With both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman each having two years of contract control remaining, why is one being discussed as a trade target more than the other?
One of the dominant headlines around the Blue Jays so far this offseason has been what’s to become of Marcus Stroman, and whether he’ll still be on the roster come Opening Day. For what it’s worth, Stroman has repeatedly expressed his adoration for the city, the fan base, and for wearing a Blue Jays jersey, but that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from churning.
It makes some sense because of where things are at with the Blue Jays these days. After a few seasons of pushing for the American League pennant, the team is now firmly in the beginning stages of a rebuild, one that has the roster already looking drastically different than it did a few years ago. The goal was always to get younger and more athletic, and that’s already been accomplished at this early stage.
Stroman is one of the few veterans still remaining from those “glory years”, and still around is rotation mate, Aaron Sanchez. The duo looked like they could be a pair of co-aces for the Blue Jays for years to come at one time, but a variety of injuries to the pair recently has definitely dropped their stock, both within the organization and on the trade market. Like fellow veterans Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, and others, their names have come up in the rumour mill, but there’s no denying that Stroman has been the most frequently discussed. Why is that?
On paper you would think that Sanchez would be equally as intriguing to other teams as Stroman, but there’s more to the equation than the numbers. Sanchez actually made one more start in 2018 than Stroman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he had a healthier year. He finished the season with a 4-6 record in those 20 starts, pitching to a 4.89 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP in 102 innings. It was a lot better than the eight starts he was able to muster a year before, but the familiar issues with his pitching hand festered (blister, fingernail, tendon), even if they were apparently set off by an accident involving a suitcase.
After Sanchez had lead the American League in ERA in 2016, we had all hoped that he was going to develop into the staff ace that this team so badly needed. When he couldn’t get healthy in 2017, the hope was that he could wipe that season away and thrive again with a fresh start in 2018. That didn’t happen either, and now we’re left wondering what his future looks like, both in the short and long term.
Stroman’s situation is a little different even though he struggled with injuries last year as well. He started the campaign with some shoulder issues and likely should have began the season on the disabled list. Instead, he pushed through things early and ended up hitting the DL after a handful of starts. I’ll give him credit for trying to pitch through some discomfort and help his team, but with the benefit of hindsight he likely should have been eased in a little more. Later on in the year he dealt with some pretty serious blister issues of his own, but we don’t have as much reason to believe that it’ll be a chronic condition for him as we do with Sanchez.
Stroman finished the year with just 19 starts and a disappointing 5.54 ERA in 102.1 innings pitched. He does have a more recent track record of success though, as his 2017 season brought a second consecutive 200 inning campaign, and one that saw him finish 4th in the AL with a 3.09 ERA. He even received some Cy Young consideration, finishing eighth in the voting.
There have been a few rumours and reports that the Blue Jays front office wants to move on from Stroman and his big personality before they really dig in to their rebuild, but that has hardly been substantiated. Personally, I think the fire and work ethic that Stroman displays on the field and on social media is a good example for his future teammates, although I don’t have the benefit of being in the locker room throughout the year either.
When it comes to Sanchez, he’s going to be an interesting case as he approaches free agency, especially if he can stay healthy and get back to the potential that he flashed back in 2016. He works with Scott Boras, as super-agent who is well known for his recent frustration with the Blue Jays, and for always seeking top dollar for his clients. If Sanchez can pitch like the best version of himself over the next couple of seasons, Boras will be asking for the moon for the relatively young pitcher. That seems like a long shot right now, but two years is a long time for Sanchez to change the narrative on his market value.
Add it all up and right now it makes sense that Stroman is being talked about more in trade rumours, mostly because he has a better track record of staying healthy. Both starters have shown a similar ceiling so far, but you can’t fault rival clubs for being wary of Sanchez’s recent injury history. My guess is neither pitcher is going anywhere this winter, and their situations could be drastically different in six months time. Here’s hoping they’re both back to their dominant, healthy selves, and the rest can sort itself out later.