CHICAGO — Eric Hosmer arrived at the Cubs Convention this weekend as the Cubs’ new veteran first baseman, sporting a sharp Cubbie blue blazer. Prospect Matt Mervis circled the Sheraton Grand Chicago, where fans lined up to get the first baseman of the future’s autograph.
And on Saturday night, as Cubs fans toasted the upcoming season with one day left in the convention, news broke that first baseman Trey Mancini was also in the North Siders’ plans. A source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that Mancini has agreed to a two-year contract with the Cubs, pending a physical.
The Cubs have not confirmed the deal, which includes an opt-out after the 2023 season, per Feinsand. The financial aspect of the contract was also not immediately known.
Earlier Saturday at the Cubs Convention, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer noted that left-handed Hosmer “would be playing against a right-handed pitcher every day.” This left the possibility open for a platoon situation with a right-handed hitter. Mancini fits that mould.
Hosmer said “everything” about the Cubs’ situation was attractive.
“It’s just a young, energetic band,” Hosmer said. “On the other side looking, you see the talent, you see the guys who are coming up and some of the signs that they’ve done.”
Before Hosmer signed a league minimum contract — San Diego is on the hook for the remainder of his previous deal that runs through 2025 — the Cubs signed free agents Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger and Jameson Taillon, among others.
“It looks like a really good group and it looks like a very open division,” Hosmer said. “And that those guys could have a really good chance. And I’m glad to be a part of that.”
Hoyer thinks there might be a real “change of scenery element” in Hosmer’s situation.
“In San Diego, he went there, he signed a big contract,” Hoyer said. “He had a couple of good years, but obviously it didn’t go the way they hoped and they moved on. And it wasn’t the most comfortable environment. And I think doing that enter our environment, I think there remaining years.”
Mancini — named 2021 American League Comeback Player of the Year following a return from Stage 3 colon cancer — is coming off a strong 22-game performance between the Orioles and Astros. He hit 18 homers with 63 RBIs, but struggled (.622 OPS) after a midseason trade to Houston.
Mancini’s best season came in 2019, when he hit 35 home runs and an .899 OPS in a breakout for Baltimore. During his career, he posted remarkably even splits against right-handers (.265/.330/.456) and left-handers (.266/.331/.459).
Hosmer has four Gold Glove Awards, but advanced defensive measures have not gone in his favor in recent years. At plate, he had reversed spreads in 2022 (.773 OPS against left-handers, versus a .693 OPS against right-handers), but he did better against right-handers (.810 OPS) than left-handers (.668 OPS) in his career.
On the field, Mancini, 30, also has experience in both corners of the outfield, but the fit with the Cubs would be at first base, where he’s been more of a defender. Patrick Wisdom can also play first and bat as the designated hitter, but he can also stay third with Mancini on board.
Adding Mancini to first base and the DH picture could also mean that Mervis’ likeliest destination on Opening Day is Triple-A Iowa. Last year, the 24-year-old Mervis hit .309 with 36 homers, 119 RBIs and a .984 OPS as he climbed through High-A, Double-A and Triple-A.
Before adding Hosmer and Mancini, Mervis (No. 21 on Pipeline’s Top 30 prospects list) seemed to have a real path to Chicago’s opening roster. Now, the Cubs could take a more typical development approach for a player not currently on the 40-man roster.
“I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself trying to make the team by putting on a great game in spring training,” Mervis said. “These guys are smarter than that. They’re not going to see me hit a home run or anything and say, ‘Yeah, he’s ready. Obviously they’re going to do a little more work than that and assess things the way they want.”
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