Angels let a great person get away by trading Mark Trumbo

Mark Trumbo had a career highs last season with 34 home runs, 100 RBIs and 159 games played.
(Patrick T. Fallon / Los Angeles Times)

Mark Trumbo was traded Tuesday. He went from being an Angel to a Diamondback.

If we are talking personality only, the previous name suited him better. There is nothing venomous, nor ever will be, about Trumbo.

He took the trade the way he takes everything else.

“I’m pretty much all right with anything,” he said during an interview a few days later. He was responding specifically to a question about playing various positions. But the answer can stand as an all-inclusive definition of the man.

As a baseball player, Trumbo is an exceptional talent.

He is 27 and had three full seasons with the Angels. The numerical progression in those three years says much. Home runs: 29, 32, 34; runs batted in: 87, 95, 100; games played: 149, 144, 159; walks, 25, 36, 54.

As a person, Trumbo is exceptionally normal. In the context of a professional athletes’ world of fast cars, big paychecks and daily hero-worshipping, he is exceptionally abnormal.


Pro athletes who spend their careers in the spotlight seldom bother to step out and walk over to the guy running the big light to ask about his family. Trumbo is one who would.

He is stunningly even-keeled. If you ever hear that he has started a fight, cursed an umpire or publicly called out a teammate, you’ve heard wrong. When he hits a home run, he smiles. When he strikes out, he grimaces. It’s a professional range of emotion.

The best description of him is the biggest cliche. He was raised right. We’ve never met his parents and we love them.

Anaheim’s loss is Phoenix’s gain, and that is being said regardless of whether he ever hits another home run.

This is not an argument that the Angels made a bad deal. They needed pitching, they had other sluggers with locked-in deals. It’s a business, not a Girl Scouts cookie sale.

“I had a good idea this was serious,” Trumbo said. “I kept hearing the rumors, hearing that either Howie [Kendrick] or I would likely have to go.

“That being said, I have deep roots here. I’ve been a lifelong Angels fan, and in many ways, it has been pretty much all I’ve known. It’ll be a little tough.”

Trumbo was born in Anaheim, went to Villa Park High and was drafted in 2004 by the Angels. Come this spring training, when he steps into a different uniform in a different place and is surrounded by different people, he’ll feel it.

“I’ll have some jitters,” he said. “But you can’t be shy. You have a job to do and you need to go to work.”

He said he had pondered ways to keep himself in Anaheim as last season came to a close. He knew third base was a weak spot and he considered lobbying to get another shot at that. He had played a few games there a season ago, but says now it was never a good fit, that he wasn’t very good there, and so he rejected the idea.

“I have to concede, I was mostly happy with the way I played at first base this season,” he said. “I scooped out a lot of low throws and I had infielders thanking me for that. I think I did all right there.”

That, of course, didn’t matter, once Albert Pujols healed and became ready to return in 2014.

Trumbo will play left field for Arizona. He said that, when he was still in the minors in 2009 he realized that to play first base in Anaheim he was going up against Mark Teixeira and Kendrys Morales.

“I asked if they’d work me a little in the outfield,” Trumbo said. “Flash forward five years and now I’m an outfielder. I can thank the Angels for that.”

With this trade, General Manager Jerry Dipoto made it clear that fitting the pieces of the team puzzle together is a higher priority than appeasing fan popularity. In two seasons, he has let Torii Hunter go to Detroit and traded Peter Bourjos and Trumbo. Hunter made no sense; Bourjos and Trumbo do.

Hunter, among the best clubhouse leaders in the history of the game, played a big role in the Tigers getting to the postseason. Dipoto certainly heard about that.

Bourjos will be quickly embraced by savvy St. Louis fans, who will readily spot his huge potential and still-untapped talents.

And Trumbo? Hard to tell. His batting average dipped from .268 to .234 last season, and the stretches where he struggled badly seemed longer. But he will play in a park in Arizona much better suited to hitting than Anaheim’s.

“No marine layers,” he said.

Trumbo’s trade became public Tuesday. Wednesday night, the Angels Baseball Foundation held its annual holiday party for children. Trumbo had committed to appear. He was no longer an Angel, but he showed up anyway, and spent time with the kids. Ponder how many big league players would have done that. You’ll only need one hand to count.

We don’t argue for a second that any of this should have great bearing on the business of major league baseball trades. We only point out how nice it is when, occasionally, adult fans get to spend their ticket money and invest their emotions rooting for special adult players.

That, of course, is more the exception than the rule these days.

As is Mark Trumbo.