On Mark Trumbo Moving To Third Base

Mark Trumbo of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim flips the ball to first for an out against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The Angels are going to take a 6-4, 220 pound first baseman (who wasn't great defensively there) and try him at third base. Does this seem like a good idea to you?

The Angels have a problem.

In some ways, it's a nice problem to have -- they have too many first basemen. With the signing of Albert Pujols, who will play first base, Mark Trumbo, last year's first baseman in Anaheim, will have to find another position.

The easy move would be to shift Trumbo to DH, but Kendrys Morales, who was the Angels' first baseman before the horrific injury he suffered in a walkoff celebration in 2010, is making progress in his return and would logically be slotted in at DH if he can hit.

This wouldn't appear to leave any room for Trumbo, who struck out a lot and didn't walk much in his rookie season. Trumbo did, though, slam 29 homers and hit 31 doubles on his way to a .477 SLG. Most teams would love an extra slugger who can do that.

This is why the Angels are considering moving Trumbo to third base. Fox Sports West has a slideshow listing 10 active players who had been shifted to third base from another position at some point in their careers. Except for Michael Young and Alex Rodriguez, though, all the others had played at least some third base previous to the fulltime move, and some (like Kevin Youkilis) had significant experience there.

Last summer, when the Cincinnati Reds were considering a similar move with the since-traded Yonder Alonso, Grant Brisbee did some research into players who shifted like this. He found that just one player over the last 10 seasons was given major-league third-base time who wasn't a middle infielder, and who hadn't played the position in the minors: Eric Munson, who was terrible defensively. Pablo Sandoval, though, hadn't played third since he was a teenager in the low minors, and he turned out to be pretty good defensively. Conclusion: inconclusive.

There's little precedent for a man of Trumbo's size -- 6'-4", 220 -- to move across the diamond like that. Usually players that big go in the other direction -- the similarly-sized Carlos Lee played over 500 games in the White Sox minor leagues, but was switched to the outfield before he played a single major league game.

There's only one player (besides Munson and Sandoval) that I can think of who was asked to make a similar transition, and it happened almost four decades ago, for similar reasons -- Dave Kingman, a Trumbo-like slugger who came to the majors on a Giants team that had (obviously) no DH slot, a full outfield and a still-effective Willie McCovey at first base.

To be charitable to Kingman, he was awful. In 154 games at third base over five seasons (for some reason, the Mets kept playing him there at times after they acquired him), he made 48 errors. Kingman wasn't very good anywhere in the field; he didn't get to DH full-time until he was 35, mainly because in the late 1970s, AL teams still hadn't gotten used to the idea that they could acquire a guy who could simply do that job fulltime. In that era, most AL teams rotated the slot between several players.

The best-case scenario for Trumbo would be that Morales doesn't come back, or can't play full-time, and Trumbo can simply slide into the Angels' DH slot. That's where he's currently listed on the Angels' depth chart, and probably where he best fits.

Because with not a single professional game at third base, Trumbo playing there for the Angels would likely make Miguel Cabrera -- who's making that switch this year for the Tigers -- look like a Gold Glover.

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