Michael Conforto or Trey Mancini: Who is the better fit for Cubs?

Michael Brakebill
New York Mets v Atlanta Braves
New York Mets v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages
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The Chicago Cubs' two hottest targets are Michael Conforto and Trey Mancini. The club has been connected to each player several times since the start of the offseason, and things have only further ramped up recently. We know the Cubs have had their eye on Mancini since they missed on Abreu, but perhaps more emphasis is being put on landing another middle-of-the-order bat since the Cubs were able to land Dansby Swanson and give themselves a chance to compete as soon as next season.

Elsewhere, Michael Conforto is making waves as a connection to the Cubs, with the Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers also being mentioned. I don’t think the Marlins will be as serious when it comes down to it, especially with the Cubs and Rangers trending in the right direction. Texas does make a lot of sense for Conforto, who could use a more impactful left-handed-outfield bat in their lineup. Then again, so can Chicago. And on a short-term deal such as the one Conforto is seeking, the fit works. So does adding Trey Mancini to man first base in a platoon role with Matt Mervis. So, who’s the better fit?

Positionally, your argument for Mancini is that the Cubs already have Ian Happ, Cody Bellinger, and Seiya Suzuki in the outfield. They also can have Christopher Morel fill in if needed. So an extra outfielder isn’t exactly a top priority at this point. On the flip side, you have Patrick Wisdom, who can slide over and play first base, and Morel stick more to his natural position at third. Essentially, the argument could be made either way; therefore, I think it comes down to the numbers offensively.

Chicago Cubs: Conforto or Mancini: Who makes more sense?

Throughout his career, Mancini has been an overall above-average hitter. He has a slash of .265/.330/.457 over six years in the majors. He is extremely neutral split wise, with a .266/.331/.459 and 112 wRC+ against lefties, and .265/.330/.456 and 111 wRC+ against righties. Where he lacks, though, is having a sub .200 ISO against either side, and the Cubs would like to add some more pop to the lineup.

That is where Michael Conforto starts to make more sense to me. Though not as split-neutral as Mancini, Conforto carries a line of .265/.371/.502 against RHP, to go along with a .237 ISO and 136 wRC+. The pop-in-the-bat here is what the Cubs need to target in this case. Before the Pandemic season, Conforto recorded three years in a row with 27+ home runs, his best in 2019 when he cranked out 33 bombs and drove in 92 RBI. Also, the Cubs' lack of lefties in the lineup vs. righties needs more balance.

Looking at projected lineups, the Cubs have Cody Bellinger, Matt Mervis, and switch-hitting Happ, that will hit from the left side of the plate. Opposite them, there is Swanson, Nico Hoerner, Seiya Suzuki, Wisdom, Morel, Yan Gomes, etc., on the right side. The Cubs need another lefty, preferably one with pop, such as Conforto. We know he is looking for a pillow contract this year, perhaps a one-year deal with a player option to protect him if he has a down season. That is the only hurdle standing in the way of Confort landing on the north side.

I don’t know how much Jed Hoyer will want to attach a player option to Conforto for a second year if he underperforms in 2023. You’re locking him up only if he has a poor showing because he will certainly test the market with any chance that he can get a better deal next winter. So there’s some risk there to be wary of. All in all, however, It’s one extra year. Looking at 2024, the only true outfielder locked up is Suzuki. Unless they Lock up Happ, there will undoubtedly be a need for another outfielder next year.

Even if the Cubs extend Happ this year, the Cubs will find themselves in the same position in the outfield next year as they are at first base this year. Pete Crow-Armstrong is by no means a lock to be 100% ready in 2024. That will be based on how his 2023 campaign goes between Tennessee and Iowa. In reality, right-handed batters Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario will be the players looking to man a center field spot in 2024. Perhaps Davis this year if he stays healthy and gets back to form. Conforto in 2024 only helps as a platoon option, the same way signing a right-handed first baseman this winter does for Matt Mervis. So, in theory, there shouldn’t be too much risk in inking Conforto for one-year w/ a player option type of deal.

Michael Conforto rumors heating up. dark. Next

In closing, if the Cubs don’t land Conforto, expect them to swiftly pivot to Mancini and shore up their depth at the corner infield positions. Landing Mancini allows Morel to move around the field when needed and gives you Wisdom as an option at 3rd when Mancini plays first. The Cubs have the flexibility to make it worthwhile either way. Numerically, I think you have to give the nod to Conforto. His 1.9 projected WAR in 2023 is more significant than Mancini’s 1.2. It just fits and makes sense from both sides for a team looking to add some left-handed pop on a short-term deal, and said lefty is explicitly looking for a short-term contract. The Cubs need to make this one happen. In doing so, they more than likely project as a +.500 ballclub.

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