Just to be clear, there's been no tangible connection between the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds OF Adam Duvall. What's clear, though, is that the Orioles and GM Dan Duquette left this week's GM Meetings having stated clearly that they wish to add an OF to their already potent lineup for the 2017 season, as MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli reported on Tuesday.
Orioles top priority is OF. Duquette said he feels good about the starting pitching, rotation depth.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) November 8, 2016
So, why exactly am I looping Duvall into this mess? Well, a follow-up tweet from Ghiroli and a commonly-cited player comparison from early 2016 turned on a light bulb in the speech balloon above my comic book head.
Baltimore would like to keep Trumbo but don't have a lot of wiggle room salary wise because of moves last winter.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) November 8, 2016
That's Mark Trumbo they're referring to, of course, the now free agent slugger who bashed an MLB-best 47 dingers in 2016 while making 96 starts in the OF for Baltimore. He was extended the $17.2 million Qualifying Offer by the Orioles, but in such a light free agent market, it's presumed that the 30 year old will look to cash-in on a big contract instead of accepting that QO, which might well price the Orioles out of his market completely, as Duquette mentioned and Ghiroli relayed.
Baltimore, for reference, opened the 2016 season with a whopping $147 million payroll, a team record and significant step-up from the $118 million they spent in 2015 and a far cry from the $73 million doled out in 2010. With the monster $154 million contract signed by Chris Davis on the books for 6 more seasons and the looming arbitration raises (and contract extension, they surely hope) for superstar 3B Manny Machado, it's easy to see how the Orioles would love to find a way to replicate some portion of Trumbo's slugging ability at a far smaller overall price tag.
Trumbo, however, has long been brutal defensively, whether in the OF or at 3B (where he broke into the big leagues with the Los Angeles Angels). He's compiled -6.4 dWAR over the course of his career and posted a dismal -18.3 runs saved just last season, which has the Orioles wishing to add defensive prowess in the OF upgrade they currently seek, as Eduardo Encina of The Baltimore Sun said this morning in a piece connecting Baltimore to free agent (and former Gold Glove winner) Josh Reddick.
Reddick fits the Orioles' perceived desire to add a LH OF, though Encina details his long term struggles with hitting LHP, as well as the multi-year, multi-million price tag he'll command as a free agent as factors that make him not exactly the ideal candidate. And it's piecing together those particular elements - price tag, dingerbility, defensive prowess, and the ability to hit both RHP and LHP - that led me to Duvall.
Trumbo's obviously got a significantly larger sample of career hitting in the big leagues, and owns a .776 OPS over that duration. During that time, he's averaged 34 homers, 99 RBI, 44 BB, and 163 K per 162 games played, his .303 career OBP trailing significantly his career SLG of .473. Pardon me if this sounds repetitive, but Duvall has cobbled together a career .771 OPS, during which time he's amassed career averages of 32 homers, 92 RBI, 40 BB, and 166 K per 162 games played, with his career OBP of .291 training significantly his rather impressive .490 career SLG.
If that's not fun enough for you, Duvall just wrapped a 2016 season in which he belted 70 extra-base hits in 608 PA, or in 11.8% of his PA. Trumbo, to further emphasize the select few stats I've cherry picked to make my point look better, slapped 75 extra-base hits in his 667 PA in 2016, or 11.2% of the time. I think you see where I'm going with this.
Between the $9+ million spent on Trumbo in 2016 and the near $6 million they spent on Pedro Alvarez, it's clear that Baltimore has a penchant for seeking players with significant slugging skills, often at the expense of gaudy - or even league average - OBP numbers. It echoes their signing of Nelson Cruz prior to the 2014 season (he of the career .327 OBP to that point), as well as the continued use of both JJ Hardy and Jonathan Schoop as regulars over the last year. If ever there was a player that could seemingly fit that mold without question, it may well be Duvall, who just turned 28 years old in September.
It's Duvall's defense that makes him stand out against the likes of Cruz, Alvarez, and Trumbo in particular, and since defense is now a priority in the OF the Orioles seek, the 2016 NL Gold Glove finalist ticks a box Baltimore hasn't had in recent years. That he's also still making the league-minimum salary and won't be arbitration eligible until 2019 also makes him the exception in this bunch, as he'd come with a price tag the Orioles would sincerely appreciate given their growing payroll.
Two significant factors could preclude this even having legs in the eyes of those in charge of these decisions, however. Aside from the first, most obvious one - that the Reds would have to be willing to part with a player as desirable as Duvall for all the reasons mentioned - Duvall hits right-handed, which wouldn't appear to fit the mold they'd discussed with the media. However, Duvall posted a .795 OPS against RHP in 2016, an identical .795 OPS against LHP in 2016, and for his career has the kind of platoon splits (.793 vs. RHP, .708 vs. LHP) that represent those you'd expect to see from a vintage left-handed hitter.
From the Reds' perspective, there's at least a decent thought process that would lead to them being willing to trade Duvall. At 28, he's one of the older members of the rebuilding roster, with the only older members of the projected 25-man roster at the moment either too injured to be traded (Homer Bailey & Devin Mesoraco), owning no-trade clauses (Brandon Phillips & Joey Votto), or being actively shopped (Zack Cozart). Factor in his 2nd half slide after an unexpected 1st half breakout, and it's easy to see why they may think his opening few months were more mirage than what they can count on. There's also MLB-ready OF Jesse Winker waiting in AAA, too, and he's going to need an opening for regular at-bats in the very near future.
Baltimore kicked the tires on adding former Red Jay Bruce repeatedly over the last few seasons, and if they came knocking about Duvall they just might find exactly what it is they're looking for. But for the same reasons he'd be attractive to them, he's attractive to the Reds, too. The question then becomes whether the Reds consider Duvall a bridge to being competitive again, or a fundamental building block for the next good Reds team, since that will ultimately set the price for moving him.