Is Alek Manoah slowly becoming a long-term piece or just building up his trade value?

May 12, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN;  Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah (6) is greeted by team
May 12, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah (6) is greeted by team / Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

While the Toronto Blue Jays as a whole are scuffling and having a hard time getting out of last place in the AL East, this season is not exactly missing positive stories to go along with all of the negatives.

Alek Manoah has to be one of the most noteworthy developments we've seen this season. The right-hander has gone from ace to minor leaguer to respectable innings eater all in the span of two years. It's still a bit too early to say that he's all the way "back", but his recent stretch has been an incredible sight.

Manoah, 26, has only made three starts in the big leagues in 2024. Across 18 innings of work, he's struck out 19 batters and walked six, currently sporting an ERA of 3.00 and an ERA+ of 131. In each of his last two starts, he's gone seven innings and hasn't allowed any (earned) runs.

Getting Manoah back into the rotation comes at a pivotal point for the Blue Jays, as the fifth spot has largely been a question mark all year so far. Yariel Rodriguez performed admirably in the spot, but he's currently on the injured list, while Bowden Francis also earned a look but seems to be best suited for a multi-inning relief role. The question is, though, is Manoah earning back his "long-term cog" label, or is he just boosting his trade value?

Is Alek Manoah a long-term piece or a trade chip?

Of course, the three-start sample is miniscule, but this is more of a hypothetical question than anything else. If Manoah is able to keep this strong stretch of play going, has he regained his status as a long-term piece on the Blue Jays, or is he simply turning himself into a more attractive trade piece?

The answer likely lies most in how the Jays do over the next month of play. If they continue their slide, an organizational shift towards selling seems likely, with the likes of Yusei Kikuchi, Danny Jansen, Yimi Garcia, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. being the players whose trade values are highest right now.

At 21-25, the Blue Jays are nowhere near where they want to be. They are currently 10.5 games out of first place in the AL East but are only 2.5 out of a Wild Card spot. Despite the fact that they're having troubles putting a win streak together, they are by no means completely out of the race.

If they stay in contention by beating teams they, well, should beat, then the conversations changes. Manoah would be heavily relied upon down the stretch, but without all of the pressure that he faced when he was the No. 1 in this rotation. It's entirely possible that what he needs most right now is to fit in line behind Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios and Kikuchi, rather than be expected to put the team on his back.

Should the 6-foot-6 hurler be put on the trade market, it'd be interesting to see where his value is at right now. Surely the antics from last season lowered his value significantly, but it's nothing a red-hot showing over the next month or so can't fix. If he's able to keep himself right on the mound, Manoah and his three years of team control could be worth quite a bit in trade talks.