Trey Mancini Might Have a Place With the Orioles
At this point in the offseason, it seems that the Baltimore Orioles might have a place for Trey Mancini. The prospect who burst onto the major league roster with a solid debut in September is certainly in the picture for the Opening Day roster, as the Orioles try to fill some holes offensively.
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Mancini has been one of the Orioles’ better offensive prospects for a few years, as the first baseman followed up his stellar 2015 season with a successful 2016 campaign between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. For his efforts, Mancini was rewarded with a September call up and responded with robust numbers over a small sample size, going 5-for-14 with three home runs.
Granted that production probably adds to the intrigue surrounding Mancini, but the conversation about whether he fits on the 2017 roster would still be valid if went 0-for-14. Not only does his .306/.357/.472 triple-slash line in the minors earn him a closer look, but the Orioles’ current roster makeup leaves some room for Mancini.
Following the signing of Welington Castillo at catcher, the Orioles’ two biggest holes on offense are right field and designated hitter. As long as Mark Trumbo remains on the free agent market, those two positions will be linked, as the Orioles will try to retain the slugger’s services at one those spots.
If the club re-signs Trumbo, there are several scenarios that could play out. In the most likely outcome, he is penciled in for right field, while Chris Davis remains at first base, and Mancini becomes an option at DH. The other option is to shift Davis to right, while Mancini and Trumbo split the first base and DH duties but, given that the club passed up on a similar scenario in 2016, that seems to be the least likely decision.
Mancini’s more specific role in that scenario could be similar to that of Steve Pearce, whom the Orioles reacquired at last year’s trade deadline before he signed with Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. If the Orioles chose to pursue a left-handed hitter through free agency, the club could split the DH role and give Mancini more playing time against left-handed pitching.
That is predicated on one belief, which is that I find unlikely that the club will re-sign Trumbo and then spend big on another hitter. Aside from the fact that the market might not warrant that move, the Orioles have other needs and could probably use their resources elsewhere rather than commit another sizeable contract to the lineup. Having Mancini in place would help the team in that case, as the rookie would provide an affordable alternative to the veteran options on the free agent market.
Now if the Orioles do not bring back Trumbo, the situation becomes a little more complicated. Losing Trumbo could mean that the Orioles shift their efforts to other hitters, something that Eduardo Encina at The Baltimore Sun noted on Monday. Encina mentioned Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Chris Carter as potential fits if Trumbo goes elsewhere, while a separate piece from Roch Kubatko at MASN indicated that Colby Rasmus has been linked to the Orioles.
Of those players, Encarnacion will likely cost the most, while Bautista and Rasmus are the only ones who could fit in in right field. (Kubatko also reported that Rasmus, who is coming off an inconsistent and injury-plagued season for the Houston Astros, is currently beyond the Orioles’ price range.) Beyond those names, the free agent market has some possibilities for right field and DH, but none of options from that list—Adam Lind, Pedro Alvarez, Michael Saunders, just to name a few—stand out as end-all solutions for the Orioles.
In that case, how does Mancini factor into the equation? Unless the Orioles make a trade, or somehow sign Trumbo and another free agent to play right field or DH full time, the club will likely favor a platoon in one of those positions. DH could be utilized in this fashion, as manager Buck Showalter has shown in the past that he can can employ some flexibility for that spot in the lineup.
Having a right-handed hitting option like Mancini in place could solve a few problems for the Orioles. If the club does resort to a platoon, then it might make sense to give him a chance to fill part of that role rather than dipping into the free agent market.
Looking at that roster crunch, it is easy to see that the Orioles could have use for Mancini. If the club opts to send him back to Norfolk, however, it will likely be because of one of a few scenarios.
One is that they spend more on the lineup than expected, leaving Mancini without so much as a part-time role going into next year. The other is for defensive reasons, as Mancini has played first base his entire professional career. Though he has expressed a willingness to move to the outfield in the past, it remains to be seen if the Orioles would follow through on that offer, as some observers have expressed doubts that Mancini has the arm to play the outfield.
With the Orioles’ more pressing need being right field—as opposed to left, where Mancini could more easily get away with a below-average arm—it would be a lot to ask Mancini to make that move at the same time he is adjusting to a full season in the majors. Therefore, a defensive shift might make the Orioles take a closer look at sending Mancini back to Norfolk.
The Orioles have a number of holes to fill over the coming weeks, and resolving some of those roster spots should help to clear up the picture. In the meantime, Mancini is certainly in the mix to make the Opening Day roster. That is true right now, and it could very easily be the case come spring training.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues.