Is Alek Manoah a player the Pittsburgh Pirates should target?

Alek Manoah, the right-hander for the Toronto Blue Jays, was among the finest pitchers in baseball two years ago. In the American League Cy Young voting, Manoah came in third. This came following an amazing rookie year as well. However, in 2024, Manoah is having trouble playing for the A-Ball affiliate of the Blue Jays. Should the Pittsburgh Pirates pursue Manoah if the Blue Jays are prepared to sell cheaply for the former Cy Young finalist? At this point, the Blue Jays could just attempt to salvage everything they can from him. Would the Pirates’ time and resources be well spent, and what are the possible advantages and disadvantages?

Manoah was selected by the Jays in the first round of the 2019 draft and made it to the Major Leagues fast. After pitching 308.1 innings in the Major Leagues between 2021 and 2022, he began his career with a 2.60 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and 1.01 WHIP. His peripherals, which included a 24.7 percent strikeout rate, a 7.3 percent walk rate, and a 0.82 HR/9, were above average but not exceptional. Limiting forceful impact with an 87.3 MPH exit velocity and 5.5 percent barrel rate was Manoah’s strong suit. Corbin Burnes and Max Fried were the only other starters with a lower barrel rate between these two seasons. Along with finishing tied with Luis Castillo and Logan Webb, he also had the fourth-lowest hard-hit rate and the eighth-lowest exit velocity.

But then 2023 arrived, and Manoah went off a cliff. His 5.87 ERA, 6.01 FIP, and 1.74 WHIP were his sole stats before he was sent to the minor levels after just 87 innings pitched. His formerly strong peripherals also saw a sharp decline, finishing with a pitiful 15.5 HR/9, a 19% strikeout rate, and a 14.2 percent walk rate. Manoah abandoned hard contact like it was running out of stock in 2022, while being one of the top soft-contact pitchers in that same year. More concerning was his 9 percent barrel rate, even though his exit velocity and hard-hit rate increased significantly to 89.5 MPH and 44.4 percent, respectively. Manoah’s speed likewise decreased, going from 93.9 mph in 2022 to 92.9 mph in 2023.

Now that we know who Manoah is let’s look at reasons why the Pirates should and shouldn’t go after Manoah.

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