Cubs Keep Adding – Bring in Trey Mancini
The Cubs entered the off-season with the intention of spending money in an effort to upgrade their lineup. At least that was the word on the streets, some within the industry questioned whether or not they'd actually do so. They have certainly lived up to their word.
While they haven't completely blown the doors off the vault the way that the Mets have, they have been extremely active on the free agent market. They made a huge splash – shelling out a seven-year, $177 million contract to superstar shortstop Dansby Swanson. They brought in former National League MVP Cody Bellinger on a one-year, $12.5 million pact. They signed Eric Hosmer to a one-year deal to add some left-handed thump to the mix. They also added a terrific defensive catcher in Tucker Barnhart to share the load behind the dish with Yan Gomes.
On Saturday, they made another move – agreeing to a two-year, $14 million contract with Trey Mancini. Now on the surface, this signing makes plenty of sense. Mancini is a player that the Cubs expressed interest in from the start of the off-season and they were able to bring him in on a relatively affordable contract. He helps to lengthen the lineup and adds another strong bay from the right-hand side of the dish. What's interesting about it though, is the fact that it throws up another roadblock to the chances of Matt Mervis cracking the club's Opening Day roster.
Prior to the signings of Mancini and Hosmer, Mervis was gaining a lot of traction in the minds of fantasy managers as a player who could be an impact addition in his first season. The 24-year-old slugger had a breakout season in 2022 – slashing a robust .309/.379/.606 with 36 long balls and 119 RBI over 137 games across three minor league levels. He then went on to dominate in the Arizona Fall League and was named as the MVP of the Fall Stars Game. He has been consistently selected inside the top-300 picks overall in early NFBC Draft Champions drafts and has gone as high as pick 205 overall.
Now Mancini and Hosmer aren't the types of players who are necessarily going to hold Mervis back, but what they will do is delay his ultimate arrival. Hosmer should open the season as the club's regular first baseman against right-handed pitching, with Mancini likely seeing time there against southpaws – and splitting his time between the outfield and the designated hitter slot when he's not at first base. If Hosmer and Mancini both perform well, Mervis could languish at Triple-A Iowa for longer than fantasy managers would hope.
Shadev Sharma of The Athletic confirmed those suspicions on Saturday when he noted that Mervis will “almost certainly '' begin the 2023 campaign at Triple-A Iowa. Eventually though, if he continues to put up the gaudy numbers that he did during the 2022 season, he'll force the issue and will command regular playing time at the big league level.
From a fantasy perspective, Mervis is obviously the most interesting option of the trio – as he has the type of power that could make a major impact. Mancini has proven to be useful in the past as well though, and could have a bit of a resurgence playing half of his games in the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Hosmer is the least interesting of the three – and it isn't particularly close. Even at his best, Hosmer isn't likely to be an asset in any category and he isn't likely to see enough at-bats to have any sort of relevance as a compiler of stats.
Dan Martin and Jon Heyman of the New York Post delivered the unfortunate news on Saturday that right-hander Frankie Montas will miss at least the first month of the regular season due to inflammation in his right shoulder.
There has been nothing official from the Yankees, who agreed to a $7.5 million contract with Montas on Friday to avoid arbitration, but it sounds like the hard-throwing righty is dealing with a similar shoulder issue to the one that kept him sidelined last year during last season's postseason run.
Montas is roughly two months behind in his offseason training program, which will require him to ramp up into the early stages of the regular season. There should be an official timeline from the Yankees in the near future, but fantasy managers should expect Montas to have a delayed start to the 2023 season. There's also no guarantee what type of production he'll provide once he is ready to go – and the chance of ultimately requiring surgery is a risk that should be accounted for as well.
Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt would be the most likely internal options to take his spot in the Yankees' Opening Day rotation. It also wouldn't be shocking whatsoever to see them add another arm via free agency or the trade market in order to fill that early-season void.
MLB Quick Hits: The Padres officially signed catcher Ethan Salas – the top-ranked international prospect in the signing class according to MLB Pipeline – to a $5.6 million deal… The Mariners signed the second-ranked prospect – shortstop Felnin Celesten… The Dodgers signed Joendry Vargas – the third ranked international prospect according to MLB Pipeline… Kris Bryant (back, foot) told the Denver Post that he's 100 percent healthy and won't have any limitations or restrictions to begin spring training… The Rangers signed Yoshi Tsutsugo to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Roch Kubatko of MASN notes that the Orioles have maintained interest in signing free agent right-hander Michael Wacha… Former top prospect Lewis Brinson signed on with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball… The White Sox signed left-hander Garrett Davila to a minor league deal… The Athletics brought back right-hander Austin Pruitt on a minor league pact… The Tigers inked righty Trey Wingenter to a minor league contract… The Whie Sox signed Keynan Middleton to a minor league deal… The Padres brought in Domingo Tapia on a minor league contract… The Athletics agreed to terms with Cuban right-hander Luis Morales… The Yankees came to a $4.4 million accord with international prospect Brandon Mayea… The Pirates came to terms with right-hander Jun-Seok Shim – considered the best pitching prospect in this year's international class… The Cubs have expressed interest in free agent left-handers Andrew Chafin and Matt Moore… Kyle Hendricks (shoulder) currently feels “amazing”, but is slightly behind his regular offseason schedule and is unsure if he'll be ready in time for Opening Day…Levi Weaver of The Athletic reported that Brett Martin will undergo surgery on his left shoulder next week… The Rockies signed Harold Castro to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… The Angels added Taylor Jones on a minor league deal… Luis Perdomo will head overseas after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Chiba Lotte Mariners of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball… The Mets acquired minor league outfielder Luis De La Cruz from the Orioles to complete their trade of James McCann… Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Red Sox have expressed interest in Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus.