Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Connected to Mancini, Drury's "Active Market," Hope for Devers, Where Are the Trades? More

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Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Connected to Mancini, Drury’s “Active Market,” Hope for Devers, Where Are the Trades? More

Chicago Cubs

After committing roughly $62 million to the 2023 payroll in the last month or so — Dansby Swanson ($25.3M), Cody Bellinger ($17.5M), Jameson Taillon ($17M), and Brad Boxberger ($2M) — the Cubs big expenditures are probably winding down at this point. They’re FAR from tapped out financially (I’m not giving them a pass in that sense), there’s just not that many big-time free agents on whom they can lavish their many riches anyway.

Not many, but not none.

Cubs Connected to Trey Mancini

If our sneak-peek yesterday into the Cubs ZiPS projections reminded us of anything, it’s that the Cubs can DEFINITELY use another bat, preferably someone who can play first base, DH, and/or third base.

And whaddaya know: Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs are “among the possibilities” for free agent first baseman Trey Mancini, someone we discussed back at the outset of the offseason, when the Cubs were meeting with reps for all the free agent first basemen.

Mancini is 30 like Bell, but he’s been more like a slightly-above-average bat the last two years, without a ton of power. He raked in 2019, but then he battled colon cancer in 2020. The fact that he came back at all in 2021 and 2022 is impressive. As a right-handed hitter, you might think of Mancini as a natural pairing with Mervis, but Mancini is actually really split-neutral for his career. He’s not a guy you’d necessarily think of in a platoon, and also not necessarily as a definite starter (unless you could help him get that 2019 power back). Mancini does come with the bonus ability to play a corner outfield spot in a pinch, though.

Mancini, 30, would be an upgrade for the Cubs, perhaps even a necessary one. But I have a hard time getting excited about him, when Jose Abreu was available, or when the Cubs could have otherwise added someone like Justin Turner to third and paired Patrick Wisdom (who DOES have significant lefty/righty splits) with Matt Mervis at first base.

At least there is some legitimate upside there in Mancini.

2022 wOBA: .312
2022 xwOBA: .327

Mancini’s 2022 BABIP (.286) was well-below his career BABIP (.317) before last season. And that’s despite the fact that his average exit velocity was right in line with his career, his launch angle was even better than ever, and his barrel and hard-hit rates were both solid. He really did just run into some bad luck last season. So even absent any actual improvements, you might expect some positive, natural regression.

What About a Third Baseman?

With that said, I stand by my belief that adding a third baseman and platooning Mervis/Wisdom at first is the better way to go, and there are some interesting players still out there. In free agency, for example, the Cubs could target Brandon Drury, who’s market is reportedly “very active” according to Jeff Passan.

Ken Rosenthal echoes that sentiment, adding that the Diamondbacks are “in the mix” for Dury.

Drury, 30, could conceivable cover third base full-time for the Cubs, but he has experience all around the infield and as a DH. That works for a team like the Cubs who might be mixing and matching at 1B, 3B, and DH almost daily. Drury also hits for power (.230 ISO in 2022, .202 in 2021) and isn’t a big strikeout liability. There is a superficial fit there.

There’s also a reason he’s still available.

Despite solid results in 2022 (123 wRC+) and 2021 (114 wRC+), his expected statistics had him much worse off. And that tracks closely with his generally brutal offensive performances from 2017-2020. Drury has also dealt with plenty of injuries throughout his career and is not particularly keen to take a walk.

As we’re talking, another free agent third baseman came off the board. Though I’m not too heartbroken for this one. Kudos to the Padres for just continuing to spend. Hopefully, this narrows the field a bit for the remaining third basemen.

Maybe Devers Will Be Available After All?

Brett got into this a bit in today’s Cubs Bullets, but I just want to reiterate how thrilled I am to learn that the Red Sox and Rafael Devers are “galaxies apart” in their contract negotiations: “The current expectation from Devers and his camp is that the third baseman will be a free agent at the end of 2023, given the current state of contract talks.”

That’s excellent news. Even if the Cubs can’t acquire Devers this offseason (boy would I try if I were them …), his availability next winter will be an enormous boon for a team like the Cubs, who should be looking to REALLY spend — perhaps specifically at third base, where Devers could be joined by other quality free agents like Matt Chapman and Manny Machado.

But Devers, man … he’s the dream: Young, lefty, power-hitting … WANT WANT WANT. Get him now, if you can.

That said, if the Red Sox lose ANOTHER star after trading Mookie Betts (for what turned out to be a big dud) and letting Xander Bogaerts walk … Woof. Chaim Bloom is running the Red Sox … well, kinda like Jed Hoyer is running the Cubs.

Another Brewers Trade Coming?

Before we get into the Brewers-specific connection, I found Ken Rosenthal’s reporting on the slow trade market pretty fascinating. Here’s a taste:

Three heads of baseball operations in recent days attributed the slow trade market to the number of clubs shunning veteran-for-prospect deals as they try to build rosters capable of contention.

“That’s the biggest dynamic in play,” one executive said. “We can’t use our prospects to go get players. With a couple of teams we could, but it’s not enough. You need enough teams that have major-league players. That is definitely hanging things up, definitely.”

This doesn’t work out great for the Cubs, who’d probably love to make a buy-side trade this offseason, especially because the only three teams that are definitely rebuilding, according to Rosenthal, are in the Cubs division: Reds, Pirates, A’s.

Plus, the A’s already traded their best chip, Sean Murphy … another guy who would’ve made perfect sense for the Cubs, but whatever.

In any case, Rosenthal is reporting that more moves are on the way for Milwaukee, specifically on the buy-side of the pitching trade market (I don’t like the sounds of this):

It would not be a surprise to see (the Brewers) move another young outfielder for pitching.

Four of the Brewers’ top five prospects in MLB.com’s rankings are outfielders. Topping the list is Jackson Chourio, an 18-year-old out of Venezuela who is almost certainly untouchable. Right behind him is Sal Frelick, the 15th pick in the 2021 draft and another player the Brewers are unlikely to move.

Interested teams might have a better shot at the Nos. 3 and 5 players on the Brewers’ list: Joey Wiemer, a fourth-rounder out of the University of Cincinnati in 2020, or Garrett Mitchell, the 20th pick that same year.

Garrett Mitchell was a big-time Cubs draft target in 2020. But instead of taking him at No. 16 overall, four spots before the Brewers, the Cubs took Ed Howard.

Mitchell slashed .342/.435/.466 (147 wRC+) in his first taste of Triple-A last season, before debuting to a 136 wRC+ in Milwaukee. Oops.

Odds and Ends:

  • Are the White Sox really going to trade Liam Hendriks ….? I keep seeing this pop up, but boy would that crush my spirit if I were them.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami