The Toronto Blue Jays are in a pickle with Alek Manoah. On one hand, the club can’t give up on such a promising young arm. On the other hand, Toronto had its best rotation in years without him and has more dire needs for 2024.
There’s little doubt the right-hander was disgruntled about his situation with Toronto last season, but does that mean all bridges are burned? Unlikely. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said he fully expects Manoah to return in spring training and compete for a starting rotation spot.
Despite all that, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Monday that rival executives view the Blue Jays as willing to deal Manoah. Let’s break down if it’s wise for Toronto to trade him this winter.
The case for trading Manoah
Yes, Manoah’s value is at an all-time low. The 25-year-old was arguably baseball’s worst pitcher in 19 starts a season ago, posting a 6.01 FIP, 6.1 BB/9, and -1.1 bWAR in 19 starts. That said, we’re still very early in Manoah’s career. His bumpy 2023 season cost him Super Two status, meaning he won’t be eligible for arbitration this winter, and he’s not a free agent until 2028, his age-30 season.
Surely a rebuilding club would take a gamble on Manoah’s potential over the next four seasons, and with dire needs elsewhere, the Blue Jays could strike a deal. Given their need for pitching and surplus of young sluggers, the St. Louis Cardinals make a lot of sense as trading partners. Brendan Donovan and Lars Nootbaar are both tantalizing pieces.
Timing is also in Toronto’s favour. There are some strong free-agent arms available (Marcus Stroman, Blake Snell, Eduardo Rodriguez, etc.), but overall, the 2024 free agency class is weak. If fringe-contender clubs don’t want to pony up for an expensive stud, a swap with the Jays for Manoah would be a mighty consolation prize.
Lastly, there’s the introspective calculation on Toronto’s end. After rolling out one of the best rotations in franchise history last year, do the Jays feel there’s still a need for Manoah? All five starters stayed healthy a year ago — a rarity in baseball — but perhaps the club’s pitching success at least raised the idea as to whether Manoah is a must-have on this roster.
The case against trading Manoah
The team control argument works in both directions. In a perfect world, if the Blue Jays are patient, Manoah can figure himself out and produce for four more seasons. And with an AL Cy Young finalist appearance so recently under his belt (2022), the Blue Jays run the risk of punting on a franchise-calibre player after just one lousy season. That outcome alone might stall any trades.
Manoah was so dominant in 2021 and 2022. Through his first 51 starts (308.1 IP), the righty posted a 2.60 ERA, 157 ERA+, 6.5 H/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 9.0 K/9 — just nasty, nasty stuff. Whether it was due to some bad habits in his delivery or something else, Manoah was hindered from the get-go last season. He still has grand potential in the years to come, and his successful rookie and sophomore seasons are a testament to what his ceiling looks like.
On top of that, the Blue Jays are still relatively low on starting pitching depth. After the starting five, which currently includes Manoah, Bowden Francis represents the only real experienced pitcher. Now, Toronto will add more Triple-A starters to fix this problem, but beyond Ricky Tiedemann and (maybe) Chad Dallas, the Jays don’t have any impact starters in the minors who are ready to contribute in 2024.
There’s really no pressure on the Blue Jays to make a move, unless Manoah is so upset with his situation he simply can’t gel with the organization anymore — that’s highly unlikely, though. In the meantime, the Blue Jays can float around an inflated asking price and listen to offers on Manoah.
If Toronto works out a favourable deal involving one or two MLB-ready position players, the club can pull the trigger. If nothing grabs the front office’s attention, then the Blue Jays will happily have Manoah compete for a rotation spot, though Toronto must sign depth reinforcements in the event of his continued struggles.
Source: Yahoo Sports