The Orioles traded longtime first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros as part of a three-team deal on Monday. The 30-year-old Mancini, who hit an inside-the-park home run in his final at-bat at Camden Yards last Thursday, was one of the most popular Orioles of recent years.
The Orioles will receive right-handed pitcher Seth Johnson from Tampa Bay and right-hander Chayce McDermott from Houston. The Rays will receive centerfielder Jose Siri from Houston and the Astros get pitcher Jayden Murray from Tampa Bay.
“This is certainly a very weighty trade for us given everything that has transpired the last few years,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said in a video conference call. “Everything Trey has meant to this organization after being drafted and what is happening with our organization both in the major and minor leagues right now. There are a lot of considerations that go into making trades, especially this time of year.”
Johnson was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in seven starts with High-A Bowling Green. He needs Tommy John surgery and was the Rays’ ninth-rated prospect, according to Baseball America.
McDermott was the Astros’ fourth-round draft pick last year and was 6-1 with a 5.50 ERA in 19 games for High-A Asheville. He was Houston’s sixth-rated prospect, according to Baseball America.
Mancini was hitting .268 with 10 home runs, 41 RBIs, a .347 on-base average and a .751 OPS. He was seen saying goodbye to teammates on the field in Arlington, Texas.
He told reporters in Arlington, Texas how difficult it was to say goodbye to the Orioles’ training staff. “These are guys who I credit with saving my life two years ago.” In spring training of 2020, Mancini realized something was wrong, and the Orioles’ training staff reacted quickly. Mancini was diagnosed with colon cancer and had surgery on March 12th. He missed the season because of the surgery and chemotherapy.
Showing his class, Mancini also told reporters: “I always said I wanted to see the rebuild through and I feel like, in a lot of ways, I have. I think things are only going to get better here, and besides when I’m playing against them, I’m always gonna be rooting for these guys in here. A huge part of me is always going to be an Oriole, and a huge part of my heart is always going to be in Baltimore.
“There’s not enough I can say about this organization, this city of Baltimore, what the fans mean to me, what these guys in here mean to me. It’s the only team I have been a part of since 2013. To be a part of things changing for the better … has been incredible.”
Mancini’s popularity with the fans and the team wasn’t lost on Elias.
“We decided to make this trade, but it’s certainly a bittersweet moment. It’s very emotional for me personally and all of us saying goodbye to Trey for the next couple of months,” he said. “I love the guy. I am so happy that he’s going to the team that is going to treat him well, that’s going to be a fun city and ballpark and lineup to play in, and I think is going to give him a chance to win a World Series.”
Mancini finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2017. After hitting .291 with 35 home runs and 97 RBIs in 2019, he missed the pandemic-shortened 60-game season but came back in 2021.
He had a solid season and won three comeback player of the year awards. He also finished second in the Home Run Derby contest at the All-Star Game, where he was again able to share his story and the importance of cancer screenings.
The Orioles begin play on Monday night at Texas trailing the Rays by three games for the third and final wild-card spot in the American League.
“This is an organization for which we feel a window, a championship window is opening,” Elias said. “We have an opportunity to seek players at this point in time that may contribute to that window in pursuit of multiple playoff appearances over the next several years here in Baltimore and part of the reason our division is so difficult is that the teams in our division have done such a spectacular job over the last decade of balancing present, future, interim, long-term considerations with their moves. It’s important for us to do the same thing.”
Mancini has a $10 million mutual option for 2023, and if both Houston and Mancini don’t exercise the option, he’ll become a free agent.
“When a player is a free agent in nine weeks, you have to consider opportunities to bring in high-upside talent that has the potential to contribute many years down the road, and that’s what we see in these two pitchers,” Elias said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what we can discuss with Trey Mancini as a free agent.”
Elias said he realizes that this trade might seem to personal to the fans because of what Mancini has meant to them, the Orioles and the city.
“Since we started at the end of 2018, there have been a lot of very difficult decisions that have enabled us to make progress … Difficult decisions are going to continue to be part of that, and I think I’ve said all along the organization is going to have to do business in a manner that is more balancing of the present and the future than perhaps it had in the past. This is the nature of the competition we’re in with these other teams and the rest of the league and we have a tremendous amount of reinforcements, I believe that will continue to come up and help this team.
“I believe that having made this trade, the overall organization is stronger, and we’re going to be in a position to see what free agency brings us, both for Trey and for us.”
The trade deadline is 6 p.m. on Tuesday, and Elias said the Orioles will continue to look for opportunities.
“Things are moving very fast around the industry,” Elias said. “I can’t prognosticate anything right now other than we’re listening and working on all types of possibilities.”
Elias said that the team’s current record is just one consideration.
“The .500 record that we have, the winning the last couple of months that we have, the momentum that we have has made this a much more difficult decision and a much more complicated trade deadline than it would have been, more than any of the past ones have been, but ultimately I have to tether my decisions to our outlook and the probabilities for this year.
“We have a shot at a wild-card right now, but it’s not a probability that we’re going to win a wild card. We have all different ways of looking at that. Moves that we can make that can strengthen our chances for next season and the season beyond and the one beyond that are something that we have to continue to consider.”
The Orioles play a three-game series at Houston beginning August 26th, and the Astros visit Baltimore on September 23rd.
The Orioles have recalled outfielder Yusniel Diaz from Norfolk to replace Mancini on the 26-man roster.
Notes: The Orioles were unable to sign their third-round pick, right-hander Nolan McLean. Elias said the Orioles would receive a similar draft pick in 2023 as compensation. He said the team signed its 17th-round pick, Carter Young, a shortstop from Vanderbilt.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB