This is one in a series of examining potential trade targets for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2023-24 offseason.
Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2022. That season, the big right-hander went 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA across 31 starts. He finished third in the American League Cy Young race and looked destined for stardom.
While he was one of the best pitchers in baseball two seasons ago, he was one of the worst this past year. Manoah’s trajectory to being a top-of-the-rotation arm was halted in its tracks.
In 2023 with the Blue Jays, Manoah went just 3-9 with a disastrous 5.87 ERA. The right-hander issued an alarming 59 walks while striking out 79 batters in 87.1 innings pitched.
His season included a demotion to the minor leagues — where he still struggled — and an injection in an ailing right shoulder. It was truly a tale of two seasons for Manoah from the heights of his 2022 campaign to the depths of what he showed in 2023.
It begs the question. How will the Blue Jays proceed?
Toronto is in clear win-now mode. They have a solidified top four of the rotation in Cy Young finalist Kevin Gausman, fellow right-handers José Berríos and Chris Bassitt and left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who had a nice rebound season in 2023.
Their offense is highlighted by the likes of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and George Springer. Despite some inconsistencies from the offense last year, it’s still a strong core to rely on. With that being said, it’s a core not built for the long-term.
Springer turned 34 years old in September. Both Bichette and Guerrero are set to hit the free agent market at the end of the 2025 season. Toronto’s window to compete is now.
Do they be patient and see if Manoah can regain his 2022 brilliance? It’s not out of the question. Manoah isn’t arbitration-eligible until next offseason. He has plenty of contractual control, but that control doesn’t necessarily align with what they are built for.
It would be a complex trade to complete. Toronto would want a big return, as they should, citing his 2022 performance. The Pirates, on the other hand, would reference his 2023 numbers. With as much club control as he has and with what he showed in 2022, the price would seemingly still be relatively steep despite his 2023 performance.
It seems far-fetched that the the Jays would sell low on the 25-year-old Manoah, but anything is possible this time of year. If Toronto acquires a more stable arm to round out their rotation, it would behoove Pirates general manager Ben Cherington to at least inquire.