The Giants entered this winter with one spot to fill in their starting rotation. They watched as the top tier of arms started to come off the board, and then another tier. The winter meetings came and went without a starter in hand.
Late Sunday night, they got their guy.
Former A’s left-hander Sean Manaea reportedly agreed to a two-year, $25 million contract with San Francisco. The deal, first reported by the New York Post’s Jon Heyman, also comes with an opt out after the first year.
The deal is structured similarly, though at a slightly lower rate, to the contract that Carlos Rodón received before last season and allowed him to hit free agency this offseason. By adding Manaea it could signal that the Giants have waived the white flag in the sweepstakes to bring back their free-agent left-hander.
Manaea, who turns 31 in February, went 8-9 with a 4.96 ERA last season with the Padres — his first professional season outside the Bay Area after going 50-41 with a 3.89 ERA in six seasons with the A’s.
While Manaea’s 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame and the left arm attached to it have intrigued evaluators since he was a first-round pick and top prospect, he has struggled to consistently put up numbers that match his potential.
Manaea has flashed greatness at times, however.
Such as April 21, 2018, when he retired 27 Red Sox batters without allowing a hit. A few years later, on May 7, 2021, Manaea took another no-hit bid into the eighth inning only for it to be broken up.
The Giants are familiar with Manaea at his best: in 11 starts against them, he has a 3.00 ERA, his lowest mark against any opponent he’s faced more than five times. On the flip side, in eight appearances (six starts) against the Dodgers, Manaea is 0-5 with an 8.90 ERA.
Now, they hope to add Manaea to the long list of pitchers whose careers have been given a second life in San Francisco.
Barring any surprises, he should be the last major addition to the Giants’ rotation, which already included Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani. Jakob Junis is expected to serve a swingman role out of the bullpen, and top pitching prospect Kyle Harrison could join them in short order.
While Rodón, who led the majors last year in K/9 and FIP, hasn’t yet found another destination, he is said to be seeking a seven-year contract, with the Yankees among the teams in serious pursuit.
Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ top baseball boss, said at the winter meetings that they were seeking to add one more starting pitcher, and that it wasn’t necessarily a priority to find a direct replacement for Rodón as a co-ace with Webb. Other options such as Japanese righty Kodai Senga (Mets), Jose Quintana (Mets) and Andrew Heaney (Rangers) have been scooped up in the past week.
They also believe their starters, especially Cobb, will benefit from better defense played behind them. The Giants had the third-widest gap of any team between their FIP (fielding independent pitching) and ERA, and for much of the season, Cobb had the widest gap of any pitcher between his expected and actual ERA.
“We have a couple of other starters in our rotation that did a really nice job this year and that a lot of teams would be really happy to have as their No. 2, No. 3,” manager Gabe Kapler said at the winter meetings. “Maybe think about Alex Cobb, had we played a little bit better defense behind Alex and he stayed a little bit healthier, he could sit in the 2 hole in anybody’s rotation. He was just nasty this year.”