23 for ’23: What will Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer bring to the Cubs?
Between position battles, roster additions and new rules, there are plenty of questions surrounding the 2023 Cubs. We attempt to provide answers for 23 of the most intriguing questions heading into the season.
MESA, Ariz. — David Ross and the Cubs knew one of the positions they needed to upgrade after the 2022 season.
“I think there’s a big hole for me at first base and the production we’re getting out of that,” Ross said late last September.
When he was asked about that, though, the question was in relation to infield prospect Matt Mervis, who was tearing up the minor leagues and seemingly forcing the issue.
In the offseason, though, the Cubs opted to add established veterans to fill the position. They did that in the form of lefty Eric Hosmer and righty Trey Mancini. Both provided an immediate boost offensively to the position and — in Hosmer’s case — brought hardware in the form of Gold Gloves to the position.
Hosmer’s addition came first and was an interesting one. He signed an 8-year, $144 million contract with San Diego ahead of the 2018 season. Hosmer never really produced at the level one would expect with a contract of that size, but he was still a valuable first baseman. Offensively, he posted a weighted runs-created plus (wRC+) over 100 in his last three seasons. The 33-year-old is only getting paid the league minimum by the Cubs (the Padres are covering the remaining 2 years of his megadeal), so if he can produce at the level he has the last few years, he would be both an upgrade at the position and good value for the team.
“Just a change of scenery element I think to him, where in San Diego, he went there, he signed a big contract, he had a few good years, but obviously it didn’t go as they hoped and they moved on,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said at Cubs Convention. “That wasn’t the most comfortable environment, I think, as that happened. I think getting him into our environment, there’s good years there.”
Hosmer has long been lauded for his clubhouse presence, too, and can help some of the young players on the Cubs’ roster continue to grow and build upon the successful second half they had in 2022. In Hosmer, the Cubs boosted their left-handed presence in the lineup, added a proven winner and upgraded the first base position.
If adding Hosmer wasn’t enough, the Cubs went out in January and signed Trey Mancini to a two-year deal, adding a perfect complement to Hosmer — a righty who can play first base, but also can fill in the corner outfield spots or as a designated hitter.
Mancini has hit 125 home runs in his career and posted a wRC+ of 132, 105 and 104 in his last three big-league seasons. The 30-year-old was traded last season from Baltimore to the Astros and made a key defensive play in Game 5 of the World Series as Houston won their second title in five seasons. With Seiya Suzuki’s injury, Mancini also adds versatility in that he can man a corner outfield spot, keep Hosmer at first and then the Cubs can turn to a multitude of players on their bench with varying skills to man the DH spot.
Like Hosmer, his veteran presence provides a boost to the Cubs and his pop is something the lineup was sorely missing. Make no mistake about it, the Cubs are counting on him to provide offensively this season.
“We except for him to be in the lineup almost everyday,” Hoyer said at his press conference at the beginning of Spring Training. “He does provide that power we were talking about that we’re just lacking a little bit. I think Wrigley’s really well-suited for him. I think when you look at his spray charts and where hits the ball, at home he should thrive and obviously he’s a great personality, great worker, so we’re excited to see him here, we’re excited to have him.”
The Cubs started the offseason knowing they had to improve offensively at first base. As they near the end of Spring Training, they realize that, at least on paper, first base should be markedly improved offensively and defensively with Hosmer and Mancini.
23 for ’23 series
What will the Cubs’ new era at catcher look like?
What is the Cubs’ plan at third base?
Who steps up in the wake of the Seiya Suzuki injury?
What role will Christopher Morel have on the 2023 Cubs?
Who will win the Cubs’ 5th starter spot?
Where does Nick Madrigal fit on the roster?
Who will close for the Cubs?
What kind of impact will Dansby Swanson have in his first season in Chicago?
What is the plan for Matt Mervis?
Who are some under-the-radar players that could make the Opening Day roster?