The Mets announced the signing of left-hander Sean Manaea to a two-year contract. It’s reportedly a $28MM guarantee for the Boras Corporation client, who can opt out following the 2024 season. Manaea will make $14.5MM next season, leaving him with a $13.5MM call on the ’25 option.
Manaea, 32 in February, was a first-round pick by the Royals back in 2013 and was swapped to the A’s alongside Aaron Brooks in the 2015 deal that brought Ben Zobrist to Kansas City. The southpaw made his big league debut in Oakland early in the 2016 season and fashioned a solid rookie year for himself with a 3.86 ERA and 4.08 FIP across 144 2/3 innings of work. Manaea continued to provide mid-to-back end of the rotation consistency for Oakland over the next few seasons, and he owned a career 3.94 ERA (105 ERA+) and 4.15 FIP in 464 innings by the end of the 2018 season. Unfortunately, the lefty’s success was interrupted by shoulder surgery late in the 2018 campaign and he missed nearly all of 2019.
Upon his return to action late in the 2019 season, Manaea more or less picked up right where he left off. In 48 starts from 2019-21, the left-hander posted a solid 3.73 ERA (111 ERA+) with a strong 3.64 FIP. During this stretch, Manaea saw his strikeout rate climb considerably. Though he entered the 2019 season with a rate of just 19.2% for his career, the lefty struck out 24.8% of batters faced over the next three seasons while walking just 5.2% and generating a 43.8% groundball rate that was a near match for his 44.1% figure in the first three seasons of his career. With just one year left before the lefty would hit free agency and the team going nowhere in 2022, the A’s shipped Manaea to San Diego as the Padres in a four-player deal, netting a pair of prospects for the left-hander’s services.
Unfortunately, Manaea began to struggle upon departing Oakland. The lefty’s lone season in San Diego was something of a disaster as he struggled to a 4.96 ERA, 24% worse than league average by ERA+, with a 4.53 FIP. Manaea’s strikeout rate dipped to 23.2%, his walk rate climbed to 7.5%, and he generated grounders at a career-worst 38.2% clip. While the southpaw mostly looked like himself in the first half of the season, with a 4.11 ERA and 4.07 FIP in 100 2/3 innings of work (17 starts), that production fell off a cliff down the stretch as he allowed a whopping 6.44 ERA over his final 13 contests. Those struggles led Manaea to sign a two-year, $25MM deal with the Giants last offseason that gave him the option to return to the free agent market this winter.
At first, Manaea’s time with the Giants saw similarly disastrous results as his final outings with the Padres the previous year. The lefty was booted from the club’s rotation in early May and by mid-June had put together a 5.84 ERA in 49 1/3 frames as opposing batters teed off to the tune of a hefty .474 slugging percentage. However, as MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald noted in a recent profile of Manaea, the lefty added a sweeper to his repertoire at the end of May and found massive success with it. Hitters struggled to a .140/.161/.163 slash line against the pitch, swinging and missing at it 35.1% of the times it was thrown.
After adding the sweeper, Manaea quickly found more success with the Giants. He pitched to a solid 3.78 ERA with a fantastic 3.26 FIP in his final 81 frames of the season, and excelled in a late-season return to the rotation with a 2.25 ERA and 3.21 FIP in four September starts. After adding the sweeper midseason, Manaea punched out 24.2% of batters faced while walking 6.6% and generating grounders at a 44% clip reminiscent of his days in Oakland. While the majority of that success came in multi-inning relief, the lefty nonetheless flashed the form that made him a successful mid-rotation arm earlier in his career.
The strong late-season results led Manaea to decline his $12.5MM player option with the Giants and return to the open market. The decision worked out well for the southpaw, as his $28MM pact with the Mets comes with an AAV of $14MM and the ability to return to opt out of the deal once again next winter should he choose to do so. Manaea slightly outperformed the two-year, $22MM prediction MLBTR offered when ranking him 35th on our annual Top 50 MLB free agents list, earning an additional $3MM annually over the same term. The deal is mostly in line with the market for back-end starters this offseason, which has seen the likes of Nick Martinez ($26MM) and Kenta Maeda ($24MM) earn similar guarantees on two-year arrangements.
By adding Manaea, the club adds another veteran arm to a rotation mix that parted ways with both Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander at the trade deadline last summer. The southpaw figures to return to starting full-time in joining the Mets, slotting into the middle of the club’s rotation behind incumbents Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana and ahead of fellow offseason additions Luis Severino and Adrian Houser. The addition of Manaea allows the club to utilize the likes of Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi and Jose Butto as depth options at the Triple-A level or in the club’s bullpen. The same figures to go for lefty David Peterson when he returns from offseason hip surgery sometime next summer.
The Mets were already over the highest luxury tax threshold of $297MM prior to signing Manaea, That means his full $14MM is part of the Mets’ overage coming into 2024. Assuming they remain over the highest tax threshold all season, the club figures to pay $15.8MM in taxes on Manaea’s salary next season, meaning the club effectively figures to pay $29.8MM for the lefty’s services in 2024. Of course, that’s unlikely to be much of a concern for the Mets as the club paid over $100MM into the luxury tax this past season. With the club’s rotation mix now likely settled, the Mets figure to continue searching for help at third base, DH and in the bullpen going forward.