It has become a foregone conclusion that it’s only a matter of time and place before the Orioles trade Trey Mancini. But there is a simple reason why it’s not likely to happen, at least not any time soon.
The brutal truth of the matter is there is very little, if any, interest in the Orioles’ best player — which tells you more about the state of this rebuild than it does about his ability.
Unless the Orioles make what would be a disastrous decision to “sell low” with the outfielder-first baseman-super utility player still having three-plus years remaining before free agency, Mancini will be here for the foreseeable future, which could be the set of circumstances that would steer both sides toward a multi-year deal.
There’s little question that Mancini has more value to the Orioles, even in their non-competitive state, than he would for just about any of the other 29 major-league teams. And, as noted earlier, it really has nothing to do with his ability, but everything to do with the position he plays best — first base.
The fact that it’s a problem even in Mancini’s current situation, with Chris Davis’ inability to play up to the value of his contract the biggest obstacle, pretty much says it all. For one reason or another, some of them not very good, first base has become the landing spot for players with long-term contracts and limited production, with Davis, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera the poster boys for that category.
But that’s not to suggest that first base has become a dumping ground for non-productive players. It’s actually quite the opposite and the biggest reason why Mancini’s ability is devalued. He has adapted decently to the outfield, where he is at least a competent defender, but first base is without question his best position.
Even if the Orioles weren’t also working regular designated hitter Renato Nunez into the picture and decided to play Mancini strictly as a first baseman, it’s doubtful how much it would affect his value on the potential trade market — because the position is overloaded with productive hitters.
With 16 home runs and 35 runs batted in to go with a .304/.361/.558 slash line, Mancini’s numbers fit somewhere in the middle of the pack among qualifying first basemen, but it is definitely not a position of need throughout the major leagues. Which explains why there are still more teams interested in finding out if reliever Mychal Givens can get it straightened out than they are about whether Mancini might be a long-range blue chipper.
The fact that Mancini is 27 years old with three years left before free agency would have more impact on potential suitors — including the Orioles — than his overall numbers. Without an extension, Mancini wouldn’t become free agent eligible before his age 31 season, and that is a critical place in the free-agency landscape these days.
It would also be about the time the Orioles’ rebuilding phase should be taking hold. Given the fact that general manager Mike Elias has said he expects players in the system now to be part of the future success story, Mancini certainly qualifies as a viable option.
Elias no doubt remembers that Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel were on the scene in Houston in 2012 and George Springer was right behind them. Along with No. 1 draft choice Carlos Correa that quartet became the foundation for the Astros’ rebuild.
Mancini would seem to be a leading candidate for a similar role with the Orioles.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com.
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