With tomorrow being the deadline for teams and players to deal with contract options and qualifying offers, a couple of important unknowns became known this evening for the San Francisco Giants: Sean Manaea out, Alex Cobb in for 2024.
The former bit of news comes courtesy of Andrew Baggarly and the latter from Jon Heyman, but both were pretty obvious heading into this offseason. That’s even with the knowledge that Alex Cobb could miss at least the first month of the season following hip surgery last week.
I suppose there were some people out there who felt that Manaea might opt in so that he could play with Bob Melvin again, but that always seemed like an irrational view of the situation. Sure, he walks away from $12.5 million, but a 32-year-old lefty who throws 95+ and was 29th in MLB in K/9 (9.79, min. 100 IP) is setup to make a lot more money if not a longer term deal. There are going to be several teams who miss out on Yamamoto and Ohtani who will still be looking for pitching — the money will be there.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Giants negotiate a new deal, but why do that when they could extend him the qualifying offer (which is ~$20.5 million for 2024)? I think it’s because the team is okay with moving on from him if it means freeing up payroll for some other arms of greater caliber who can help next season.
All that said, Cobb’s $10 million option is very reasonable and would be a tough thing to walk away from. If/when the Giants miss out on all their big swings this offseason (why figure otherwise until the press conferences happen, right?) they’ll need to hold on until all their depth regains their health and Cobb would be a great arm to lead that charge. He was the team’s second-best starter for most of the season, and a Webb-Cobb-Harrison trifecta in the Wild Card round sounds like a great group of talent for a Wild Card team.
Manaea had a nice season in flashes, and the big takeaway — at least, to me — was the Giants’ figuring out how to tweak his delivery to help him get more fastball velo. That’s what’s going to get him paid. It’s somewhat analogous to what happened with Drew Pomeranz, who parlayed a solid starter turned reliever performance into a 4-year deal.
Edit: and, look, I swear I wrote that last paragraph before I read this tweet —
For those surprised by Manaea’s decision, he maintained his career-best velocity all season and basically didn’t allow a homer for three months. Durable lefties who throw hard and have at least one premium offspeed pitch get paid in this game. See: Pomeranz, Drew.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) November 5, 2023
With Ross Stripling opting in and the plausibility of Michael Conforto opting in for $18 million in 2024 — Jeff Young had an interesting thread today comparing the situation to Atlanta’s decision to decline Eddie Rosario’s $9 million option that, if Conforto’s people are making the same calculation could mean he does opt in — the Giants could have a lot of money tied up in players who don’t figure to help next year’s team very much. Just those two would combine for $30.5 million of real money. Mitch Haniger’s deal structure gives him a $20 million salary in 2024. That’s $50.5 million in real (as in non-CBT figure) dollars for what’ll probably be, what, half a win? And that’s before factoring in Cobb’s $10 million and effectiveness coming back from surgery, only contributing for about 2⁄3 of the season.
I write all that to say that even with Manaea being a better contributor than Ross Stripling, $12.5 million tied up in someone who falls in the 1-2 fWAR range probably doesn’t serve a model of efficiency when it’s thrown on top of that other $50.5 million of virtually dead money — that’s if Conforto opts in, of course.
The Manaea and Stripling signings were basically experiments and they both resulted in the worst and best case scenarios: the Giants were able to work their magic to optimize one of them and they’re not going to be on the hook for both salaries in the following season — but also, they lost the good player and kept the bad one, and that bad one is sort of irreparably bad. Oh well.