The Orioles don’t intend to sign Chris Davis to a seven-year, $161 million deal to have him play right field or serve as the primary designated hitter. He’s here to play first base, with the ability to move around in specific cases.
As it now stands, Mark Trumbo figures to get most of his at-bats as the designated hitter. However, the Orioles still haven’t figured out who’s playing right field and they haven’t explained how Davis’ return is going to impact Trumbo.
The subject is bound to come up at the press conference, which won’t be scheduled until Davis passes his physical. Don’t expect anything today.
Trumbo is regarded as a better first baseman than outfielder and he’s going to play the position at times. Davis won’t go 162 games on that side of the diamond.
With Davis under team control for the next seven years, I’m wondering what the future holds for minor leaguer first basemen Christian Walker and Trey Mancini. There’s no reason to assume they easily could transition to the outfield.
Should the Orioles do a little experimenting in spring training? Should they package one of the prospects in a trade to acquire another outfielder or starting pitcher? Should they just keep Walker and Mancini at Triple-A Norfolk this season, letting them split time between first base and designated hitter, and not rush a decision?
I’m going with two of the three choices. Keep both players, unless trading one brings a major roster upgrade, and let them shag fly balls in spring training. You may quickly find that they’re not suited for it, but Sarasota is the place for experimenting.
That’s also true of Fort Lauderdale, where catcher Javy Lopez tried to impersonate a first baseman. I still have nightmares.
Mancini was the organization’s minor league Player of the Year in 2015, one season after Walker took the honor. He’s created a buzz so loud that it sounds like a million hornets’ nests. I’m inclined to assume that he’s not going anywhere.
“You could make a case that he had probably one of the top three statistical years of any position player in the minor leagues all over baseball, and some of the people don’t want to give him that credit,” said manager Buck Showalter during the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.
“I like his makeup as much as anything. This guy’s a real grinder. He’ll remind you a lot of Steve Pearce, the way he approaches competition. He’s worked hard on his defense. Not that he was bad, but I think he understands that there’s become a culture in the organization. They understand what we expect of defensively of guys, that if you’re driving in one and letting in two, that math doesn’t work up here. Trey’s worked very hard at it.
“He’s got a lot of want-to. He really wants this to happen. He comes from a good family down in central Florida. And keep in mind our complex is in Sarasota. He went all the way across the country to work with Brady. He doesn’t even know he’s coming to big league camp yet, but he’s coming to big league camp.”
Showalter watched Mancini at Double-A Bowie a few times over the summer.
“I snuck in there a couple times after a day game. I think there was an off-day,” Showalter said. “Got to see not only him, but a lot of the kids over there, and he’s impressive.”
So what about trading Mancini or Walker? I posed the question to Showalter on Thursday, before Davis and the Orioles reached agreement.
“It’s like when someone says, ‘Geez, if you like Mancini, why don’t you trade Christian Walker? If you like Christian Walker, why don’t you trade Trey Mancini?’ OK, that’s fine, but the other club says, ‘We won’t do that. We don’t like that guy.’
“We all have these convenient trades that we supposedly have a surplus of that can bring back this, that and whatever. It doesn’t work that way. There’s got to be ... That’s why you see so many three-way trades made with clubs, because it’s easier to work out.
“You don’t want to wait into the spring, because by then everybody’s down the road with their guys and you go through so much time together and through the spring. Guys get to the last week of spring, they want to know what they have. They don’t want to all of a sudden go get a player the last day or two that nobody knows anything about, so your window is about the start of the exhibition season and very few good trades are made after that.”
Mancini and Baysox outfielder Mike Yastrzemski are working out in California with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson. They’re not on vacation.
“He’s got six guys living in his house,” Showalter said. “Brady’s got this big hill behind his house and his goal every year when they first get there is to make them all throw up at the top of the hill. And he sent me a video of Mancini and Yastrzemski throwing up at the top of the hill, so it made my day.”