The Cubs made news tonight as they agreed to terms with one of the best remaining free agents, first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini. The right-handed hitting slugger signed a two-year deal for $14 million.
Cub news- Trey Mancini gets two years $14 million guarantee.Bonuses can add another $7 million from PA totals. Mancini can opt out if he gets 350 PA in 2023.— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) January 15, 2023
Mancini, who turns 31 in March, spent most of his career with the Baltimore Orioles, who drafted him in the eighth round out of Notre Dame in 2013. He made a big splash as a rookie in 2017, hitting .293/.338/.488 with 24 home runs in 147 games. Mancini finished third in Rookie of the Year voting that season.
Mancini’s best season was 2019. That year, he hit .291/.364/.432 with 38 doubles, 35 home runs and 97 RBI. He looked on pace to become a star after that, but a health scare cost Mancini his entire 2020 season. Mancini was diagnosed with Stage three colon cancer. From this article with useful information on colon cancer:
His doctors were able to remove his tumor less than two weeks after it was found, and then he started chemotherapy a month later. Nearly a year later, Mancini has just returned to the field cancer-free.
Mancini returned to play 147 games in 2021, but he wasn’t quite as productive as he was before cancer cost him a season. Mancini hit just 21 home runs in 2021, although he did bang out an impressive 33 doubles. Both his batting average and on-base percentage decreased in 2021 as well, posting numbers of .255 and .326 respectively.
Mancini looked like he had rebounded to his former form in Baltimore in 2022. In 92 games, Mancini hit a solid .268/.347/.404 with ten home runs in 92 games. That got him traded to Houston at the deadline as part of a three-team deal. While Mancini won a World Series ring with the Astros, not much else went right for him in Houston. He slumped to a poor .176/.258/.364 line in 57 games with the Astros, although he did hit eight home runs. He was even worse in the postseason, going 1 for 24.
Mancini can play left field and first base, although he’s not considered good at either position. All the defensive metrics rank Mancini as below average at both positions.
While the right-handed hitting Mancini could form a nice platoon with either the newly-signed Eric Hosmer or prospect Matt Mervis, he has not had much of a platoon split between left- and right-handed pitchers throughout his career. Still, there might be a way to split time between the three of them, although it probably means that Mervis will start the year in Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs have been linked with Mancini in the rumor mill much of the offseason, but many assumed that they had moved on from Mancini after signing Eric Hosmer earlier this month. But Hosmer is on the major-league minimum, so his signing certainly didn’t preclude another signing. Team president Jed Hoyer said at the Cubs convention just today that the team was still in on adding both pitching and hitting, (The Athletic sub. req.) and it certainly seems now like Mancini was at least one of the players he was referring to with that comment. Neither Mancini nor Hosmer’s contract would preclude the Cubs from moving on from either of them if things don’t work out—although obviously the Cubs have made a greater commitment to Mancini with this deal.
Mancini is also considered a strong clubhouse presence and his battle with cancer has been an inspiration throughout the game. This signing continues the Cubs recent trend of acquiring players with strong leadership and off-the-field reputations.
The Cubs got extremely poor production from the first base position in 2022 and rather than go after a big name that would tie up the position for several years, they went flexible with three players—Mancini, Hosmer and Mervis—that are all likely to be at least better than what played there last year. The hope is that either Mancini or Hosmer—or even better, both—return to what they were a few years ago or that Mervis steps up and establishes himself as a worthy major-league hitter. In any case, it is likely to be a step up over last season.