The MLB trade deadline is just under two weeks away, and the rumor mill is starting to heat up. While a player’s name popping up in rumors doesn’t guarantee they’ll actually get traded, it certainly seems like Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman will soon be switching jerseys.
Stroman has seemed like a logical trade candidate for a while. The Blue Jays are entering action on Friday with a 36-62 record and have been starting to usher in a new era with players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and others. With Toronto well out of the playoff race, they’re looking for ways to build for the future, and their current ace gives them the perfect opportunity to do so. Whichever team Stroman lands with will receive a big boost. Fans living in Betamerica’s legal states will likely win a lot of money if they wager on Stroman’s new team.
It’s such a known fact that multiple general managers share this same belief, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
The 28-year-old has bounced back from a tough and injury-shortened 2018 in a big way this season. Through 110.2 innings, the right-hander owns a 3.25 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, which includes a 19.1% strikeout rate and 7.4% walk rate. His 22.0% soft-hit rate allowed is among the top-10 when looking at qualified starters, and his 57.9% ground-ball is once again among the best in baseball.
Stroman is making $7.4 million this season and will be controllable via arbitration in 2020 before hitting the open market. It doesn’t seem like Toronto wants him in the organization for the long term, and the hurler’s performance/contract status makes it a ripe situation for maximizing their return in a potential swap.
We’re going to evaluate nine potential suitors in the pages that follow. This is not an exhaustive list. These teams are all interesting fits in their own right, though.
Remember when the Phillies were included in all these articles over the winter? Well, a few months doesn’t change the fact that they remain interested in being aggressive. While the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals (two teams we’ll be talking about momentarily) have passed by them in the National League East standings, they’re still very much in the wild-card race.
When looking at Philly’s roster, the starting rotation isn’t exactly a strength — their 3.6 cumulative fWAR is among the bottom third in baseball entering Thursday’s action. Aaron Nola has turned things around, but there are a lot of question marks behind him.
The biggest question mark of all is Jake Arrieta, who is pitching through a bone spur in his throwing elbow. Opting for surgery would be of the season-ending variety, yet he hasn’t exactly been a sparkling version of consistency when on the mound (4.54 ERA in 113 innings).
If the Phillies are serious about making a run for the postseason and avoiding a second consecutive late-season slide, they’ll need to fortify their rotation. Playing in a hitter-friendly park like Citizens Bank makes Stroman’s skillset that much more attractive. Plus, his contract situation would certainly fit into Philly’s current attempted window at contention.
On May 24th, the Nationals were 10 games out of first place thanks to a 20-31 record. While it was early, manager Davey Martinez’s seat had to have been getting a little warm, don’t you think? Well, they’ve caught fire since then and have reached and surpassed the .500 mark.
They’ve done a number on their playoff odds, as well:
When looking at rotation fWAR prior to Thursday’s games, Washington also has the best staff in baseball (13.4 fWAR). It’s not necessarily close, either — the next-closest team is the Los Angeles Dodgers at 11.9.
Clearly, this is an area of strength with hurlers like Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin heading the front of this rotation. Anibal Sanchez has gone from being one of baseball’s worst pitchers in March/April to posting a season-long ERA of 3.71 through 89.2 innings.
Regardless of their frontline depth, the Nationals are a potential fit for a few reasons. Scherzer and Corbin will be around, but Strasburg could technically opt out of his contract following the season (although it doesn’t seem like that’ll happen). And speaking of Scherzer, he’s currently on the injured list with a back strain, which is something to monitor. Washington also hasn’t had a ton of luck or stability in the fifth spot of its rotation.
Putting together a postseason rotation wouldn’t be an easy task for Martinez if Stroman were added, but of course, the Nats must get there first.
Stroman and the Braves are an interesting fit because if Atlanta did what everyone thought they should’ve done this past winter, they wouldn’t be in this position. Even after signing Dallas Keuchel, this mostly young rotation hasn’t performed particularly well as a unit.
Among the five Atlanta starters with at least 50 innings pitched, they have as many pitchers with an ERA above 6.00 (Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz) as they do below 4.00 (Mike Soroka and Julio Teheran). Keuchel was a necessary veteran addition, but he’s only guaranteed to be around until the end of this year.
With the kind of young core they have in place, Atlanta’s window for contention is longer than that. Locking in a veteran starter with postseason experience and a love for the spotlight is something they could totally use.
They do have a comfortable lead in the NL East, but the aforementioned Nationals have been charging ahead over the last two months, and who knows what the Phillies are capable of prior to the deadline. The extra wrinkle in this situation is general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who was in charge of the Blue Jays at the start of Stroman’s professional career.
He’s already played into this connection once by signing Josh Donaldson to a one-year deal via free agency. There’s always a chance he could do it again.
New York Yankees
There are a couple teams on this list where just the thought of them getting Stroman doesn’t seem fair. The Yankees would be one of those teams.
Even while their roster was riddled with injuries, they found a way to rise to the top of the American League East standings. And they did it without Luis Severino at the front of their rotation. New York did make a couple impact acquisitions for the rotation this past winter, but as the old saying goes, more pitching is never a bad thing.
James Paxton hasn’t exactly been a picture of health throughout his career, while J.A. Happ hasn’t been nearly effective as he was for the Yankees last season. Coincidentally enough, they acquired him via midseason trade with the…Blue Jays. It’s not as if the Yankees haven’t targeted ground-ball pitchers in the middle of the season before, too — even if the Sonny Gray deal didn’t work out.
Stroman being born and raised on Long Island and having a penchant for the spotlight also doesn’t hurt anything. Dealing a player within the division is not exactly a popular decision, but New York has a deep farm that’d be attractive to any seller. And as mentioned before, these two teams came together on a deal just last season.
The Brewers have needed a frontline starter for the past two seasons. They came within one win of the World Series last season without acquiring an ace and are still in the thick of things with regard to the National League Central race this year.
Grabbing a starter of Stroman’s caliber would not only keep him from other division rivals, but they could just also really use one for their own rotation. Milwaukee came into this season with a bunch of questions in this area of the roster, and not a whole lot has changed.
Brandon Woodruff has emerged as a solid and reliable hurler, leading the squad with 114.2 innings pitched, which has led to a 3.53 ERA and 3.2 fWAR. Zach Davies has also bounced back following a tough 2018, but he and Woodruff are the only Brewers pitchers with more than 90 innings under their belt. The next closest is Jhoulys Chacin with 83 frames, but he’s produced a 5.18 ERA in the process.
Adding Gio Gonzalez after the season started will be a boost overall. However, with Jimmy Nelson’s return not going nearly as smooth as hoped and his immediate future cloudy, the Brewers sure could use another horse. Why not someone who can generate a ton of ground balls while pitching at Miller Park?