There was a tweet going viral within the Nationals’ Twitter community yesterday that claimed the Nationals were interested in Free Agent 1B/OF/DH Trey Mancini, formerly of the Beltway rival Baltimore Orioles. Personally, I don’t put much stock into the tweet as the offseason tends to bring many false rumors and the account is not credible. Nevertheless, and to just entertain the thought, Trey Mancini does seem like a fit for the Nationals’ current needs.
Mancini was drafted in the 8th round of the MLB Draft by the Orioles back in 2013. He made his debut for the club three years later at the end of the season. He quickly established himself as a fan favorite in Baltimore and it’s hard to blame them, as Mancini frequently displayed his power bat, hitting 24 home runs in ’17 and ’18, with a career high 35 home runs in 2019. For a team that frequently found itself in the cellar not only in the AL East, but in baseball as well, Mancini was a bright spot for the team and fans alike.
Fans were very excited to see Mancini’s follow-up campaign from his 2019 season in which he set multiple career highs offensively, but Mancini revealed in April 2020 that he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and would miss the entire 2020 season, albeit shortened-season due to the pandemic.
Thankfully, Mancini was declared cancer-free in April 2021 and returned to the Orioles that season, playing 147 games and hitting 21 home runs with a .758 OPS. It wasn’t a career season for Mancini, but it was just good to see him playing again. He also put on a great show in the 2021 Home Run Derby against eventual champ Juan Soto.
In 2022, he’s contract year, Mancini had a strong month of May after a slow start, hitting .363 with just under a .900 OPS. He wasn’t quite displaying the power he showed in 2019, but he was doing a great job putting the ball in play and finding ways on base. In July, despite having their best season in many years, the Orioles opted to trade the fan-favorite and heat-and-soul of the franchise to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline. The trade worked out for Mancini, as he now has a World Series ring due to that trade.
For the Astros, however, there was something to be desired from that trade, as Mancini only hit .176 with a .622 OPS in 51 games for the Astros in the regular season. He also only went 1 for 21 at the plate in the postseason.
Now a free agent, Mancini finds himself needing to rebuild some value. His combined 18 home runs in 2022 is a career low for him, and his advanced metrics are trending in the wrong direction. Despite this, he is just 30 years old and could very well bounce back to his power-hitting ways.
The Nationals are also finding themselves in the midst of a rebuild, and a player like Mancini makes a lot of sense for the club. He provides veteran leadership while still in his prime years, unlike some other veteran leadership the Nats have opted to bring on. He likely would be another fan-favorite in DC, as his story and personality ingratiates itself with the fans and city, not to mention his proclivity for the long ball. He also fits positionally, as he could effectively mirror Joey Meneses and play 1B, OF or DH.
Predicting Mancini’s contract is a bit difficult, as he is not necessarily coming off a strong season so it might not be accurate to compare his next deal to the the one’s signed by Jose Abreu, who the Astros signed to replace Mancini instead of just re-signing him, Anthony Rizzo, and Josh Bell, but I think on a short-term deal, the AAV would be similar. Josh Bell had a much stronger first half of 2022 than Mancini, but also struggled after being traded and parlayed that into a 2 year, $32 Million deal with the Guardians, so we will use that as a baseline. If you’re the Nationals, a 1 year $15 Million contract with a player/mutual option for 2024 might get the job done. But it would also take the Nationals spending an additional $15 Million this offseason which is very far from a certainty.
The Nationals can really use some more power to their lineup and I am hoping they are not done in that department. An upside target like Mancini fits what they should be trying to do, and even though I don’t believe the rumor on Twitter, it is a call Mike Rizzo and company should make.