Orioles Notes: Mancini, Santander, Lopez

As has been the case the past few summers, the Orioles enter deadline season among the game’s likeliest sellers. Baltimore has been amidst a full rebuild, and they’re again all but certain to finish at the bottom of the American League East. The O’s have shown signs of progress, graduating top prospect Adley Rutschman to the big leagues and going 14-12 last month, but they’re still set to field offers on a number of players.

Among the likeliest to be dealt are first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini and corner outfielder Anthony Santander. Mancini will hit free agency at the end of this season, and as of Spring Training, the club had not engaged his representatives in talks about a potential long-term deal. Barring an out-of-the-blue extension coming together over the next few weeks, the O’s figure to flip Mancini to a contender for this season’s final couple months.

The Mets are among the teams that has checked in on Mancini, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. New York skipper Buck Showalter is plenty familiar with the Notre Dame product, having managed in Baltimore through 2018. That encompassed Mancini’s first two full seasons as a big leaguer, so Showalter had an up-close look at his clubhouse fit and work habits.

Mancini is amidst one of the better seasons of his career. Through 295 plate appearances entering play Friday, the 30-year-old is hitting .280/.356/.421. Mancini has only hit seven home runs, but his 20% strikeout rate is a career-low. While his power output has dipped, particularly relative to his 35-homer 2019 breakout campaign, his hard contact rate is still well above-average.

Pete Alonso is having a great season at first base for the Mets, but the club figures to look into external possibilities at designated hitter. New York has gotten a .230/.311/.383 showing from the DH position, exactly league average production by measure of wRC+. Between Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis, the Mets entered the season with a seeming surplus of bat-first players who could serve as the team’s DH. Smith has instead struggled for a second straight season, hitting .194/.283/.265 in 113 MLB plate appearances and spending some time in Triple-A. Davis has a .243/.333/.345 line over 171 trips to the dish, hitting only two homers in 51 games. Like Mancini, Davis has far better batted ball metrics than his power results would suggest though.

The Mets are one of plenty of teams that either already has or will check in with O’s general manager Mike Elias regarding Mancini. Santander also figures to attract some amount of interest, and Heyman writes in a separate piece that Baltimore is willing to make him available. After a down 2021, he’s hit 14 home runs through this season’s first half. The switch-hitting outfielder owns a .235/.329/.424 line in just under 300 trips to the plate.

For the first time in his career, Santander has an on-base percentage above the league average, a testament to an approach overhaul that has allowed him to work more free passes. After swinging at more than half the pitches he’d seen in every season of his career through 2021, Santander has cut his swing rate to just over 46% this year. With that more patient approach has come a 10.5% walk rate that’s more than double the 5.1% clip he’d posted in his career through last season.

While the O’s are under time pressure to extend or trade Mancini, the club could elect to hold onto Santander if they don’t receive offers to their liking. The 27-year-old entered this season with three-plus years of big league service. He’s controllable through the end of 2024 via arbitration and making a modest $3.2MM this season. As for Baltimore’s other controllable outfielders, Heyman unsurprisingly writes the team would “have to be blown away” to move either Cedric Mullins or Austin Hays. Baltimore can keep each of Mullins and Hays through 2025.

Aside from Mancini and Santander, Baltimore’s next-most likely trade candidate may well be breakout closer Jorge López. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explored yesterday, López has transformed from struggling starter to lights-out reliever. Through 37 innings, the right-hander has a microscopic 0.73 ERA. He’s struck out 27.1% of opponents and generated ground-balls at a massive 64% clip, a combination that is sure to lead to plenty of calls from teams looking to add a late-game weapon.

As part of a reader mailbag, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes that Baltimore would listen to offers on López, at least as a matter of due diligence. Controllable through 2024 and playing this season on a $1.5MM salary, the 29-year-old could affordably stick around for the next few seasons. It’d no doubt take a significant haul for Elias and his staff to pull the trigger on a deal, but other clubs will try to pry López away before the August 2 deadline.

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