Reds sign Trey Mancini to minor-league contract

The Reds have signed first baseman and corner outfielder Trey Mancini to a minor-league contract, per’s Mark Sheldon.

Mancini was designated for assignment by the Cubs on August 1 and released two days later. Signed to a two-year, $14 million deal by the Cubs in January, Mancini has endured his worst big-league season to date, hitting .234/.299/.336 with a 74 wRC+ in 263 plate appearances. He became expendable after the Cubs acquired corner infielder Jeimer Candelario from the Nationals at the deadline, and with the team in playoff contention, they opted to move on from Mancini after just half a season. Of note, the Cubs are on the hook for Mancini’s remaining salary — minus the pro-rated big-league minimum (about $150,000 if he were called up today), which the Reds would pay, if he makes it back to the major leagues.

The 31-year-old is best known from his days with the Orioles, where he batted .270/.334/.463 with 117 home runs and a 113 wRC+ across five-and-a-half seasons. Mancini won the AL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2021 after missing the 2020 season due to colon cancer. Baltimore dealt Mancini to the Astros at the 2022 trade deadline, where he struggled to a 77 wRC+ and had just one hit in 24 postseason plate appearances (he’s probably not complaining about that World Series ring, though).

Mancini’s struggles with the Astros carried over into 2023. In his stint in Chicago, his strikeout rate ballooned to 29.7% — more than six percentage points above his career average (23.5%). His pop also disappeared, as he produced only four home runs and a career-low .102 isolated power (career .185 ISO). It showed up in the Statcast metrics as well: his average exit velocity (41st percentile) and hard-hit rate (50th) are slightly below his career averages, but his barrel rate, xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA are all in the bottom 10% of qualified hitters.

How could Mancini fit with the Reds?

The Reds could use a right-handed bat, particularly one that can play the outfield. Stuart Fairchild is on the injured list, switch-hitter Henry Ramos was designated for assignment for the second time this season, and Nick Senzel was recently optioned to Triple-A — then passed over for a recall in favor of Michael Siani and Nick Martini, who are both left-handed hitters. José Barrero has been hitting well in Louisville but was also passed up for a promotion, possibly because he’s shown little improvement with his plate discipline and has primarily been playing shortstop rather than center field. Currently, the only two right-handed hitting outfielders on the active roster are Spencer Steer and TJ Hopkins.

How much Mancini can help is questionable, however. He has an identical 108 wRC+ against right-handed and left-handed pitching in his career, but he has a dismal 84 wRC+ against southpaws over the last two seasons. Mancini is also a liability as an outfielder, with -22 outs above average and -13 defensive runs saved in his career. As a result, he’s only played the outfield sparingly in recent seasons, logging only 36 games there since 2019, all in the last two seasons (20 in left field, 16 in right field).

Still, Mancini brings experience and a track record of MLB success that Hopkins, Siani, and Martini do not. If he can show he has something left in the tank at Triple-A, Mancini could prove a useful addition down the stretch. If not, it’s a minimal risk for the Reds.

UPDATE: The Reds may now have a need for Mancini at first base, as Joey Votto has been placed on the injured list with discomfort in his surgically repaired left shoulder. Christian Encarnacion-Strand should see the lion’s share of time at first base with Votto out, while Steer should fill in periodically.

For now, Senzel has been recalled for Louisville, but we could see Mancini sooner rather than later after he gets some at-bats in Triple-A to regain his timing.

Featured photo by Mogami Kariya

Matt Wilkes

Matt Wilkes got hooked on Reds baseball after attending his first game in Cinergy Field at 6 years old, and he hasn’t looked back. As a kid, he was often found imitating his favorite players — Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns — in the backyard. When he finally went inside, he was leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 or keeping stats for whatever game was on TV. He started writing about baseball in 2014 and has become fascinated by analytics and all the new data in the game. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.