Finding a pitcher who put up a 6.0 bWAR (4.1 fWAR) season as recently as 2022 does not come without cost. Finding one who isn’t even arbitration-eligible until the 2025 season and has team control through 2027 is even more difficult.
Finding a Major League Baseball team who’s willing to deal such a rare commodity, then, is enough to make you ask a plethora of questions. Such is the case currently with the Toronto Blue Jays, who are reportedly ‘open to’ trade offers on Alek Manoah, their former 1st round draftee who put up an All Star campaign during that 2022 breakout season.
Spoiler alert: his 2023 season was just as bad as his 2022 season was good, hence why the Jays are dangling him to see if someone will give them the kind of value I described in the opening paragraph here. In reality, we’re talking about a guy who lost a mile an hour off his fastball, watched his HR/FB rate more than double from 0.73 to 1.55 year over year, and allowed a whopping 61 runs (58 earned) in just 87.1 IP at the big league level last year.
The crash in performance was epic, and there’s still some wonder whether he’s got shoulder problems that are behind it all. There has been, to date, no surgery to address any issue, however, despite Manoah spending the bulk of the second half of the 2023 season on the shelf between the Florida Complex League and AAA Buffalo while working through things.
When right, he can impose his will the way few pitchers can, though. He stands 6 foot 6 and weighs nearly three bills, and his slider (when working) has been one of the more devastating offerings of any arm in the league. The West Virginia University product is still only 25 years old (26 in January), and if his shoulder is intact enough he could well be precisely the kind of reclamation project for a team who sees themselves priced out of the starting pitching market after the signing of Aaron Nola by Philadelphia over the weekend seemingly set the going rate.
It’s one part that there might be a quality, affordable pitcher on the market. It’s one part that the Cincinnati Reds, who need just that atop their starting rotation, might be interested. It’s another part that the Blue Jays, who just watched Matt Chapman and Whit Merrifield become free agents, are very much in the market for infield help this winter. That’s where the Reds are flush with their fleet of 2023 rookies, of course, and it’s hard not to wonder whether this is an instance where the Reds try to buy-low on a once reputable arm coming off a difficult season and gift him to Derek Johnson to try to renovate.
(That’s a Sonny Gray reference, for what it’s worth.)
There’s infinite due diligence required for this to even be a possibility, but it does seem pretty clear that Toronto and Manoah are heading for a breakup at some point this offseason, and these kinds of opportunities just don’t come around very often.