This winter should be a happy one for Trey Mancini. He had his most complete season in the major leagues and was voted Most Valuable Oriole.
The trouble was that Mancini was the best player on a team that lost 108 games.
Mancini had an .899 OPS and improved in every offensive category.
After a difficult 2018, Mancini roared back with a .291 average, two points short of the .293 he hit in 2017 when he finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
This year’s OPS was above the .826 in 2017, and he set career bests with 35 home runs and 97 RBIs.
He also improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio. He drew 63 walks, nearly double the 33 in 2017, and his strikeouts dipped from 153 last year to 143 this past season.
Mancini is set to cash in, as well. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, he’s in line for a $5.7 million contract in his first season of arbitration eligibility.
He’s still three years from cashing in because he’s not eligible to be a free agent until after the 2022 season.
But will Mancini be an Oriole by then?
This winter, Orioles general manager Mike Elias will have to listen to any suitor who calls about Mancini. If someone offers the Orioles a haul, he’d have to consider it, but it doesn’t seem as if the Orioles are eager to move him.
Elias doesn’t seem eager to extend him, either. I hope that Elias will reconsider.
Mancini is not just the best player on the team. He’s the best guy on the team.
In a most challenging season, Mancini embraced being the clubhouse leader.
After the Orioles’ worst defeat of the season, a 23-2 loss to the Houston Astros on August 10, there was Mancini ready to talk about it. It happened countless other times, too.
Mancini doesn’t offer empty clichés to hard questions, but intelligent, well-reasoned answers. He never carps about questions and always has original answers.
Despite an Orioles campaign to have Mancini chosen as an All-Star, pitcher John Means was chosen instead.
Mancini discussed the snub the next day, and offered his public congratulations to Means, who did deserve the nod, but also acknowledged that he was steamed about not being picked.
His honesty only increased his credibility.
Having your best player willingly accept responsibility is huge. That’s not the reason that Mancini deserves an extension, but it should make the Orioles feel good about offering one.
Having Mancini around for perhaps six more years is appealing. It’s possible by the end of his third year of arbitration, 2022, the Orioles could be much closer to being truly competitive.
It would be a shame to see the Orioles’ best player not see the rebuild all the way through.
However, Elias probably sees it another way. Currently, only Alex Cobb and Chris Davis are on multi-year contracts. Cobb runs through 2021 and Davis’ ends in 2022. Elias could prize the flexibility of not having any more future money tied up.
When Elias made his only major trade, dealing Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox in July, the Orioles received two teenaged Dominican Summer League players in return.
Surely, Elias will listen to offers for pitchers Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens and infielder Jonathan Villar. If he makes a move for any of the three, he might get a return similar to the one he received for Cashner.
But if Elias is serious about trading a 27-year-old power hitter just coming into his prime, he’d need an enormous return.
There’s no rush to market Mancini, and probably no rush to extend him, either.
However, it would serve as somewhat of a reward for the fans who attended games in 2019.
When Elias sent an email to season ticket-holders last year, he mentioned Bundy, Givens, Mancini and centerfielder Cedric Mullins.
Only Mancini met and exceeded expectations in 2019, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to improve.
In September, Mancini had his best month, hitting .365 with a 1.049 OPS. With nothing for his team to play for, Mancini stood out.
The guess here is that Mancini will neither be traded nor extended this offseason, and in four months he’ll report to spring training in Sarasota, Florida ready for another season as the Orioles’ team leader.
The Orioles are lucky to have him, and should have him for many years to come.