Orioles’ first baseman/corner outfielder Trey Mancini addressed his future with reporters this afternoon. While Mancini reiterated his desire to remain in Baltimore, the organization has not yet approached him about an extension, he said (via Rich Dubroff of Baltimore Baseball). Nevertheless, Mancini added that he’s “pretty confident” he won’t be traded this offseason, although he acknowledged that’s hardly within his control (via Joe Trezza of MLB.com).
There are myriad options for GM Mike Elias and the rest of the front office to take with Mancini. There are plausible cases for the organization to lock him up long-term or to move him this offseason. Alternatively, there needn’t be a mandate on the organization’s part to commit to anything just yet. Mancini, 28 in March, is entering his first year of arbitration and won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2022. Projected for a reasonable $5.7MM salary, the Orioles could simply elect to tender Mancini a contract and plug him back into the middle of the lineup next season.
There are reasons why it makes some sense to be decisive now, though. Last year, Mancini slashed .291/.364/.535 with 35 home runs. He was easily the Orioles’ best hitter, and he finished tied for 30th among qualifiers with a 132 wRC+. That outpaced the fine but unexciting work Mancini did at the plate over his first two-plus MLB seasons. He entered 2019 with a career .268/.319/.458 slash, hardly remarkable for a bat-first player.
If the Orioles’ front office expects Mancini to regress towards his career norms, the time could be right to move him. The free agent market for first basemen isn’t particularly robust, and it stands to reason Mancini will never have more trade value than he does right now. Even if he continues to hit well next season, he’ll inch closer to free agency. His high home run and RBI totals figure to run up a pricey arbitration tag in the coming years, too. With the Orioles almost sure to be noncompetitive again in 2020, perhaps Mancini’s peak years ought be spent outside of Baltimore.
On the other hand, there’s value to having quality players around, even at the lowest depths of a rebuild. Mancini’s a likable and productive player. Moving him would certainly be a tough pill for some fans to swallow. (Of course, that didn’t stop the Orioles from waiving Jonathan Villar, Mancini’s only competition for Baltimore’s best player, earlier this week in a cost-cutting move). Mancini is also young enough to potentially be a part of Baltimore’s next competitive club, especially if he continues to be willing to work out a long-term arrangement. Bat-first players haven’t generated particularly exciting returns in trade the past few seasons. It’s certainly possible that Baltimore could have trouble finding an offer sufficient to part with their most recognizable player. If that indeed proves to be the case, there could be value to engaging with him on an extension.
A new contract would at the very least give both player and organization some cost certainty moving forward. As noted, Mancini’s skillset tends to be more highly-regarded by arbitrators than by current MLB front offices. The Orioles might prefer to lock in Mancini’s salary for the next few years rather than risk exorbitant arbitration awards, particularly if the player is willing to forfeit a would-be free agent year or two. Today’s news that the organization has yet to approach Mancini hardly precludes them from doing so at a later date this offseason.