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A Case to Extend Mark Trumbo

We know the kind of player he's going to be. If his recent performance is an indication, he's about to come into his prime here soon, if he hasn't begun it already. And if Jerry Dipoto is as committed to his youthful core as he says he is, it's probably time to lock up Trumbo and throw away the key. Is now the time to do it, and if so, what will it take?

"Albert, is there a chance I'll make your kind of money someday?"
"Albert, is there a chance I'll make your kind of money someday?"
Scott Halleran

Out of many things that seem to be downing on us this season, one constant thing to uplift us as Angels fans is watching a Trumbomb sail towards the San Fernando Valley.

Mark Trumbo has been nothing short of a blessing ever since he was penciled into an Opening Day lineup. Okay, well...maybe a little short when he first came up. His .291 on-base percentage his rookie season was atrocious, and likely cost him the AL Rookie of the Year in 2011 (which went to Jeremy Hellickson, who is falling back to earth this season).

Since then, however, he's had an appearance in the All-Star Game AND in the Home Run Derby (when the whole nation got to see Trumbombs fly out of Kansas City and onto the I-70), and because he started his career later than usual, at the age of 25, he's coming into his prime earlier in his career, at the age of 27 and in the midst of his third full season. He's matured his hitting a bit, and looked on his way to a monstrous season last year before a wickedly cold second half brought him back to near career averages.

This season, his batting average hasn't been spectacular, but consistent with what we know he does (.267, slightly up from a career mark of .260). However, what's an encouraging sign of him coming into his own is a look at the other two stats in his slash line: His on-base percentage is currently sitting at .341 (which is far up from his career mark of .307) and his slugging percentage is currently .521 (which is also quite far up from his career mark of .486). He's on pace to set career highs in runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in AND walks (and also strikeouts, but we'll just set that aside for now). What could all this mean?

Ladies and gentlemen, we may be witnessing Mark Trumbo enter into the prime of his career.

What's more, is that we may be witnessing Mark Trumbo enter into the prime of his career in his final pre-arbitration year. This is huge. VERY huge.

The Angels have done a fine job locking up their young core in recent years, signing Jered Weaver (5 years, $85 million), Howie Kendrick (4 years, $33.5 million) and Erick Aybar (5 years, $40.08 million) to extensions that will keep them on the team collectively until at least the end of the 2015 season. This offseason would be a PRIME time to continue that trend, as Trumbo and Peter Bourjos enter their arb years, and Mike Trout to follow the season after.

This begs the question: Should the Angels go to arbitration with Trumbo at all, or lock him up to an extension? And if they lock him up, what does it take to do it?

If the Angels operate under the belief that Trumbo is entering his prime, it'd be very wise to lock him up now, unless the team rolls over and trades everything (but let's face it, nobody will ever let that happen). The problem with locking him up is that there aren't really many comparables to go off of. The only young first baseman locked up recently is Paul Goldschmidt, and the Diamondbacks extended him after just about one and a quarter seasons played to a 5-year, $32 million contract. Is that a fair enough comparison?

No. It isn't. Goldschmidt and Trumbo are completely different hitters. Goldschmidt, to be frank, has a higher ceiling, with the ability to hit for average, coupled with his ability to get on base, and respectable power. His first full season resulted in a .286/.359/.490 slash line, compared to Trumbo's .254/.291/.477. Goldschmidt, too, may be entering his prime, but he is also two full years younger than Trumbo, getting his extension headed into his age-25 season. Trumbo's would be heading into age-28. Trumbo, truth be told, is either not a hitter for average, or he is yet to become one. Even if the latter is the case, Trumbo IS older, which would hurt his side of the negotiations. Goldschmidt's contract will be up when he turns 30, or 31 if his option is picked up. Trumbo will be 30 during his third arbitration year.

So with Goldschmidt's contract out of the picture as a comparable, what would the Angels have to go off of?

It took some scouring, and some stretching thereafter, but I found three decent enough comparables to present. They aren't identical to Trumbo's case, but they're something.

First, I present Jay Buhner. He who was drafted by the Pirates, then traded to the Yankees, then to the Mariners as he hit his groove (and simultaneously was lamented on Seinfeld). After he became a household name in Seattle, he hit free agency heading into an uncertain 1995 season. The Mariners signed him to a 5-year, $24 million extension (not including bonuses), which would be worth approximately $36 million now. This, however, came when Buhner was going into his age-30 season. The Mariners did get three very productive years from him at the beginning, but 1998 and 1999 saw Buhner battle with injuries to the expiration of the deal. He had an average of approximately 2.1 WAR over those five years; however, if all totals are projected across 162 games, he has a "WAR-162," or average WAR per 162 games, of 2.6. All in all, a deal very likely worth it for the Mariners.

The second comparable here is Cecil Fielder and his contract extension with the Tigers. After returning from a season in Japan and absolutely tearing it up in his first two seasons back, the Tigers and Fielder came to an agreement for five years and $29.4375 million (not including bonuses), which would be worth approximately $49 million today. While he never surpassed 40 home runs in a season again (coming close in the first and last seasons of his deal), he didn't quite have the same luck with WAR that Buhner did, never earning more than 2.7 in any season of the extension. His bat was still mighty throughout the deal, but defense and baserunning were naturally atrocious. Fielder was going into his age-28 season (as Trumbo would be after this season), and Fielder's deal was merited almost solely on his offense. As Trumbo is slightly more agile than Fielder was, his deal, if based solely on Fielder, would possibly be worth more.

Thirdly, we stumble upon the late Ivan Calderon. He was entering his age-29 season with Montreal when the team signed him to a deal worth three years and $7.8 million (not including bonuses), which would now be worth approximately $13 million. He responded with a career year in 1991, followed by an injury-plagued 1992 and his release before the 1993 season.

The three aforementioned deals have average annual values (AAVs) in present-day dollars of, respectively, $7.2 million, $9.8 million, and $4.33 million. This results in a mean AAV of approximately $7.1 million, although all three deals were of different merit and reason.

Would Trumbo be worth an AAV of $7 million? Or more? Or less? Two of his active comparables in terms of level of play are Jason Kubel and Carlos Quentin, whose AAVs are $8 million and $9.25 million, respectively. Kubel has a similar power stroke with average-at-best OBP totals, and if that gets him $8 million, Trumbo is certainly on that level.

Five years is a general consensus for extending a franchise cornerstone these days, especially if planning to buy out free agent years (any five-year deal with Trumbo would buy out two free agent years). He's looking at a big raise next season if his present totals hold up and pace themselves out. The question remains, though...will that big raise translate into multiple years to accompany it?

My personal take? Trumbo's worth a five-year, $45 million extension. His bat would be SORELY missed if he walked as a free agent after 2016, and money would be a poor reason to lose him (especially as C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar will all have contracts coming off of the books then).

What do you think?