The Marlins have agreed to a minor league contract with free agent first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Mancini, who’s represented by Frontline, will be in big league camp as a non-roster invitee this spring.
Mancini is still technically playing under the two-year, $14MM deal he signed with the Cubs last offseason, so the Marlins will only owe Mancini the prorated league minimum for any time he spends on the active roster. Chicago released Mancini after the trade deadline. The Reds added him on a minor league deal later that month but didn’t call him to the Majors before cutting him loose themselves.
As one would expect for a player who was twice released the prior season, the 2023 campaign was not a good one for Mancini. The longtime Orioles slugger appeared in 79 games with the Cubs after signing that contract but scuffled at the plate throughout his Wrigley tenure, batting just .234/.299/.336 with four home runs and a career-worst 29.7% strikeout rate.
Mancini’s struggles date all the way back to the 2022 All-Star break, however. He was enjoying yet another productive season in Baltimore, hitting .285/.359/.429 through his first 351 trips to the plate, but Mancini scuffled following the Midsummer Classic and never rebounded following a trade to Houston, where he batted .176/.258/.364 in 51 games while receiving erratic playing time. Since that year’s All-Star break, Mancini has 499 plate appearances with only a .204/.280/.335 batting line to show for it.
Of course, at his best, Mancini rates anywhere from “clearly above average” to “bona fide heart-of-the-order presence.” His peak offensive performance came during 2019’s juiced ball season, when he hit .291/.364/.535 with a career-high 35 long balls. Even if that peak performance can be written off as anomalous in nature, Mancini entered the 2023 campaign as a lifetime .265/.330/.457 hitter who’d typically walk around 9% of the time against a strikeout rate that routinely sat between 21-23%. He’s not considered a strong defender in the outfield corners but can play a solid first base.
Beyond his on-field production over a long stint in Baltimore, Mancini became one of the easiest players to cheer on throughout all of MLB. Heading into the 2020 season, a then-28-year-old Mancini stunningly announced that he’d been diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. He underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor and then embarked on a six-week regimen of chemotherapy. Mancini eventually received a clean bill of health, returned in 2021 and was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year after swatting 21 homers and 33 doubles while batting .255/.326/.436 in 147 games.
With the Marlins, Mancini will compete for a bench spot and perhaps for time at designated hitter. The Fish currently have Josh Bell at first base, with Bryan De La Cruz and Jesus Sanchez likely ticketed for corner outfield work. Struggling veteran Avisail Garcia remains with the club due primarily to his contract status — two years, $29MM remaining — but Mancini could challenge him for a similar role as a righty-swinging option at DH and in the outfield corners. Garcia has batted just .215/.260/.316 since signing a four-year, $53MM contract prior to the 2022 season.
With catcher Christian Bethancourt and utilityman Vidal Brujan both out of minor league options, the Marlins effectively have two bench spots up for grabs. Mancini will compete with outfielder Peyton Burdick and infielders Xavier Edwards, Jordan Groshans and Jacob Amaya for one of those two spots. A third roster spot could conceivably open if the new-look Marlins front office opts to move on from Garcia this spring.