The St. Louis Cardinals should still take a chance and trade for Alek Manoah

The Toronto Blue Jays have indicated that they are open to moving on from Alek Manoah. The Cardinals should strongly consider acquiring him.

Alek Manoah faces the Los Angeles Angels
Alek Manoah faces the Los Angeles Angels / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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Early in the offseason, reports emerged that the Toronto Blue Jays were willing to part with former ace, Alek Manoah. Manoah followed up a strong rookie campaign in 2021 with an even better sophomore season. The 6'6 right-hander made 31 starts, compiling a 2.24 ERA over 196.2 innings. He was a finalist for the American League Cy Young Award and ultimately finished third. At that point, it seemed unfathomable that the Blue Jays would ever move on from him. He was young, cost-controlled, and elite. That's a rare combination.

Then 2023 happened. Perhaps nobody had a worse season than Alek Manoah. With sky-high expectations, he crashed and burned. Manoah's ERA+ over his first two big league seasons was 157, meaning he was 57% better than a league-average pitcher over that time. That is an unreal mark. However, in 2023, he recorded an ERA+ of 72, meaning he was 28% worse than a league-average pitcher. It was a massive drop-off. He posted a 5.87 ERA, a mark significantly higher than the 3.22 he posted as a rookie. Between 2022 and 2023, Manoah's walk rate tripled to an unsustainable 6.1 walks per nine innings pitched. His strikeout rate held steady, but his home run rate doubled and he allowed nearly 50% more hits than he did in 2022. He got worse in basically every way. Except he didn't just get worse, he got much worse.

At some point during the season, Manoah actually made a start for Toronto's rookie ball affiliate in the Florida Complex League. It was a weird situation, so it's probably not worth reading too much into it, however, it must be discussed. In just 2.2 innings, Manoah gave up an astonishing eleven runs. He left that day with an FCL ERA of 37.13. That was the cherry on top of Manoah's nightmare season. He returned to the big leagues later and was marginally better. Unfortunately, an injury ended his season in early August.

Exploring an Alek Manoah trade.

Even after such a rough season, Manoah is still worth a look for the Cardinals. They should be interested. He has three years of control left, and his value should be significantly lower than it was a year ago. While he dealt with some injury concerns in 2023, he's been healthy throughout his career. Injury is not a major concern going forward. It's also worth mentioning that the Cardinals completed three trades with the Blue Jays at the 2023 trade deadline. They've developed a productive inter-organizational relationship. All things considered, the Cardinals should go after Manoah because he's an elite pitcher, and they just don't have a lot of elite pitching. He would slot in right behind Sonny Gray and would instantly improve the rotation.

How the Blue Jays value Manoah is difficult to discern. His poor performance may have been an aberration. He's definitely much better than he was in 2023, but whether he can replicate the success of the previous two seasons is an open question. There are also rumors of off-field issues, though how those will impact Manoah's future in Toronto is impossible to tell. It's likely that they're still looking for a decent return, though it won't be nearly as high as the return the White Sox or Marlins are seeking for their young pitching. It's safe to say that Manoah would not command either Donovan or Gorman.

The Blue Jays are known to be looking for outfield help. Perhaps Dylan Carlson or Alec Burleson could be of interest to them. Packaging one of these players with a decent pitching arm should really intrigue Toronto. Maybe they'd be interested in acquiring Robberse, whom they dealt away at the 2023 deadline in the Jordan Hicks deal. The Cardinals could get really creative here, and package multiple players together. Perhaps they could also acquire Nate Pearson, a former top prospect who has struggled to put it together early in his career.

In a recent episode of the Noot News Podcast, Josh Jacobs and I put together our own mock trades, and my final deal involved the Cardinals and Blue Jays linking up with the Yankees to acquire Clayton Beeter and Alek Manoah in a three-team swap. Hopefully, the Cardinals can get something together to improve their rotation before Spring Training!