There are varying ways that the Cincinnati Reds could look to upgrade the starting rotation heading into next season. Free agency is definitely an option, but locking in a high-dollar pitcher on the wrong side of 30 brings some level of risk.
A trade is another way to bolster the rotation, and with so much young talent, the Reds have the means to snag a highly-regarded starter. But, if the Reds are targeting a starting pitcher like Dylan Cease or Logan Gilbert, it's going to cost at least a Top 100 prospect and several other pieces.
However, there may be a low-risk/ high-reward trade candidate available at a price that wouldn't deplete Cincinnati's talent pool. Should the Reds inquire as to the availability of Toronto Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah?
Alek Manoah was a Cy Young finalist in 2022
Alek Manoah had a season to forget in 2023. After finishing third in the AL Cy Young race in 2022, the right-hander saw his entire season go up in flames last year. Manoah posted an ERA near 6.00 and was eventually demoted to Triple-A.
The 25-year-old ranked among the bottom of the league in several meaningful categories. According to Baseball Savant, Manoah ranked in the 10th percentile or lower in walk-rate, xERA, and xWOBA.
But in 2022, Manoah was among the very best in the league in hard-hit rate, barrel-rate, and average exit velocity. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins has maintained that he believes Manoah has a leg up on the competition for a spot in Toronto's starting rotation next season, but that seems questionable at best.
Injury was never really the issue with Manoah last season, but most outsiders believe it had more to do with a lack of confidence. Anyone who's followed baseball knows that the psyche of a pitcher can be as much a part of his game as the physical tools.
A trade to the Reds could reinvigorate Alek Manoah's career
Much like the Cincinnati Reds saw with Nick Senzel in August, when Alek Manoah was demoted back to the minors, he didn't take it very well. In fact, Manoah didn't report to Triple-A Buffalo right away and never even threw a pitch for the Bisons.
Is that fracture in the relationship between Manoah and Blue Jays salvageable, or will Toronto be looking to move the hard-throwing right-hander this winter?
Manoah is under team-control through 2027, and according to Spotrac, isn't even eligible for arbitration until after the 2024 season. Manoah also has minor league options remaining.
If the Reds were able to negotiate a trade with the Blue Jays that wouldn't require Cincinnati to surrender one of their top prospects, adding Manoah represents a low-risk/ high-reward trade option.
At worst, the Cincinnati Reds give up a mid-tier prospect or two for a player who'll give them some depth in the rotation and occupy a spot on the 40-man roster. At best, the Reds help Manoah reclaim his confidence and he returns to his Cy Young form from 2022.
If the price is right, the Reds should definitely kick the tires on a potential trade for Alek Manoah.