Heading into the 2024 season, four of the five spots in the Toronto Blue Jays' starting rotation are spoken for.
Kevin Gausman, this year's third-place finisher in the AL Cy Young race, will lead the way. Behind him, a combination of Chris Bassitt, José Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi - all of whom had phenomenal years in their own right in 2023 - will round out the top four.
As things currently sit, Alek Manoah is projected to be the club's fifth starter. By now, we all are aware of the struggles he went through this past season. We are not here to beat a dead horse, but the gist of it is that he was optioned twice and was unhappy with the Blue Jays' management upon his second demotion.
Moving forward, Manoah is still under contract with the Jays and is widely expected to be given an opportunity to reclaim his spot in the rotation next year. Ross Atkins, the general manager of the Blue Jays, spoke with reporters recently and confirmed that Manoah will be given every chance to step back in to the big league rotation.
"He's easy to believe in", he said at the GM Meetings. "He's hyper-motivated. I feel like and he feels like that this year was an exception. I'm really looking forward to what's ahead for Alek, not just this year but years to come."
Atkins goes on to say that he feels like "[Manoah] has earned, already, the right to have a strong leg up [in the competition for the fifth starter spot]. I feel so good about him returning back to the 2021, 2022 version of himself."
In his 19 outings last season, Manoah struggled mightily with keeping runners off the bases, especially when it came to walks. In just over 87 innings of work, the right-hander walked over 6 batters per nine innings and also allowed 9.6 hits per nine. His 5.87 ERA and 6.01 FIP are both solid indicators that something was very, very off with him.
Along the way, though, there were some ever-so-slight glimpses of hope for the 25-year-old. In two starts early in the year, he went 7 shutout innings against the Royals and then later the division rival Yankees. In his first starrt back from a demotion to the FCL, Manoah struck out 8 batters through 6 innings of work against the Tigers. In nearly every single other outing, things did not look as promising.
Manoah has been posting videos on his Instagram showcasing some workouts in the gym. He has looked noticeably slimmer, so perhaps the second-half break he took in 2023 will wind up working out for the best.
Rumor has it the Blue Jays and Cardinals are - once again - targeting players on each other's rosters. The Jays are interested in one of the Cardinals' excess outfielders (Dylan Carlson, Tyler O'Neill and utilityman Brendan Donovan) while St. Louis has frequently been linked to Manoah in these trade rumors. Fans frequently give Atkins grief for the Varsho-Moreno trade last offseason, but Atkins is a smart executive who will not move Manoah while his value is so uncertain. Look for him to remain a Blue Jay and get another shot in 2024.