely trade candidate, making the B.J. Upton deal seem even worse. They are essentially the same style of hitter, though Upton has more power, but Bourjos is an elite defensive centerfielder, in the class of Michael Bourn. Upton is not likely to be much more effective than Bourjos, but the Braves will pay a whole lot more money for Upton than whoever pays the minimum salary for Bourjos. If the Braves would have went for a quality left fielder first, Bourjos would have been a nice secondary addition.
The Braves paid market value or higher at a position that had plenty of below-market players. The effects of the poor free agent deals are somewhat offset by the large amount of cost-controlled quality players. However, the poor farm system, especially on the position player side, will likely rear its ugly head in a couple years when guys like Jason Heyward, Brandon Beachy, Freddie Freeman, and others start making a lot of money. A mid-market team paying market value for a bulk of its talent will not get too far.