Yes. I absolutely love this. The floor of the Cubs’ 2023 offense just took a big step forward. A little more upside, too.
Earlier this morning, I reported that the Cubs were still interested in free agent first baseman Trey Mancini, even after signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. And now, it’s reportedly happening. I absolutely love this, especially on a short-term deal.
According to Rogers, this is a two-year deal with an opt-out, presumably after the first year. That gives a little more benefit to Mancini, who can now opt out if he has a big year, than the Cubs. But you just don’t worry about the risk of any two-year deal. If he stinks, and doesn’t opt out, there’s only one more season with which to deal.
In the meantime, this likely means Matt Mervis will start the season out at Triple-A Iowa, where he can continue to solidify his presence as a legitimate big league bat. And eventually, if he continues to rake, he can come up and cycle in at DH and first base. In other words, I’m not too worried about Hosmer, who’s making the Major League minimum, blocking Mervis if it comes to that. Mancini, however, is more likely to be a legitimate bat. A solid, slightly-above-average floor with All-Star bat upside if he bounces all the way back
Here are some of Brett’s thoughts from the last time we talked about Mancini as a possibility after Eric Hosmer.
Specifically, I found the inclusion of Mancini – the only player mentioned by name – to be very interesting. As we’ve discussed, Mancini is also something of a “floor” guy like Hosmer, who is probably going to give you just-slightly-above league-average offense at a spot where you wish you were getting a lot more than that. Not who you’d target at the start of free agency, but a guy you’d gladly accept at this stage.
But Mancini, who is three years younger than Hosmer, has a lot going on under the hood that could suggest a realistic shot at really good production. This is a guy who had to recover from colon cancer in 2020, and still put up a 105 wRC+ the last two years. His expected wOBA was better than his actual wOBA both years by a decent clip. And before his August trade to the Astros this past season, he was really bouncing back with the Orioles: .268/.347/.404/116 wRC+. (And after the trade, his results were bad, but his underlying metrics were outstanding – the guy pretty clearly got super unlucky in a small sample.)
If we are truly thinking about Hosmer as a just-in-case, no-cost, you-never-know, hey-whatever waiver claim, then the Cubs should act like that. Meaning, you don’t assume that adding a guy like that actually covers your need. He might! He might be useful in a complementary role in any case! But if a guy like Mancini is still out there and affordable, why wouldn’t you also want him in the mix, especially in the DH era, and especially when he could be a more natural platoon partner for Mervis, if you go that route?
Oh, and Mancini, unlike Hosmer, also offers the ability to play in a corner outfield spot if you need it. He doesn’t *just* have to be a first baseman to pair with Hosmer (and completely block Mervis in the process).
Yes, adding Mancini starts to create a bit of a glut of non-obvious-starters on the big league roster, but if you’re not going to have superstars, maybe you could at least have a lot of capable options? And let things sort themselves out organically in Spring Training?
Brett’s going to get into this much more tomorrow, but I can already tell by the reaction that some people are worried about the at bats he’ll “take away” from Mervis. I am not worried about that. Not only will there be PLENTY of at-bats to go around, Mervis still has a lot to prove and many years to contribute. Signing Mancini absolutely makes the Cubs better this season, and that matters. I’m pretty happy about this.
UPDATE: Just dropping some other notes, from ZiPS projections to further confirmation:
UPDATE 2: That is a very modest deal for Mancini, at a mere $7M AAV for now: