(670 The Score) After winning the World Series last fall for the first time in his career, Trey Mancini entered free agency with his mind on finding the right fit.
The 30-year-old Mancini spent his first seven years in the big leagues with the Orioles before he was dealt at the trade deadline last summer to the Astros, who went on to win the World Series. It was all part of a whirlwind season for Mancini, who went from being a mainstay in Baltimore to a struggling role player in Houston.
As he looked toward free agency, Mancini valued the opportunity to find what he hopes is a club heading toward sustained success. It’s part of what led him to sign a two-year deal with the Cubs earlier in January.
“It just seemed like a great fit,” Mancini said. “A team where I could move around and the different positions I've played in my career, whether it be first, outfield, DH, I'm always down for any of them. I'm good to play wherever they want me. I thought this team would be a great fit. With the moves that we have made this offseason, it’s a really exciting team to play for moving forward.”
In joining the Cubs, Mancini articulated to manager David Ross that he hopes to be a versatile piece for the lineup, and that's certainly something the club could use in 2023.
The Cubs signed veteran lefty-hitting first baseman Eric Hosmer to a one-year deal in January, and they have a rising prospect at that position in Matt Mervis, who should be a factor at some point this season. The righty bat Mancini has a little more MLB experience in the outfield than at first base, and he spent the majority of his 2022 season as a designated hitter.
Mancini was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2020 and missed the entire 60-game regular season during his bout with that. He was found to be cancer-free in late March 2021 and rejoined the Orioles that season, when he earned AL Comeback Player of the Years honors.
“Before I went through any of that, baseball slumps were the biggest issue I had ever faced in my life,” Mancini said of his cancer battle. “I’m lucky that to say that, that was the biggest problem I had. It puts a lot of things in perspective.
“It gives you a new lease on life. I call it a second chance because it was a pretty high-risk cancer at the time and aggressive, and I wasn’t sure what my outlook was going to be. With this second chance, I'm trying to make the most of it.”
Mancini initially planned to play for Team Italy for the World Baseball Classic in March but confirmed Monday that he has backed out of that commitment in order to get acclimated with the Cubs in spring training. Mancini spoke Monday morning with new Cubs hitting coach Dustin Kelly and plans to meet with him soon to further formulate a plan as the start of spring training nears.
Mancini has a career slash line of .265/.330/457 but posted a career-low .710 OPS in 2022. He was productive at the plate for the Orioles but slumped over 51 games with the Astros, hitting .176 with a .622 OPS with Houston.
Despite the struggles with the Astros, Mancini takes pride in how he handled it individually and contributed for a World Series championship.
“You learn a lot,” Mancini said. “I think I powered through really well. We won the World Series, which was amazing, and I got to contribute in the end there.
“You have to stick through those tough times and even when you’re not feeling great, you’re playing for something much bigger than yourself.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.