After finishing third in AL Cy Young voting in 2022, Alek Manoah had a disastrous 2023 season, posting a 5.87 ERA over 87 1/3 innings while suffering a significant loss of control. Manoah’s hellish year included a month-long stint in the Florida Complex League to try and solve his sudden mechanical issues, as well as a later option to Triple-A Buffalo in August that didn’t result in any actual pitching appearances with the Bisons.
With all this in mind, it perhaps isn’t surprising that rival executives have told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that “the Blue Jays are open to moving” Manoah in a trade, and teams have made calls in general asking about Toronto’s rotation depth. Of course, teams are often willing to listen on virtually any player, so it isn’t clear if Toronto is merely doing its due diligence in not dismissing offers for Manoah, or if the Jays are actively shopping Manoah in some regard.
It’s difficult to call Manoah a true trade candidate given the still somewhat mysterious nature of his down year. Some type of injury seemed to be a factor, as Jays GM Ross Atkins said in October that Manoah received a PRP injection to treat some shoulder discomfort. Manoah also went through some medical testing during his stint in Buffalo, but there were also reports of some hard feelings between Manoah and the team, perhaps regarding how the minor league option might’ve cost Manoah enough service time to claim Super Two status.
Only the Jays and Manoah himself have an idea of his status heading into 2024, or if even that might still be unclear until Manoah gets some offseason or Spring Training work under his belt. Obviously no team is going to pay a big price for Manoah without having more understanding of what exactly is plaguing the 25-year-old right-hander, so that alone limits Toronto’s leverage in any trade discussions.
By that same token, if Manoah just needs to get healthy, it is possible he could enjoy a swift return to form. Should such a bounce-back happen, the Blue Jays obviously want to benefit, rather than selling low on Manoah and then watching him rebound on another club. That said, “selling low” is still better than selling for nothing, and another mediocre season might ruin Manoah’s trade value entirely. Manoah’s rough season is just one season, and rival teams might feel they have an answer to Manoah’s mechanical problems, or that a trade itself might get Manoah on track if there is indeed bad blood between the righty and Jays management.
MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald recently speculated that the Blue Jays and Cardinals might line up on a Manoah trade, perhaps involving such past Jays trade targets as Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar, or Brendan Donovan. With Carlson and Tyler O’Neill both struggling for the last two seasons after some early success in their MLB careers, the Cards and Jays could theoretically explore moving two “sell low” candidates for each other, hoping that mutual change of scenery would benefit all parties. St. Louis is one of many teams looking for pitching this winter, and with the Jays having a wide array of holes to fill in the lineup, several clubs could be fits if Manoah was indeed available.
The other question about a Manoah trade is how it would impact Toronto’s rotation. Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios, and Yusei Kikuchi are set as the top four, with Manoah being the favorite for the fifth spot though Atkins made no guarantees. If teams are asking about the Blue Jays’ pitchers in general, any of Bowden Francis, Mitch White, Wes Parsons, or even Kikuchi could be available at the right price. Such a deal involving another pitcher would imply that Toronto is confident Manoah can bounce back, or that the Jays are perhaps exploring acquiring another pitcher for more stability at the back end of the pitching staff.