As free agents are coming off the board, former Oriole Trey Mancini is one of the few players left on the open market that’s a viable everyday contributor. However, it doesn’t seem like a return to Baltimore is in the cards, according to report from Dan Connolly of The Athletic. He says that the club made some initial contact with him but that little progress was made.
Mancini has been with the Orioles for much of his career thus far, having been drafted by them in 2013 and sticking with the club until a deadline trade to the Astros in 2022. He debuted in 2016 but cemented himself as an everyday player at a time when the club’s fans had little to get excited about. From 2017 to 2021, the Orioles finished last in the American League East in all four full seasons and finished fourth in the shortened 2020 campaign. But in the first three of those years, Mancini hit at least 24 home runs and hit a combined .275/.334/.480 for a wRC+ of 114, indicating he was 14% better than league average over that stretch.
A battle with colon cancer wiped out his 2020 season, but Mancini provided a feel-good story in 2021, returning to play 147 games and hit another 21 home runs. He finished that season with a batting line of .255/.326/.432, 105 wRC+. He got out to a strong start in 2022, hitting .268/.347/.404 for a wRC+ of 116. He was then flipped to the Astros at the deadline and wilted down the stretch. He hit just .176/.258/.364 as an Astro in the regular season, and followed that up with a dreary .048/.125/.048 line over 24 postseason plate appearances. That wasn’t the best way for Mancini to enter free agency for the first time, but his larger track record is still solid. He has a career wRC+ of 111 and the ability to play above-average first base defense, in addition to the occasional trip to an outfield corner.
Though many fans in Baltimore would surely be excited by Mancini’s return, there are reasons for the club to not have too much interest. They already have a right-handed hitting first baseman in Ryan Mountcastle, who still is under club control for another four years. The roster is also crowded elsewhere, which likely means the club wants to keep the designated hitter slot open to be used based on how other situations play out. Mountcastle, Jorge Mateo, Gunnar Henderson, Ramón Urías and Adam Frazier are lined up to handle the infield positions in some combination, with Lewin Díaz and Terrin Vavra candidates for bench jobs. They also have infield prospects on the way in the form of Joey Ortiz, Jordan Westburg, Coby Mayo and Connor Norby. In the outfield, they have Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Kyle Stowers, with prospect Colton Cowser likely to debut at some point in 2023. Given all of those young options, it would be a bit tough to slot Mancini into the picture without blocking some of their up-and-coming players.
If he’s not back to Baltimore, then Mancini will have to look for his next opportunity elsewhere. He was connected to the Cubs about two weeks ago, with Jon Heyman of The New York Post reiterating that connection earlier today. For the Cubs or any other club looking for first base upgrades, José Abreu, Josh Bell and Anthony Rizzo are off the board, but Mancini, Yuli Gurriel, Brandon Belt, Luke Voit and others are still available.