4 trades Blue Jays could be forced to make if Alek Manoah stinks again

If the Toronto Blue Jays need help on the mound, a few logical trade targets exist.

Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays
Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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The Toronto Blue Jays' ambitious offseason plans have yielded very little actual progress. Justin Tucker will help a lot, but he pales in comparison to Toronto's dream targets, Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto. There was a time not long ago when it felt like the Jays would land one or the other. As fate would have it, however, LA and New York got better, and lowly Toronto is left to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

It's not too late for the Blue Jays to meaningfully upgrade their lineup, but another potential concern lies in the bullpen. Toronto has one of the best starting rotations in baseball, led by perennial Cy Young candidate Kevin Gausman. Four of the five projected starters in the Blue Jays' rotation posted an ERA below 4.00 last season.

Alek Manoah was the outlier, ironically enough. The towering righty entered the 2023 season hailed as the next great American League ace. The year before, he finished third in Cy Young voting, in just his second MLB season. But, for one reason or another, Manoah hit a wall. The easiest culprit is the shoulder injury that held Manoah to 19 starts and 87.1 innings pitched. He finished the campaign with a bloated 5.87 ERA and 1.740 WHIP, registering 79 strikeouts and 59 walks.

There is natural hope that the 26-year-old turns it around. It's not exactly uncommon for young pitchers to experience bumps on the road to greatness. That said, Manoah's spring training is off to an extremely dicey start. It's only spring training, but panic is rising in the Blue Jays fanbase. If Manoah can't cut it, Toronto could be forced to consider trade alternatives.

Here are a few potential targets, should Toronto decide to add one more starter midseason.

4. Blue Jays can gamble on Tigers' Jack Flaherty

Jack Flaherty signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers, who haven't posted a winning season in almost a decade. So, we pretty much know how this ends. The 28-year-old's 2023 campaign was, well, complicated. He started off relatively strong with the St. Louis Cardinals before fading into oblivion after the trade deadline. The Baltimore Orioles acquired Flaherty with their sights set on the playoffs. He got his shot on baseball's grandest stage and flunked, plain and simple.

The final regular season tally for Flaherty was 8-9 in 29 appearances (27 starts), posting a 4.99 ERA and 1.580 WHIP. He managed 148 strikeouts in 144.1 innings pitched. It wasn't very pretty by the end, but Flaherty did post an average exit velocity (87.9 MPH) in the 73rd percentile. He gets soft contact by exerting respectable command over a robust six-pitch arsenal.

He should not be relied upon as Toronto's No. 1 ace, but as the fifth dude in a fairly consistent group, Flaherty would be better positioned for success. The Orioles thrust him too forcefully into the spotlight and it backfired. He's not ready for the top-line burden on a contender. He's also not really suited to toiling in mediocrity on a bad Tigers team, so the Blue Jays should keep their eyes and ears peeled.

It's only a matter of time until Detroit starts to fall in the standings and Flaherty's name pops up in trade rumors.