Wednesday’s game at Camden Yards, the Orioles’ last before Friday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, came and went without first baseman Trey Mancini realizing it could be his final home game in Baltimore.
It would be a memorable one: He homered and shared a moment with Sonsy Gaba, the mother of Mo, an Orioles and Ravens superfan who died of cancer a year earlier. Mancini missed the 2020 season facing cancer himself, but amid his comeback campaign from stage 3 colon cancer, he hasn’t often allowed his mind to drift toward the possibility he’s no longer an Oriole by the weekend.
“It’s something I haven’t really thought about,” Mancini said. “I haven’t really had any anxiousness or anything like that this week. I’ve tried to be better about that because in years past, sometimes, it can be a lot on your mind and it’s something you don’t control, and I said that before, but I expect to stay here and I hope to.
“But at the same time, I obviously understand that there’s a bigger picture than just myself, so I’m honored and humbled either way, but again, it’s just something that I haven’t really given much thought to.”
Among the Orioles’ trade candidates, Mancini is a unique case. With him as the exception, all others are either underperforming or injured veterans set to be free agents this offseason or players who haven’t yet reached salary arbitration and thus still have at least three years of team control left.
Mancini, who has one year of salary arbitration left before reaching free agency after the 2022 season, stands alone as a player performing well without several years of control after this one. That’s largely because executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has already used previous trade windows to move others who would fit that mold.
Shortstop José Iglesias and pitchers Dylan Bundy and Alex Cobb are with the Los Angeles Angels because of separate offseason trades that sent them there. Before last year’s deadline, Elias traded relievers Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro, all of whom would’ve been under team control this season.
In dealing players before they are in the final season before free agency, selling teams are generally able to extract more value. The Orioles likely received a better prospect return by offering the Angels full seasons of Cobb and Iglesias than they would have if each only had two months left before their contracts expired.
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Leading up to each of his two deadlines leading the Orioles’ baseball operations department, Elias has flipped a starting pitcher in the last year of his contract for two low-level prospects, sending Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox in 2019 and Tommy Milone to the Atlanta Braves in 2020. The rental players available on the Orioles this year each have their warts.
Right-hander Matt Harvey entered the year as a potential trade candidate if he could recapture some of what made him one of baseball’s top starters from 2012 to 2015. But before pitching six scoreless innings in each of his past two starts, he had a 7.70 ERA. Third baseman Maikel Franco was signed late in spring training to add some right-handed power to the Orioles’ lineup but hasn’t delivered it; he was batting .216/.263/.374 entering Thursday.
Shortstop Freddy Galvis appeared to be the Orioles’ most likely trade chip before suffering a right quadriceps strain late last month. He’s nearing a return and is taking at-bats at the Orioles’ Sarasota, Florida, complex. He remains eligible to be traded while on the 10-day injured list, but whether another team would want to acquire him after missing a month is yet to be seen.
Beyond Mancini, the Orioles’ other healthy potential trade pieces are far enough from free agency that the potential exists for them to be part of the next contending team in Baltimore. Left-handed starter John Means, All-Star center fielder Cedric Mullins, and left-handed relievers Paul Fry and Tanner Scott won’t be free agents until at least after the 2024 season.
Elias has said he sees Means as the Orioles’ No. 1 starter in an eventual playoff rotation, while he also said Mullins has developed into the American League’s best center fielder after Angels superstar Mike Trout. Relievers tend to be more fungible, but among left-handed ones with at least 50 appearances over the past two seasons, Scott and Fry respectively rank second and seventh in ERA and 11th and eighth in strikeout percentage.
Mancini, though, is alone in having the two key traits of production and dwindling team control. Although he is certainly valuable in the eyes of contenders, Manicini likely means more to the Orioles, whose fanbase would be proud but heartbroken to see him recognized as MLB Comeback Player of the Year while wearing another uniform.
By Friday evening, there will be a clear grasp of whether that will be the case.