BALTIMORE -- Four-plus weeks old, this offseason already has the feel of a transformative one for the Orioles’ roster. Placed on waivers last week, Jonathan Villar seems destined to play elsewhere in 2020. The same could be said for Dylan Bundy, if the most recent trade rumors are to be believed. Uncertainty abounds up and down the roster, for players both up-and-coming and established.
Now, with the Winter Meetings approaching, that dynamic may soon apply to Trey Mancini, even if he’d prefer that it did not. Speaking at BMORE Around Town’s Purple Tailgate on Sunday, Mancini expressed his desire to remain in Baltimore amid an offseason where things are certain to remain in flux.
“I feel very similarly like I did at the All-Star break this year. I’m pretty confident I’m going to stay,” Mancini said. “I’d like to stay, obviously. It’s out of my control but I like my chances.”
By doing so, Mancini echoed the sentiments he’d made since his name began popping up in rumors last July. The Orioles could not find a trade partner then, despite nibbles from the Rangers, Astros and Rays. Given Mancini’s production and contract status -- he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and under team control through 2022 -- a market will certainly exist again. The question is whether any other team would value Mancini as high as the O's, who would probably need to be overwhelmed to part with their reigning leader in homers, on-base percentage, slugging, total bases, and a host of other major statistical categories.
Ultimately, though, whether Mancini stays is not up to him. The Orioles have not approached the 27-year-old about a contract extension, despite general manager and vice president Mike Elias’ repeated public desire for Mancini to remain with the club “for a long time.” Often in the same breath, Elias will say that given the O's current position, they will listen on any player.
“I hope that he’s here,” Elias said on 105.7 The Fan’s Hot Stove Show in November. “We love having him. We expect him to stay here. I think that he’s perfect for what we’re trying to do -- the type of player, the type of person that we want. He’s great for this town. But as I’ve said, we have to listen if people come our way with ideas.”
That ambivalence underscores a hard reality: Face of the franchise or not, Mancini remains the top trade chip for a rebuilding Orioles team focused squarely on the future.
“I think everybody realizes Elias and [assistant GM] Sig [Mejdal], they know what they’re doing. Look what they did in Houston. A lot of people here trust the process,” said Mancini, adding that he hopes to play besides Villar, whom he called “the most underrated player in baseball,” in 2020. “There are always going to be rumors and moving parts. Wherever you are, it’s your job to rally the troops a little bit and do your best for that team. Like Villar, I hope Dylan is with us next year, too. When we get to Spring Training that will be the group we go into the season with.”
In the interim, Mancini will continue putting down roots in Baltimore, where he has grown into a leader both in the clubhouse and community. For Sunday’s annual Purple Tailgate, he effectively inherited hosting duties from longtime #StayHungry organizer Adam Jones, who Mancini said helped promote this year’s version from afar. Jones’ philanthropic efforts raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for the Boys & Girls Club of Baltimore and the Living Classrooms Foundation; Mancini raised funds on Sunday to help 13-year-old Orioles and Ravens superfan Mo Gaba, who is battling cancer for the fourth time.
Asked if he would like to make hosting the event an annual thing, Mancini immediately confirmed. That, of course, would require him remaining in black and orange for the long haul.
“Adam really taught me well, how to do things the right way in the community,” Mancini said. “The Purple Tailgate has been in existence for a while and we didn’t want to see it go away. I wanted to put my own little spin on it. I’m really happy to do this and keep it going.”