CHICAGO – Eric Hosmer arrived at the Cubs Convention this weekend as the Cubs’ new veteran first baseman, dressed in a sharp Cubbie blue blazer. Prospect Matt Mervis makes his way through the Sheraton Grand Chicago, where fans lined up to get the autograph of the first baseman of the future.
And on Saturday night, as Cubs fans were toasting the upcoming season with one day left in the convention, news broke that first baseman Trey Mancini was also in the North Siders’ plans. A source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that Mancini has agreed to a two-year deal with the Cubs pending a physical examination.
The Cubs have not confirmed the deal, which includes an opt-out after the 2023 season, according to Feinsand. The financial aspect of the contract was also not immediately known.
Earlier Saturday at the Cubs Convention, Jed Hoyer, president of baseball operations, noted that left-handed Hosmer “would play against right-handed pitchers every day.” That left open the possibility for a platoon situation with a right-handed batter. Mancini fits that mold.
Hosmer said “everything” about the Cubs’ situation was appealing.
“It’s just a young, energetic group,” Hosmer said. “When you look in from the other side you see the talent, you see the guys who are on their way up and some of the signs they’ve made.”
Prior to Hosmer being handed a league minimum deal — San Diego is on the hook for the remainder of his previous contract expiring 2025 — the Cubs signed free agents Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger and Jameson Taillon, among others.
“It just seems like a really good group and it seems like a division that is wide open,” said Hosmer. “And that these guys could really have a good chance. And I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Hoyer believes there may be a real “change of scenery” in Hosmer’s situation.
“In San Diego, he went there, he signed a big contract,” Hoyer said. “He had a few good years but obviously it didn’t go the way they hoped and they moved on. And that wasn’t the most comfortable environment when that happened. And I think it’s good to get him in our environment yet. years.”
Mancini – named American League Comeback Player of the Year in 2021 after a stage 3 colon cancer comeback – is coming off a solid ’22 showing between the Orioles and Astros. He hit 18 home runs with 63 RBIs, but struggled (.622 OPS) after a mid-season trade to Houston.
Mancini’s best season came in 2019, when he had 35 homers and an .899 OPS in a breakout show for Baltimore. Over the course of his career, he has remarkably even posted splits against righties (.265/.330/.456) and lefties (.266/.331/.459).
Hosmer has won four Gold Glove Awards, but the advanced defensive stats haven’t served him well in recent years. At record, he had reverse splits in 2022 (.773 OPS vs. left-handers, compared to a .693 OPS vs. right-handers), but has done better against right-handers (.810 OPS) than left-handers (.668 OPS) in his career.
On the field, the 30-year-old Mancini also has experience in both corners of the outfield, but the fit with the Cubs would be at first base, where he’s been a good defenseman. Patrick Wisdom can also play first and get at bats as a designated hitter, but he can also stay in third with Mancini on board.
Adding Mancini to first base and the DH picture could also mean that Mervis’ most likely destination for Opening Day Triple-A is Iowa. Last year, the 24-year-old Mervis hit .309 with 36 homers, 119 RBIs and a .984 OPS as he climbed through High-A, Double-A and Triple-A.
Prior to adding Hosmer and Mancini, Mervis (No. 21 on Pipeline’s Top 30 Cubs prospects list) seemed to have a real path to Chicago’s Opening Day roster. Now the Cubs could use a more typical development approach for a player who is not currently on the 40-man roster.
“I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself to make the team by playing a great game in Spring Training,” said Mervis. “Those guys are smarter than that. They’re not going to see me hit a home run or whatever and say, ‘Yeah, he’s ready.’ Obviously they’re going to do a little more work and evaluate things as they need to.”