The New York Yankees already landed their primary first base free agent target in Anthony Rizzo. He received a multi-year deal worth up to $51 million, and that means the starter is set. However, there’s no such thing as too much depth.
Former Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini had his $10 million option declined by the Astros just after winning the World Series with the latter in October. Over the course of the 2022 postseason (the first he has played over the course of his six-year MLB career), he played in 8 games registering 24 plate appearances but only 1 hit and 1 RBI. Despite a slick defensive play in Game 5 of the Fall Classic, it’s safe to say it probably wasn’t the kind of performance he had envisioned when he was moved in a three-team trade involving the Orioles, the Astros, and the Rays.
Regardless, Mancini was effective during the regular season, giving the Astros every reason to make a move to acquire him.
Mancini had a strong year in the batter’s box according to his Baseball Savant percentile rankings and his overall numbers according to FanGraphs. His maximum exit velocity and average exit velocity are the two numbers that stand out to me the most, in the 80th and 61st percentiles, respectively. Even his barrel rate in the 66th percentile is very impressive, and his performance at the plate was a huge reason for the Orioles’ almost unprecedented success in the regular season.
Mancini slashed .239/.319/.391 with a wRC+ of 104. He posted an fWAR of 0.9 as well. His 92 games with the Orioles are where he really succeeded, slashing .268/.347/.404 with a 116 wRC+, but unfortunately, he did not see close to similar production after moving south.
The Yankees would need to have all of their priorities sorted out before going after a free agent like Mancini. Luckily, one of them already is, as the incumbent Rizzo is signed to cover first, and now the focus is on Aaron Judge like it has been since the season ended. They’re also most likely going to want another starting pitcher or, in the worst-case scenario in which they can’t secure Judge, look towards the middle of the infield at the shortstop position, so money needs to be committed there as well.
The good news is that Mancini could very well be a useful backup option. He hit 18 total home runs between Baltimore and Houston, so he still has pop at age-30, which could be of use if the Yankees end up looking for that kind of power skillset, or if they’re feeling more inclined to give Giancarlo Stanton more outfield time in 2023 (thus opening up the DH position a little more). Mancini has certainly demonstrated a proclivity for pop to all fields at Yankee Stadium over the years:
Mancini is ultimately not the first priority for the Yankees though, nor should he be. They have a player in DJ LeMahieu who can, when healthy, fill in for Rizzo at first base on days when the sweet-swinging lefty is off, or if he happens to sustain an injury. Nonetheless, if the Yankees have plans to trade a player like Gleyber Torres and put LeMahieu at second base for good, he could certainly be an option for Brian Cashman to take a hard look at on the open market. At that point, the only question would be if Mancini is willing to downgrade to a possible part-time role at this point in his career; he very well might want to keep trying to be a regular elsewhere while he can.
There are many roads that the Yankees could go down this offseason depending on other positions. The World Series champion Mancini would be a valuable addition on the bench, but it probably isn’t quite a fit for him just yet.