Trey Mancini played in five major league games last month and he’s already a central figure in an early offseason debate.
Chris Davis is signed for six more years. They both play first base. What’s a manager to do?
I’ve heard how Mancini is too young to be used as a full-time designated hitter. Buck Showalter doesn’t seem inclined to move Davis to right field, which is understandable. Davis played Gold Glove-caliber defense. And he didn’t re-sign with the Orioles so he could change positions in the second year.
Showalter stated last spring that Mancini wasn’t moving to the outfield, that first baseman Christian Walker was better equipped to do it. I’m not sure that anything has changed this perception, but it wouldn’t hurt to hit him some fly balls at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
If Mancini earns a job next spring, he could be part of a DH platoon or get a shot at a full-time role, depending on his splits and what else the Orioles do with their roster.
Eddie Murray made 110 starts as the DH during his rookie season in 1977. Lee May made 108 starts at first base and 39 as the DH.
Murray also made 42 starts at first base and three in left field. The latter games slipped from my memory. Murray in the outfield? But I do remember him starting three games at third base the following season before moving across the diamond, with May transitioning into a full-time DH role.
The difference, of course, is that May hadn’t signed a seven-year, $161 million contract. But there’s a way for Davis and Mancini to co-exist on the opening day roster, and it wouldn’t hurt the rookie to get the bulk of his at-bats as the DH.
It also wouldn’t hurt him to begin the year as Triple-A Norfolk’s first baseman. Hitting a home run in each of his first three starts doesn’t guarantee that he’ll jog down the orange carpet on April 3. Let it play out.
Having Mancini on the bench could be part of a necessary upgrade. There wasn’t much pop unless Pedro Alvarez began the game in the dugout. Nolan Reimold batted .274/.331/.452 in the first half and .139/.253/.228 after the break, and Ryan Flaherty’s value remained his ability to play everywhere, not with the offense that he provided. He appeared at every position except center field and catcher, but he also batted .217/.291/.318 and practically disappeared down the stretch.
The bench also included a backup catcher, of course, and Caleb Joseph batted .174/.216/.197 with no RBIs in 49 games.
Jonathan Schoop played in every game this season and batted .225/.252/.391 in the second half. Mark Trumbo played in 159 games and batted .214/.284/.470 in the second half. Davis played in 157 games and batted .200/.313/.412 in the second half. Manny Machado played in 157 games and batted .204/.288/.337 in July and .243/.288/.409 in September/October.
Would a little more rest have benefited these players?
As we discussed Saturday on “Wall to Wall Baseball,” only Brooks Robinson (158) and Boog Powell (154) played in more than 149 games for the 1970 Orioles. Outfielder Merv Rettenmund appeared in 106 games despite the roster including Frank Robinson, Paul Blair and Don Buford, and he batted .322/.394/.544.
It wouldn’t hurt the 2017 Orioles to mix it up.
It wouldn’t hurt Mancini to be part of their bench if there’s no full-time role.