The San Francisco Giants might’ve found their rotation replacement for Carlos Rodón in the affordable and at times effective left-handed starter Sean Manaea. This news comes thanks to a late night tweet from Jon Heyman:
Sean Manaea to Giants. $25M, 2 years. Opt out.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2022
Sean Manaea to Giants. $25M, 2 years. Opt out.
This doesn’t seem like it’d rise to the level of an Arson Judge situation wherein Heyman would tweet something out in the interest of being first and yet be wrong. Sean Manaea is a nice player, but not even close to the best starting pitcher left on the free agent market. I imagine very little urgency to break this so I’m presuming this report will hold up in the AM.
That would be the aforementioned Carlos Rodón, whom Manaea has surely now replaced in the Giants’ rotation. Not at the top, of course, but penciled in as a dude who can give the Giants some badly needed innings from their starting staff. In 2021 with Oakland, he pitched 179.1 innings. He threw 158 IP in 30 games (28 starts) this past season with the Padres, and that’s where things get really interesting about this signing. For context, Logan Webb and Carlos Rodón led this year’s Giants with 192.1 and 178 IP, respectively.
Manaea does not have Rodon’s skill set — obviously, as very few starters throw 96+ on average — but he does feature a similar arsenal. He relies on a sinker in the 91-92 range and a low spin slider (2,000 RPM). He has a healthy K rate and decent walk rate, though, which means he features an effective pitch mix. It’s doubtful the Giants’ pitching team of Bannister & Bailey have a plan that will turn him into a 94-95 mph guy with a 2,500 RPM slider (which I believe to be Zaidi’s goldilocks zone when it comes to pitching, FWIW). Instead, he’s going to be counted on to be a guy they can count on to make his scheduled start and into the 6th inning for as many as possible, a feat he accomplished more than half the time in 2021.
It’s 2022 where things get a little wonky and explains why the Giants basically gave him the Carlos Rodon 1-and-1 pillow contract. As you can see, at $25 million, it’s effectively half the value as Rodon’s deal last offseason. Does that mean they value him as being half as good as they projected Rodon to be? Yes. Absolutely. That is how you should read it. The opt-out is in case Manaea regains his 2021 form or even makes a breakthrough into an above league average pitcher — which is approximately his ceiling right now.
As much of a bummer that this signing seems to signal — Carlos Rodón had a remarkable season and is exactly the kind of talent they need on their roster — the performance issues are another red flag. Manaea’s move from the AL West to the NL West meant facing the Dodgers (as though the Astros weren’t bad enough). Against the Giants’ rival in three starts, he had an 11.57 ERA in 17.2 IP. I will take the time to point out that he also struck out 21 in those 17.2 IP.
In fact, the 30-year (who will be 31 years old on Opening Day) has the 28th-best K/9 (9.09) in baseball since 2019, which is the season he returned from shoulder surgery, and covers 421 IP. That’s a tick better than Jon Gray and Julio Urias. Not bad company.
It’s not all doom and gloom or even that much of a head scratch. Besides the solid performance base, He’s going to be a great presence in the clubhouse. After Manaea got traded to the Padres and had to face the A’s not as their ace but as the Padres’ fourth starter, Bob Nightengale interviewed A’s and Padres players and coaches and reported this gem:
“You see the durability, you see the numbers,” said Melvin, who managed Manaea in Oakland before leaving for the Padres last winter. “He’s a terrific teammate. I’ve always called him the world’s best teammate. ...
“He’s got an infectious personality. He supports everybody on the team. He’s always got a smile on his face, yet when he’s on the mound he’s a competitor.”
I’ve been wondering all offseason just who the Giants would target as their reclamation project. I figured it would be a power pitcher, but instead the Giants went with peripherals and arsenal. Manaea has the chance to be as surprisingly good as Anthony DeSclafani was in 2021, just from the other side of the mound. And the risk is minimal, which will give the Giants future payroll flexibility, which means nothing to any of us, but everything to a $3.5 billion real estate company. It’s a sensible deal and gives a clear signal that the Giants aren’t going to play to the top of the market unless every one of their conditions are met. Manaea fits the bill and the model.