Pros and Cons of Trading Marcus Stroman
It shouldn’t have been a surprise to Blue Jays fans when news broke that management is expected to move Aaron Sanchez, Justin Smoak and Marcus Stroman before the All-Star break. When a franchise is in a rebuilding phase, historically trades of current high-value players (in this case Stro, Sanchez and Smoak) for young project pieces to hopefully get the team where they want to be in the next 4-5 years. Trading all three of those guys might be a little bit unrealistic but come mid-July, one or two will most definitely be in a different uniform. Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have already shown their willingness to move off of older beloved guys to make room for the youth of tomorrow. If I were to guess, the most obvious trade piece is Smoak because of his expiring contract and ability to hit for power making him extremely attractive for teams on-route to a deep post-season run.
The choice between the other two is a tad more troublesome. You can make the case for trading both. And maybe they will. Sanchez has a higher ceiling but has met injury time and time again in his short career. Stroman, on the other hand, has shown flashes of greatness and mediocrity while adopting the epitome of Toronto. Both guys, in their prime, will be able to fetch a substantial package in return from a team looking to bolster their starting rotation.
Stroman has been in rare form to start this season posting a 2.20 ERA which is good for second in the AL. His production hasn’t really led to wins as he sports a modest 1-4 record in seven starts. To go along with his performance on the field, many fans love him for his personality and commitment off the field. Seeing him go would be tough, as it usually is, for the public to agree with or understand especially with Cy-Young level play as of late.
In the fast reaction world we live in, everyone has an opinion and a platform to express it. There will certainly be some people on both sides of the potential trade. There will be the level headed “This is the best thing for the team” person, then there will be the “What the hell? He’s our only good pitcher! Why did you trade him?” person. In an attempt to find common ground on both sides of a Stroman trade, I've decided to put together a pro's and con's list to help me decide how I feel about getting rid of the 28-year-old righty.
PRO 1 – Don’t Want to Sit on His High Value
Stroman has been performing well beyond expectations to start the season, enough to excite any team looking to add depth to their pitching staff. You don't want to sit on a guy when his value is as high as it’s ever been in case he loses steam and in turn lowers what you get back. As a Jays fan, we saw this exact situation take place last season: Atkins and Shapiro were reluctant to deal a visibly unhappy Josh Donaldson and when they finally made the move, after multiple injuries, their compensation was less than impressive. If Stroman is definitely not going to be part of the future then the trade should take place when he's still performing at this high of a level rather than after his numbers regress to the mean. His relatively team-friendly contract ($7 million) makes him an even more attractive option for any team looking to save some coin while adding a talented arm to their team.
CON 1 – Probably Won’t Get Back Someone As Good As Stroman
As with most trades involving a player as talented as Stro, you’re presumably not getting back the same calibre player. Generally speaking, these types of deals consist of multiple prospects or draft picks in which you can only hope will pan out. The Jays swindled their way into getting David Price in 2015 by sending a group of young pitchers Daniel Norris, Matthew Boyd and Jairo Labourt to the Detroit Tigers. Norris (4.48 career ERA) and Boyd (4.89 career ERA) are still contributing to a major-league pitching staff while Labourt hasn’t appeared in the MLB since 2017. Neither of these guys are as good as Price and they're not going to have a season as good as he had with the Jays. However, it was the hope they could turn into something special that was key to the Tigers decision. Essentially a move like this is trading for optimism and belief in your development. Chances are, the assets won’t be as good as Stroman now or ever but it’s a risk that should be recognized.
Pro 2 – Won’t Have To Pay A Bunch Of Money To Keep Him
Like I mentioned, making this deal ostensibly gets you a young player in return meaning you also get a young players salary. A talent like Stroman will surely look for a $10+ million-dollar contract for 3+ years to be extremely satisfied with his situation. Just this offseason he decided to take on the Jays in arbitration. Requesting for a higher salary and "settled" for a mere $7 million. If he keeps up this impressive run, chances are the money will grow and grow come the time free agency hits. It’s not easy for owners and management to justify spending that kind of dough on a starting pitcher for a rebuilding club but if there's not a whole lot of money being spent elsewhere, why not?
Con 2 – Can Be That Veteran Leader for The Future of the Jays
Every successful team has a veteran leader in some form. Sometimes it's someone who’s been there before like Dustin Pedroia on last year’s World Series-winning Red Sox who won a ring twice before last year. Or it can be an older guy motivated to win for the first time like 40-year-old Carlos Beltran on the 2017 Houston Astros. Neither guy played a huge role in their team's overall success but brought that much needed seasoned presence to the locker room. By the time the Jays will be contending again, Stroman will fit the bill of the latter. He's never won a World Series but does have some postseason success. In 4-5 years, he’ll be entering the twilight of his prime at 32 years of age as the best case scenario. Regardless, Stroman will be able to educate the less experienced in what it takes mentally and physically to find success of their own come October. It’s obvious he’s been able to embrace the city and the team and there’s nothing that indicates he won’t be able to do the same as a leader when the time comes.
Pro 3 – Age Doesn't Fit the Rebuild
That last "Con" can also be taken as a basis to make the trade. Rebuilds always focus the majority of their resources to their young guys who can still develop and improve exponentially. Chances are, we’ve seen the best of Stroman and if not the best, close to it. It’s possible he can pitch at a high level into his mid 30’s like Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia but that type of longevity is usually saved for the best of the best. Stroman, unfortunately, hasn’t shown enough to be considered that. Age is one of those things that not a single person can control and is quite possibly be the best argument for the trading of Marcus Stroman. He won’t be at the peak of his powers now and trading him for someone who may be there in a few years could worth the adventure that is business in the big leagues.
Con 3 – Will Open More Issues In the Starting Rotation Right Now
It’s difficult to say the Jays have “issues” in their starting rotation when they own the second-best ERA and BA against in the league but, it’s true. They’ve been battling injuries since the beginning of the season and getting rid of Stroman, or Sanchez for that matter, won’t help the already thin pitching staff. Schoemaker is gone for the season and Borucki’s struggle with elbow soreness is something the Jays will unquestionably be monitoring all season long. The other guys have stepped up but there’s no history suggesting this can or will maintain. There’s very few if any, viable answers that can help this team in this season when fatigue inevitably starts to set in. With a trade, even more answers will be needed.
Moves are inevitable at this point. Come post-trade deadline, the roster is going to look a lot different than what it is now. I’m in the “everyone should be on the block” camp and that if the right package comes along, you move off from whoever. With the exception of Vlad, of course. With that being said, I’ve also got real estate in the camp that is against trading Stroman. You can more than likely attract the same, if not a better return for the younger, Sanchez who has a higher ceiling. I've wavered back and forth between being for and against moving Stroman but I've settled on this: Stroman should be a Blue Jay. At least until you have to pay him. Let him show what makes fans so excited to watch him pitch. And who knows, maybe he does turn into that number one or two guy that is needed to make a push in the playoffs.