MESA, Ariz. — It was weird.
It was awkward.
It bordered on the bizarre.
There was starter Sean Manaea packing up his locker in the Oakland A’s clubhouse Sunday morning, saying good-bye to his teammates, strolling down the corridor, and dumping his belongings in the visiting San Diego Padres clubhouse at Hohokam Park.
Two hours later, he was introducing himself to his new teammates, and pitching against his former teammates.
“I was a little emotional, actually very emotional,” said Manaea, who was informed of the trade Saturday night. “It didn’t really hit me until I got to the locker and started packing things up, making it official, official.
“It was nice to have closure saying good-bye to the guys.”
Manaea, who packed his bags at about 10 a.m. local time awaiting the Padres to arrive, wasn’t even sure he’d have a uniform to wear, or the right size, considering the Padres didn’t come to Hohokam until nearly noon.
“I was thinking about pitching him in an A’s uni[form],” Padres manager Bob Melvin said, “and a Padres’ cap.”
Manaea laughed and politely declined, “we toyed around a little bit with that,” and opted instead to wear a full Padres uniform as if the circumstances were completely normal.
Manea promptly went out and pitched for 3⅔ innings in an outing that epitomized the weirdness of the day. He left the game with the bases loaded in the third, but under spring training rules, was permitted to return in the fourth inning.
He wound up giving up six hits and one run, walking one and striking out four batters in a 66-pitch performance. He left the game with more A’s fans cheering for him than Padres fans.
Manaea wandered to the Padres’ bullpen after his outing to throw about 25 more pitches, stopped by the A’s bench on his return across the field, and then watched the rest of the game from the Padres’ dugout, forgetting at times he was cheering for the wrong team.
“It was a little crazy,” said Manaea, who earlier heard rumors he could be traded to the Chicago White Sox, near his hometown of Merrillville, Ind. “It was just a whirlwind, for sure. ….It definitely caught me a little off-guard.”
The trade now gives the Padres an embarrassment of riches in starting pitchers, where Manaea goes from the A’s ace to the No. 4 starter in the Padres’ rotation behind Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell.
And all it cost them was their 12th-best prospect, infielder Euribiel Angeles, and their 26th-best prospect in pitcher Adrian Martinez. In return, the A’s cleared another $9.5 million from their payroll while also sending minor-leaguer right-hander Aaron Holiday to the Padres.
Manaea was 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA last season for the A’s, including a career-high 194 strikeouts, is valued for his consistency and dependability, making at least 27 starts in three of the last four full seasons. His 32 starts last season would have led the Padres’ rotation, with his 179.1 innings ranking second.
“You see the durability, you see the numbers,” said Melvin, who managed Manaea in Oakland before leaving for the Padres last winter. “He’s a terrific teammate. I’ve always called him the world’s best teammate. …
“He’s got an infectious personality. He supports everybody on the team. He’s always got a smile on his face, yet when he’s on the mound he’s a competitor.”
Manaea’s arrives comes at an ideal time for the Padres. Mike Clevinger, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, is expected to open the season on the injured list with an inflamed knee.
“We’ll back him up a little bit,” Melvin said. “It felt like we were kind of in a rush job with him to begin with. So, it allows us to kind of smooth things out and slow down.
“We don’t feel like it’s a significant thing, but it actually might be a little bit of a blessing because it did feel like we were kind of rushing him a little bit.”
When Clevinger returns, the Padres will be set up for even more moves with their pitching depth. They still would love to find a starting left fielder. They were deep in talks with the New York Mets for outfielder Dominic Smith in a deal for starter Chris Paddack, reliever Emilio Pagan and first baseman Eric Hosmer.
The Padres were originally planning to replace Paddack with Manaea, but even after the Mets rejected the offer, they went ahead and finalized the Manaea deal Saturday night, out-bidding the White Sox and several other teams in strong pursuit.
Who knows? Instead of dealing from their depth, the Padres could simply sit back and grab Justin Upton for the minimum $700,000 salary once he clears waivers on Thursday.
The Padres aren’t saying they are now about to overtake the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, but with Manaea, they may have the deepest starting rotation in the National League. The rest of the rotation consists of Clevinger, Paddack, Nick Martinez, MacKenzie Gore, Ryan Weathers and Adrian Morejon.
There should be no need to go on the scrap heap like last September when they picked up Vince Velasquez and Jake Arrieta on waivers to pitch in their biggest games of September
“I think because of last year,” Melvin said, “the organization is looking a little bit differently this year. Trying to accumulate as much depth in the rotation as we can.”
The Padres, whose payroll has now climbed to about $231 million, would like to reduce it by trading away first baseman Eric Hosmer or outfielder Wil Myers, but they’re not about to cut costs in lieu of reaching the postseason.
For the A’s, well, they’re asking the last player left to please turn out the lights, just to save on the electricity bill.
The A’s have an embarrassing $32 million payroll, with six players earning more by themselves then the entire team: Max Scherzer, $43.3 million; Corey Seager, $37.5 million; Anthony Rendon, $36 million; Gerrit Cole, $36 million; Mike Trout, $35.4 million; Carlos Correa, $35.1 million.
Their payroll is so paltry that the Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Phillies and Padres are spending more per month on their payroll than the A’s for the entire season.
Why, in just the last month, the A’s have dumped All-Stars Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and now Manaea, who A’s manager Mark Kotsay called the “heart and soul” of the franchise.
Next up on the firesale list: Starter Frankie Montas, who’s scheduled to be the opening-day starter.
“We’ve gone through this, it’s part of the process,” Kotsay told reporters Sunday morning. “You hate to lose someone like [Manaea] This close to the season, but the timing really doesn’t matter. For this group, we’ve gone through it. It’s ‘next man up’ mentality.”
So there you have it, one small-market team, with a beautiful ballpark, pushing themselves into its financial limits by adding Manaea to win a World Series.
And one small-market team with a decaying ballpark, stripping the franchise to its studs with the dumping of Manaea.
The two franchises, with opposite visions, proved to be a perfect match.
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.