Player To Go After In Free Agency - Sean Manaea
Sean Manaea feels like a Pirates pitcher. He is a crafty veteran lefty, but unlike the previous signings of Derek Holland, Tyler Anderson, Jose Quintana, Rich Hill, and even Martin Perez this off-season, Manaea could be someone the Pirates can slot into their rotation for two, maybe even three years depending on how long they want to go with him. He's someone who would be reasonable on a multi-year deal.
Manaea did not have a good start to the season. He owned a 7.96 ERA, 6.56 FIP, and 1.77 WHIP through mid-May. He may have had a solid 24.8% strikeout rate, but that's where the positives end. He allowed over two home runs per nine innings (2.42 to be exact) and had a 12.8% walk rate. But after that, Manaea seemed to figure things out.
Through his final 91.2 innings of the season, the lefty worked to a strong 3.44 ERA, 3.15 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP. Manaea's strikeout rate took a slight step forward to 25.9%, but more importantly, his walk rate was just 7%, while his HR/9 decreased to 0.69. Manaea had a barrel rate of 6.1%, significantly better than the 17.3% rate he had from his horrible start to the year.
Manaea worked as a long reliever, regularly pitching 3-5 innings at a time. But he eventually earned another look as a starting pitcher in September. Manaea made four more starts at the end of the year, all of which lasted more than 5 innings. He only allowed six earned runs and two home runs, walking just two, and striking out 18.
Manaea will definitely get a look as a starting pitcher from someone, and I hope that someone is the Pirates. He looked like a different pitcher after getting demoted to the bullpen and his return to the rotation late into the season. In terms of pitch usage, he changed his approach which is something that could carry into next season.