Now that the nation knows what we in Baltimore have long known, that Trey Mancini is a special person and not a bad baseball player, it’s time to make sure he stays here.
Mancini, who captivated the baseball world with his inspiring story and his finals appearance in Monday’s Home Run Derby that was won by the Mets’ Pete Alonso, has another 1 ½ seasons under the Orioles’ control before he can become a free agent.
A year ago, Mancini still had more than two months of chemotherapy to endure after his March 12, 2020 surgery for colon cancer. On Monday night, that was hardly forgotten as his story reminded folks how fortunate the Orioles and Baltimore are to have him.
That point may be emphasized between now and July 30th when the trading deadline comes, and Mancini’s name is likely to be mentioned.
Mancini’s power and leadership would be an asset for any contender, but for one particular non-contender, he’s even more important.
I’m not sure what Mancini would bring in return, but with attendance at Oriole Park low and fans fixated on the draft and minor league prospects instead of the big-league club, trading him would be a mistake.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is a decidedly unemotional, clinical operator, as he should be. Fan attachment to a player shouldn’t generally be taken into consideration.
This time it’s different.
With a team that’s on pace for 111 losses and would have to play nearly .500 ball (35-38) to avoid losing 100 games, there should be few untouchables.
It would be hard to part with starting pitcher John Means or centerfielder Cedric Mullins. Perhaps easier to trade rightfielder Anthony Santander or left-handed relievers Paul Fry or Tanner Scott. But it should be unthinkable to move Mancini.
After all he’s gone through, to produce as well as he has — 16 homers, 55 RBIs, a .331 on-base percentage, a .791 OPS, a .256 batting average — Mancini should be treasured.
Those stats make him among the team’s leaders, but there’s something more important than the numbers.
Younger players look at Mancini as an example of how a player should carry himself: Work hard, don’t complain, do your best.
When the team suffered through a 14-game losing streak, equaling the second longest in club history, Mancini was encouraging others. He didn’t have to say it, but if he could endure cancer surgery and rounds of invasive chemotherapy, they shouldn’t be feeling sorry for themselves.
You often read and hear about team leaders, but Mancini’s type of leadership is authentic.
In a Zoom call to talk about the Home Run Derby, Mancini acknowledged that the pulls on his time can be tiring. There are moments when he’d prefer to have some time to himself, but he serves willingly as an advocate for colon cancer research because it’s needed.
Cancer survivors are special people. When they’re diagnosed, they seek out others who’ve experienced the horrors of this disease, and when they’re pronounced cancer-free, they’re glad to help others who’ve contracted the disease.
It’s no secret that the Orioles aren’t close to contention, and if the Orioles traded Mancini to a contender, perhaps they could get another piece or two to help them in the long run.
But the team needs players fans can identify with, and Mancini’s performance a year after missing an entire season is reaching a wider audience.
With a season-and-a-half left before free agency, Mancini is probably at the height of his value. If the Orioles traded him in the offseason or waited until a year from now, they would most likely get less.
He’ll turn 30 next March, doesn’t run well, isn’t a plus defender, and his value on the field comes as a power hitter. His value off the field can’t be measured.
Under Elias, the Orioles haven’t signed a player to a long-term deal. They’re still wary after the Chris Davis contract. I don’t know what sort of a contract Mancini might accept, should one be offered, but it wouldn’t come close to the seven-year, $161 million contract Davis signed. The Davis contract will expire when Mancini is eligible for free agency.
A Mancini contract extension would give the fans something to be happy about, a reward for their patience through five losing seasons, and generate goodwill in Baltimore.
Fans know that Mancini, who has never moaned about the losing, would work hard to stay in shape as he ages, and that he’ll be a player his teammates and fans can continue to identify with and cheer for.
It seems unlikely that the Orioles will go this route, but it’s time to ensure that Mancini’s only baseball home will be in Baltimore.