San Diego Hatches a Manaea-cal Plot in Trade With A’s

Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought the Padres were done tinkering with the starting rotation, you thought wrong. On Sunday morning, San Diego agreed to a deal with the Athletics, acquiring pitchers Sean Manaea and Aaron Holiday in exchange for pitcher Adrian Martinez and infielder Euribiel Angeles.

In a season in which teams continued to be conservative at stretching out their starting pitchers, the A’s were more aggressive with the injury-prone Manaea last year. Over the short-term, that proved to be successful, as he remained healthy and threw 179 1/3 innings, his most as a professional. The plaudits aren’t just quantity; he set career-highs all over the place, from WAR (3.3) to full-season FIP (3.66) to strikeout rate (25.7%).

How did Manaea do it? The likeliest reason is velocity. No, he didn’t suddenly become Aroldis Chapman or Brusdar Graterol, but every pitcher — with the possible exception of knuckleballers — requires some level of velocity to achieve effectiveness. In Manaea’s career there’s nearly a 100-point delta in batter slugging percentage between his sinkers going 91 mph or slower (.491) and those traveling 92 mph or faster (.397). On a player-to-player comparison, I get in the neighborhood of 40 points of SLG being the norm.

Similarly, Manaea also gets a lot more strikeouts when he’s throwing harder. More than three-quarters of his career strikeouts from sinkers come from the harder ones despite less than half of his sinkers being in the category. It’s not just chicken-and-egg; this pattern existed prior to this season. Sinkers aren’t traditionally used to punch out batters, but for Manaea, they’re an important weapon. Statcast credits him with 114 strikeouts on sinkers in 2021, the third-most of the Statcast era and the most since Chris Sale had 124 in 2015 (David Price has the crown with 125 in 2014).

It’s not even that Manaea’s sinker is a particularly nasty pitch, such as a splitter in fastball’s clothing; he actually gets less break on his than the average pitcher. It’s that his deceptive delivery and his excellent control basically function as a force multiplier to his velocity, effectively reducing the distance between the mound and home plate. Even a 30-mph fastball can strike out Juan Soto if you get to determine the sliver of time he has to make a decision.

ZiPS Projection – Sean Manaea
2022 10 8 0 3.81 28 28 156.0 149 66 23 37 161 109 2.4

For the Padres, Manaea likely completes a rotation that also includes Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, and Yu Darvish, all pitchers acquired in trades in recent seasons. Yet another acquisition, Mike Clevinger, is currently out with knee soreness. He’ll start the season on the IL since San Diego doesn’t want to take any chances with his mechanics, given that he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery.

When Clevinger returns, assuming nobody else replaces him on the IL, the Padres have an interesting dilemma. A full rotation leaves limited roles for Nick Martínez, Chris Paddack, MacKenzie Gore, and Ryan Weathers. It makes me wonder, given the active nature of the front office, what the next move could possibly be. They still have needs at the offensive positions, and while neither Paddack nor Weathers, the two most likely to be traded, would fetch a star, the Friars don’t need a star to be an upgrade at a few positions. Or, there may not be any trade coming and the Padres are simply that worried about depth — a justified concern, given they started the 2021 season with impressive-appearing depth and ended it with Jake Arrieta starting games.

Losing Manaea tears another chunk out of Oakland’s rotation, but let’s be honest: for Oakland, this trade was never about making the 2022 team a better one. The earlier trades of Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Chris Bassitt removed players who accumulated 12 WAR for the 2021 team. Mark Canha and Starling Marte, both free agents who signed with the Mets, represented nearly another five wins.

Martinez seems like a typical A’s pickup in that, while he’s never really had much of an impact on prospect lists, he had solid performances in the upper minors and has promising aspects to his profile. His mid-90s fastball has a couple of different looks: a two-seamer and a more sinker-like version when he takes off a few ticks. His slider is merely OK, but his changeup is more exciting and almost looks like it has circle-change–style fade to it to me. He’s missed time due to Tommy John surgery and has been moved around to different roles, and he was solid at Double-A, with a 3.14 FIP and more than a whiff an inning. His Triple-A stint for El Paso got off to a bad start with two rocky appearances, but batters only hit .241/.316/.361 against him in his seven remaining starts.

ZiPS Projection – Adrian Martinez
2022 7 6 0 4.18 27 19 112.0 113 52 12 39 89 98 1.2
2023 7 6 0 4.04 27 19 113.7 111 51 12 39 91 102 1.4
2024 7 6 0 4.04 27 19 111.3 108 50 12 37 91 102 1.4
2025 6 5 0 4.06 24 17 102.0 98 46 11 34 83 101 1.2
2026 6 5 0 4.04 23 17 98.0 94 44 11 33 81 102 1.2
2027 6 5 0 4.05 22 16 93.3 88 42 10 31 78 101 1.1

Also heading to Oakland is Angeles, an infielder with good speed and extra-base power, but not of the home run variety. Here’s my colleague Eric Longenhagen with his impressions:

Angeles has precocious bat-to-ball skills for his age, and the Padres pushed him to full-season ball to start the 2021 season after he had a hot minor league spring camp. Angeles hit there, though his power output was inflated by the hitting environment. He has some paths to an everyday big league role but is more likely to be a contact-driven, role-playing utility infielder.

ZiPS Projection – Euribiel Angeles
2022 .238 .280 .320 484 70 115 18 2 6 41 26 8 67 2 0.5
2023 .238 .280 .320 484 70 115 18 2 6 41 26 8 67 3 0.5
2024 .244 .288 .338 464 70 113 19 2 7 42 26 8 74 3 1.0
2025 .242 .291 .345 467 72 113 20 2 8 44 29 8 77 3 1.1
2026 .244 .294 .353 467 73 114 20 2 9 45 30 8 80 3 1.4
2027 .243 .296 .355 465 74 113 21 2 9 46 32 7 81 3 1.5
2028 .243 .297 .354 460 73 112 20 2 9 46 32 7 81 2 1.4

The projections for Angeles don’t feel much differently, though it is notable that ZiPS sees him as certainly valuable enough to take a lesser role in the majors. He’ll have an FV of 40, the highest in our prospect ranks of anyone involved in the trade.

Going to San Diego along with Manaea is Holiday, Oakland’s 13th-round pick last year out of Old Dominion. Eric described him to me as a “developmental arm with a carrying fastball that has been up to 97 this spring.” ZiPS has little to say about Holiday at this point, but it never hurts to have live arms and gauge how they develop.

The Padres are a better team than they were at the start of the weekend as a result of the trade for Manaea, but they still have offensive weaknesses to take care of, which this swap can only address indirectly. But it’s a good trade, nevertheless, as the Padres have better prospects at the positions that Angeles and Martinez play. My main surprise with this trade is that nobody offered a package that enticed Oakland even more. Teams such as the Angels and Twins arguably could have used Manaea far more than the Padres did, but their loss is San Diego’s gain.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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5 months ago

Should also be mentioned that Longenhagen himself thinks that internal pro models probably like Angeles a lot more than scouts re: selling jeans.

“Angeles is an interesting player who is set up to succeed statistically and, when combined with his age, perhaps get juiced in a big way by pro scouting models. He is not the sort of player who you notice getting off the bus”