The Twins Should be Engaged in a Stare Down with the A's Over Sean Manaea
You know it.
I know it.
We all know it.
The Minnesota Twins do not have enough starting pitching. Even after acquiring Chris Archer last week, the Twins are still a Jose Berrios level — more on that another time — pitcher short of competing with the Chicago White Sox for the American League Central crown.
As a brief aside, Archer didn’t look too bad in his start on Friday:
But the Twins are still a starter away, and that’s not that much of an issue because there’s one in Oakland that seems blatantly obvious to be on the move.
That’s lefty Sean Manaea.
Sure, Frankie Montas is the prize here, but he doesn’t need to necessarily be burning a hole in Oakland’s collective pockets. He’s making a shade over $5 million this year and won’t be a free agent until after 2023.
If everything breaks right, he could bring a Berrios-like return at midseason. At his peak, he’s better than Berrios. At his floor, he’s a No. 4-5 starter with home run issues. But the A’s can trade him pretty much any time over the next year and a half and recoup adequate value.
The same cannot be said for Manaea.
We have a pretty good idea of who Manaea is — a lefty who can be counted on for about let’s say 2.5 WAR (Fangraphs edition) who has dealt with some durability issues in the past and might not quite be the guy who fanned a batter-plus per inning in almost 180 innings last season.
His floor is probably more centered around innings — 29.2 in 2019 before finishing eighth in the AL in 2021 — than it is around the quality of those frames.
What I mean by that is even if he’s somewhere in the midst of his career numbers — 8.0ish K/9 with an ERA a shade under 4.00 — that’s a perfectly decent No. 2-3 starter in today’s game with wiggle room in either direction.
The difference is that Manaea is a free agent after the 2022 season. He’s due nearly $10 million ($9.8 million) on a team with no intentions of even pretending to be good.
For most teams, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal that a player is taking up nearly a quarter of the team’s payroll when that payroll is barely above $40 million.
The A’s are not most teams, however.
Oakland has already shipped out Matts Chapman and Olson and let Starling Marte and Mark Canha walk in free agency.
This is what the projected Opening Day lineup looks like, according to ESPN.com:
In short: yikes.
Even if we didn’t think about how Oakland has conducted financial business in the past, this is a team that has already ripped things to the studs offensively and, one might expect, would be looking to do the same pitching-wise.
That’s even more true now with the pitching market depleted, the season on the brink of starting and the need now more than ever for capable arms due to a truncated spring schedule.
So the A’s do have more leverage than one might think, even if we suppose — and I think that’s fair to do — that they have no intention of paying him $9.8 million this season (prorated to however long they keep him).
But they’re not backed into a corner. The White Sox are supposedly interested. Are the Twins still interested? It’s hard to say, but there’s no denying that it feels as though Billy Beane could pick up the phone and have 10 teams at the ready to at least listen to the idea of trading for Manaea.
And the one thing we know about the Twins making moves is that we don’t know anything. Who had Carlos Correa going to the Twins this offseason?
If you raised your hand, you’re a liar.
So maybe the Twins are laying in the weeds here.
They definitely should be.
I think a reasonable return cost would be straight up for Jose Miranda. In doing so, the Twins are cashing in on a player who may or may not be as good as he looked last year, and probably doesn’t have the easiest path to playing time in the big leagues now — or really in the semi-near future.
For the A’s, this gives them a ready-made option at third or first base — take your pick — right after the team gutted both positions. You surely don’t think Eric Thames or Chad Pinder are long-term plans there, do you?
So that’s what I’m proposing; Miranda for Manaea. Get it done, Twins.