The Cubs have agreed to sign Trey Mancini to a two-year contract, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers (Twitter link). Mancini, a client of the Frontline agency, can opt out of the deal following the 2023 season if he amasses at least 350 plate appearances in the first year of the contract, 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine reports (via Twitter). Also from Levine, Mancini will earn $14MM in guaranteed money over the two years of the deal, and another $7MM is available in bonus clauses related to plate appearances.
Reports linking Mancini to the Cubs first surfaced in December, and even though Chicago addressed its first base need by signing Eric Hosmer just over a week ago, the Wrigleyville club maintained its interest in Mancini’s services. Of course, Mancini can also play both corner outfield spots in addition to first base, and Mancini’s right-handed bat provides a nice complement to lefty-swingers Hosmer and Matt Mervis in the first base/DH mix.
As Rogers indicated in a follow-up tweet, Mervis might now be slated to begin 2023 in Triple-A, rather than immediately step into a regular role in the Cubs lineup in his first taste of MLB action. Mervis is entering only his third season of affiliated baseball, and while Mervis more or less came out of nowhere to shred minor league pitching in 2022, it looks like the Cubs would prefer to ease Mervis into the big leagues, and rely more on established veterans like Mancini and Hosmer at least in the early part of the 2023 campaign.
After spending his entire career with the Orioles, Mancini is now playing for his third organization in less than six months, following the trade deadline move that sent Mancini from Baltimore to Houston. Mancini’s time with the Astros paid off in the biggest form possible once Houston captured the World Series, though Mancini himself wasn’t a big part of that push to the championship. Mancini hit only .176/.258/.364 over 186 plate appearances with the Astros during the regular season, and then had only a single hit over 24 PA in the playoffs.
With this underwhelming finish in mind, it isn’t surprising that Mancini and his representatives sought out an opt-out clause, as a more impressive platform year could set Mancini up nicely for a pricier contract next winter. Mancini turns 31 in March, but even if he re-enters the market next winter in advance of his age-32 season, the veteran should still be in position to land a solid multi-year commitment if he returns to his old form. Mancini hasn’t been in that top form since 2019, though obviously some very difficult circumstances have interfered in his career path.
After missing the entire 2020 season due to a battle with Stage 3 colon cancer, Mancini played in 147 games with the Orioles in 2021, winning AL Comeback Player Of The Year honors for his inspirational return. Mancini got off to a strong start at the plate that year before fading down the stretch, as he had to get re-acclimated after missing a full season. Mancini’s traditionally strong production at Camden Yards took a dip, as the right-handed hitter was naturally impacted by the Orioles’ decision to move back the left-field fences prior to the 2022 season. The result was a modest .283/.338/.411 slash line over 198 PA at Camden Yards last year, well below his career norms.
All in all, Mancini has hit .247/.323/.412 over 1203 PA since the start of the 2021 campaign, translating to a 104 wRC+ that is only slightly above the league average. Between the new dimensions in Baltimore and the midseason adjustment to playing in Houston, Mancini’s bat could re-awaken simply by playing his home games in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. In addition, Mancini has now had a full and normal offseason, as even last winter’s preparations were interrupted by the lockout.
It has been a busy offseason for Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer, who has aggressively added veteran talent in order to turn the Cubs back towards contention after most of the last two seasons were spent in a rebuild. Like Mancini’s deal, most of the contracts have been shorter-term arrangements, such as a one-year deal with Cody Bellinger, or the Hosmer signing for a minimum salary (since the Padres are still on the hook for the remainder of Hosmer’s contract).
Beyond these shorter deals, Chicago also splurged in inking Dansby Swanson to a seven-year, $177MM contract and Jameson Taillon to a four-year deal worth $68MM. Roster Resource projected the Cubs for roughly a $176.6MM payroll before Mancini’s $7MM average annual value was added to the mix, so there could be more spending capacity for further moves considering the Cubs spent well over the $200MM mark as recently as 2019.
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