Given the market for starting pitching this winter, his contract, and his performance this season, Marcus Stroman’s trade value should be very high.
Since the trade rumours about Marcus Stroman are likely to persist until either a) he’s dealt to another team, or b) his contract is extended in Toronto, chances are this is a topic that won’t be going away any time soon.
Personally, I think the Blue Jays should be leaning toward extending their best starting pitcher beyond the 2020 season when his current contract runs up, but if Ross Atkins, Mark Shapiro and the rest of the front office are intent on selling high on the 28-year-old, then I hope they set a very high standard for what they’re willing to let him go for. Because the more you look at all the variables involved in his trade value, the more you’ll realize that he should be in very high demand and should command a big return.
Starting in the obvious place, Stroman has put an injury-riddled 2018 season behind him and looks like a potential All-Star so far this year. Ignore his 3-8 record on a team that has struggled to score runs for him, and the 3.31 ERA and 1.322 WHIP are encouraging numbers. He’s made 14 starts, throwing 81.2 innings, and striking out 63 against 26 walks, good for a bWAR rating of 1.6 so far this season. Prior to his clunker against the Diamondbacks on Friday his ERA was 2.84, and chances are he’ll get back on track the next time out.
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It’s not just the production on the field that makes Stroman an enticing trade target for would-be buyers. It’s well known that he has one more year of club control on his contract, so any team acquiring him would have the benefit of his services in 2020 as well.
He’s also paid a very reasonable salary for his production, as he’s making just 7.4 million this year, and likely won’t make much more than 12 or 13 million in 2020 after his last trip through arbitration. Sure, that’s a lot of money to average Joe’s like you and I, but that’s a bargain for a pitcher that’s likely seen as at least a #2 in most big league rotations.
There’s also the important variable of the market, and that may work in the Blue Jays’ favour as much as anything right now. There are a few big-name pitchers that could hit the trade market this summer, and there’s a reasonable argument that Stroman has as much or more value than almost anyone not named Max Scherzer, who I don’t even see becoming an option anyway even if the Nationals become sellers.
Madison Bumgarner is one of those bigger names and so far, and he’s been solid with a 4.05 ERA, a 1.200 WHIP and a bWAR rating of 0.3 after a mostly lost season in 2018. He’s also on a reasonable deal at 12 million this year, but he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. He is playoff-battle tested though, so someone is going to look at Mad-Bum as a great solution for the stretch run, even if he’s not what he used to be.
If the Cleveland Indians fall further out of the playoff race then it’s possible they could deal one or both of Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber. Bauer has had a bit of an off-season by his standards, as he’s 4-6 with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.156 WHIP in 13 starts, good for a 1.0 bWAR rating.
Like Stroman, Bauer will go through arbitration for the final time in 2020, but he’s already making 13 million this year and will get a significant raise next season. He’s also already stated that he doesn’t want to sign a long-term deal, and would rather go year to year as a free agent, so that’s something for an acquiring team to consider too.
As far as Kluber goes, he’s had a really rough season thus far and he’s currently on the injured list and won’t be back for a while. He’s also owed decent money through the 2021 season, albeit on options of 17.5 million in 2020 and 18 million for 2021. I have no doubt that he’s got plenty left in the tank, but at 33 and with those other factors, his trade value takes a hit for sure.
Beyond the pitchers I’ve mentioned, look around the list of non-contenders and name me a better pitcher that could be available this summer? I don’t know that there are any unless the Nationals host a fire sale, or if the Diamondbacks are willing to eat a huge chunk of Zack Greinke‘s contract. The Mets aren’t out of the race yet, and even if they do fall way back I don’t think they’re to going to be trading someone like Noah Syndergaard, but that could change. It all leaves the Blue Jays in an enviable position based on what’s happened so far in 2019.
Stroman has pitched in baseball’s toughest division for his entire career, and he’s mostly thrived. He never shies away from the spotlight, both in a Blue Jays’ uniform and with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He’s still just 28 years old, and he’s clearly passionate and driven about winning, and his own success. If I’m a GM shopping for a starting pitcher this summer, he checks almost all of the boxes.
That takes me back to my earlier point though, in that I hope the Blue Jays keep all of this in mind if they really are going to sell on a starter that could realistically fit into the next generation of this team as a ready-made leader for the rotation. Those guys don’t come cheap, and the Blue Jays have been fortunate to get great production for him at a very reasonable cost for quite some time. If another team wants to reap the same kind of benefits until at least the end of the 2020 season, I hope the front office is prepared to make them pay up.