The Royals picked Manaea out of Indiana State in the first round of the 2013 draft. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the 66th-best prospect in baseball following a solid 2014 season. Manaea, 29, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, an imposing presence on the mound.
The Royals traded Manaea to Oakland midway through 2015 for eventual World Series Champion Ben Zobrist, who went 20-for-66 with eight doubles and two homers in the playoffs. It was a win-win trade.
Manaea made an immediate impact upon his arrival to the majors in 2016. He’s been a regular mid-rotation starter for over 700 innings, posting a 3.86 ERA (107 ERA+) with a 21% strikeout rate. Manaea’s ERA+ of 113 since 2018 tops free agents Kevin Gausman (111), Robbie Ray (111), and Jon Gray (104).
The lefty works with three pitches, a low-90s sinker, a plus changeup, and a slurvy curveball. Manaea’s changeup was a top-six changeup in baseball in 2021, per Statcast’s run value.
Like potential pitch mix adjustments with Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas, a bump on Manaea’s current 24% changeup usage could help him miss more bats and get more outs.
Maybe the most appealing factor in a Manaea trade is the cost, at least compared to Bassitt and Montas. Manaea is a lesser pitcher and projects to make the most in arbitration ($10.2 million). He’s a free agent after 2022.
He’s not a frontline starter, but Manaea would become the Twins’ best pitcher and provide stability at a reasonable price. MLB Trade Simulator curiously values Manaea over Bassitt, but it’s close enough. The tool says the Twins would need to send RHP Jhoan Duran, SS Keoni Cavaco, OF Misael Urbina, RHP Drew Strotman, or trade of similar value.
There’s an argument to be made that the Twins should not be seeking one-year stopgaps at the expense of high-upside prospects. They don’t have a competitive roster, and keeping as much young talent as possible is vital.
On the flip side, the Twins still have plenty of solid position players, and they should receive help from top pitching prospects in 2022. A deal for Manaea (and subsequent moves) would give them a fighting chance in 2022.
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