This article is part of the Know Your Orioles 40-man series, which features an article about each player currently on the Orioles roster. There will be one every weekday until we run out of players.
NOTE: The Orioles traded Mancini to the Astros on 8/1/22. He is no longer on the Orioles 40-man roster.
A rebuilding team’s 30-year-old first baseman with 35-homer power, who is heading into his final year with that team before becoming a free agent, is going to be one of the most obvious trade candidates on the roster. Most times you would be surprised his team didn’t trade him sooner.
The specific Orioles player in this situation is Trey Mancini, and that means it’s not so simple as automatically trading him because that’s what a rebuilding team does. Mancini was already a fan favorite in Baltimore almost from his late-2016 debut when he homered in his first game and three times in his first five games. It’s a good way to make a first impression. Following that up with a third-place Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017 was a fine way to make a second impression.
All of this was in place long before he was diagnosed with colon cancer and missed the whole of the shortened 2020 season due to getting cancer treatments. The way that fans and the clubhouse have rallied around him makes the prospect of a trade sad to contemplate.
What makes it even tougher to think about Mancini being traded, on top of the human interest level, is that he would likely not fetch any exciting prospects in a trade. Much as Mancini is a fan favorite in Baltimore, cold, logical consideration of his track record of performance does not point to a player who would be in high demand by other teams.
Mancini’s 35-homer season was three years ago now. Though there’s a totally understandable reason why he didn’t play in 2020, that makes it more challenging to determine what level of performance is the norm for him. He has not been consistently good in his four full MLB seasons; in 2018, Mancini only mustered a .715 OPS for the year. I’ve always felt that he was dragged down by the team not giving his knee time to heal after he banged it into the brick wall on a sliding catch. Other teams are not in the business of making generous assumptions about the play of players they might think about acquiring.
Then there’s the 2021 season for Mancini. It was a victory that he made it back onto the field at all. Everyone can celebrate that fact. But that’s probably not worth very much to other teams either. Mancini hit .255/.326/.432 over 147 games, with 21 home runs. For a guy who split time between first base and designated hitter, that added up to a 0.8 WAR season. That’s okay. Mancini’s play is not a significant part of the reason the team lost 110 games last year. It’s also not going to get other teams lining up to throw top 100 prospects at the Orioles.
The Athletic’s Dan Connolly polled some of his colleagues who cover other teams to try to gauge hypothetical trade scenarios for Mancini. On the surface, the answers he received looked like a bunch of jabronis, netting at best a fringe already big league player and a fringe prospect. One of the suggested players was most notable for being the boyfriend of Vanessa Hudgens. If that’s the best that could be done, I sure hope the Orioles don’t make a trade and they just let Mancini play out this season, after which he will become a free agent.
It’s tempting as an Orioles fan to try to wave away Mancini’s pedestrian 2021 as a product of his not being able to fully prepare for the season due to the 2020 cancer treatments. As his 2021 played out, he was better in the first half of the season than the second, so perhaps he wore down as the year went along, and a Mancini who is another year removed will be less susceptible to the dog days of August slump.
There is nothing wrong with a fan believing this. I do, myself, and not only because Mancini has been my fiancee’s favorite Oriole since pretty much the day he debuted. I’d like Mancini to find a way, somehow, to hang around until the Orioles are good again. It seems unlikely. This year is not their year.
Maybe Mike Elias will surprise me and make a bet that Mancini is better than his 2021 performance. I think there’s a modest contract extension that could be worked out, if both sides want to do it. I don’t know whether the Orioles will.
Mancini is in the group of players whose 2022 salary may not be finalized as the season begins. He and the Orioles did not agree to terms on a contract prior to the lockout. Tomorrow is the deadline for teams to have a deal before having to exchange figures for an arbitration hearing. With nearly every team adopting a rigid “file and trial” policy, that would lead to a hearing that occurs some time during the season. He’s projected for $7.9 million by MLBTR.
End-of-season prediction: Right now, Trey Mancini is worth more to the Orioles than he is to any other team. Unless he’s threatening a 50+ home run season by the time July rolls around, I don’t imagine this changing between now and the trade deadline. With that in mind, I think that Mancini will end the season in the majors, on the Orioles. After that, start steeling yourself now for the idea that the O’s won’t really try to keep Mancini here when he hits free agency.
Previously: Félix Bautista, Logan Gillaspie, Isaac Mattson, Cionel Pérez, Bryan Baker, Rougned Odor, Joey Krehbiel, Tyler Nevin, Kyle Bradish, Rylan Bannon, Yusniel Díaz, Kelvin Gutiérrez, Kevin Smith, Terrin Vavra, D.L. Hall, Jahmai Jones, Bruce Zimmermann, Mike Baumann, Ryan McKenna, Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, Jorge López, Ramón Urías, Dillon Tate, Paul Fry, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells, Cole Sulser, Jorge Mateo, Tanner Scott, DJ Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle, Tyler Wells, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander
Tomorrow: John Means