It wouldn’t be an offseason if there weren’t rumours swirling about the Toronto Blue Jays entertaining offers for one of their young starting pitchers, Marcus Stroman. If it feels like this is an annual exercise, that’s because it is. Virtually every offseason and every trade deadline, his name comes up in talks.
The latest rumour took place over the weekend with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reporting the Cincinnati Reds have interest in the 27-year-old, but the Blue Jays have not made progress in any prospective trade involving Stroman.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 17, 2018
Nor should they. For a variety of reasons, now is not the time for the Blue Jays to trade Stroman.
That’s not to say he’s completely untouchable. For a cost, every player can be moved, but considering where the Blue Jays are in their rebuild, subtracting a 200-inning starting pitcher from their rotation doesn’t make a lot of sense.
As it stands, the Blue Jays’ 2019 starting rotation projects to be Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Ryan Borucki, followed by some combination of Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, and Sam Gaviglio to fill out the back end. Not that 2019 forecasts to be a contending year for the Blue Jays, but they still need to field a respectable team.
If Toronto were to trade Stroman this offseason, they’d be doing so at his low point. His overall 2018 numbers – 19 starts with a 5.54 ERA – aren’t a true reflection of the pitcher he can be. Stroman battled injuries for most of the year and dealt with nagging blisters, which forced him to miss the final month of the season.
Surely, there are plenty of teams interested in acquiring Stroman as a bounce-back candidate in 2019. Since his MLB debut in 2014, he’s enjoyed two very successful seasons in the AL East, one injury-shortened year and another campaign with slightly inflated numbers. Last season was an outlier for the Long Island native and he’s closer to the 2014 and 2017 iterations of himself than the 2016 and 2018 versions.
Just like his rotation-mate in Sanchez, Stroman has two years remaining of team control. After the 2020 season, both starting pitchers are eligible to become free agents. At this moment, it’s difficult to envision whether Stroman or Sanchez will play with the Blue Jays beyond then, but if the Blue Jays were ever to choose one arm over the other, it’s Stroman.
It was Sanchez who won an ERA title in 2016, but Stroman reached the 200-inning plateau twice in the span of four seasons. He also started 19 or more games in seasons when he didn’t tear his ACL.
One could argue the Blue Jays should consider signing Stroman to a contract extension rather than trading him. Teams like the Jays can never have too much pitching and locking up one of their established arms to a long-term deal gives them some form of security.
Given the optics of how his season concluded, teams won’t approach the Blue Jays with their best offers this winter. They will be looking to get value on a pitcher like Stroman – not hand over their finest pool of prospects for him.
That may change come July if Stroman returns to his former self and posts strong numbers in the first half of the season. He would then immediately become one of the most intriguing names on the trade market and would be especially valuable with that additional year of team control.
Whether or not Stroman is on the Blue Jays’ 2019 roster won’t make much of a difference in the team’s win total. Where they sacrifice talent is in their 2020 season and beyond, when this team should theoretically be back in the playoff race once again.
It’s been a long time coming, but if healthy, expect Stroman to anchor the Blue Jays’ pitching staff for the next few years. Up until a few seasons ago, he was one of the most exciting Blue Jays pitchers to watch every five days.
He’s been a number one starter on this team before, and he can do it again.