SF Giants bring lefty starter back to the Bay Area - but it's not Rodon

Sean Manaea
Sean Manaea / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages

It's not a big name, but the SF Giants - after being passed over multiple times in attempts to sign free agents this offseason - have reportedly come to terms with a left-handed starting pitcher who has experience pitching in the Bay Area.

Unfortunately for a fan base desperate for a star to cheer, it's not Carlos Rodon.

Late Sunday night, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman tweeted that San Francisco had agreed to a two-year, $25-million deal with southpaw starter Sean Manaea.

The contract apparently includes an opt-out, which we would assume comes after the first year (one could guess Heyman was being brief in his tweet to make sure he got the news into the public square ahead of any other baseball insiders; of course, trying to be first is what got him into trouble earlier last week when he broke the incorrect news that Aaron Judge - whose first name Heyman originally typed in haste as "Arson" before deleting and re-posting - had signed with the Giants).

Manaea, who will turn 31 just before Spring Training in 2023, made his Major League debut with the Oakland Athletics in 2016, and for most of his career he's been an asset when healthy; through 2021 he had a 3.86 career ERA with 641 strikeouts and 180 walks in 727 innings over 129 appearances (all but one were starts).

Just before the 2022 season, however, he was traded to the San Diego Padres and turned in his worst healthy year yet: 8-9 with a 4.96 ERA in 158 innings while allowing 29 home runs for a career-worst 1.7 HR/9. He also walked nearly three batters per nine innings, which was just shy of his worst-ever ratio in that category.

Despite his tough 2022, he is just two years removed now from possibly his best season. With Oakland in 2021, the 6'5, 245-pound southpaw had career bests in strikeout rate (9.7/9 innings), FIP (3.66) and WAR calculations from both Baseball-Reference (3.1) and Fangraphs (3.2).

Originally a first-round pick by the Kansas City Royals out of Indiana State in 2013, Manaea was part of Oakland's return in the Ben Zobrist trade during the 2015 season. Entering the 2016 campaign, Baseball America named him the Athletics' second-best prospect and the 48th overall across the minor leagues.

SF Giants rotation full?

With the addition of Manaea, the Giants now have five full-time starters under contract for 2023: Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Cobb, Alex Wood and Manaea. That, of course, is likely not going to be enough to get through the season. DeSclafani pitched just 19 innings in 2022 thanks to an injury, and Cobb and Wood also spent time on the injured list.

This signing does make it more likely that Farhan Zaidi and crew look to add pitchers who can both start and relieve instead of continuing to pursue Rodon, but bringing back the 2022 All-Star selection and Cy Young candidate would unequivocally bolster the rotation - as long as it's at a price and length the team is OK with.

As for Manaea, he has shown the ability to be a solid starter in the past. If the Giants' pitching-development group can help him get back to or improve on his best seasons, he could come close to returning the value San Francisco is losing in Rodon.