Blue Jays: Speculating on what it might cost to extend Marcus Stroman

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 18: Marcus Stroman #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning during a MLB game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre on June 18, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 18: Marcus Stroman #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning during a MLB game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre on June 18, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

It remains to be seen whether the Blue Jays will look to trade or extend Marcus Stroman. If they do keep him around, what might it cost them?

It’s no secret that the Blue Jays need help in their starting rotation, both now and in the future. That’s why some folks are having a hard time wrapping their heads around any rumours that include Marcus Stroman being potentially available.

The Jays are in the earliest stages of a rebuild, so the idea of trading him isn’t completely asinine, but I still think the club would be better off extending him. That is of course, if the price is reasonable, both in terms of dollars and years of commitment. The Jays should have plenty of resources, but there will be a limit to what they’ll offer their six-year veteran.

So far this season Stroman has been the most reliable arm in the rotation, and really the only one other than Trent Thornton. He entered Tuesday night’s game with a record of 4-8, an ERA of 3.18, and a WHIP of 1.312, earning 1.7 bWAR so far. He was solid against the Angels again last night, but took a loss despite throwing seven innings and allowing just four hits and three earned runs.

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Since the start of the 2014 season, Stroman has been worth about 11.8 bWAR, with a career-high of 5.3 in 2017. He’s faced some injury issues in his young career, with a knee surgery that knocked him out for almost all of the 2015 season, and last year’s shoulder and blister problems. For the most part though, he’s been healthy and reliable, and he’s been both of those things this season.

I wouldn’t argue that he’s quite on the level of a staff ace, but I do think he’s immensely valuable, and if the Blue Jays are going to trade him then they had better get a pretty big haul. However, I think it’s more worthwhile to extend him, and that means that they’ll need to get to work on figuring on what that might look like, if they haven’t already.

One of the best comps for Stroman might have signed his contract last winter, as Patrick Corbin ended up with a six-year, 140 million dollar pact with the Washington Nationals. Through his seven-year career, Corbin has earned 12.9 bWAR, but he’s also made 44 more starts than Stroman. He did have a solid year as he approached free agency, throwing 200 innings and pitching to a 3.15 ERA last season, but those are numbers Stroman has put up before. Corbin is also 30 to Stroman’s 28, and that makes a difference too. The only other deal in the ballpark last year was Nate Eovaldi’s four-year, 68 million dollar deal, and that’s definitely light of what Stroman will eventually receive.

We could look at the contracts of Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta from 2018, but both were older and more accomplished than Stroman when they signed their deals. In order to find a decent comp on the free agent market, we need to go back to 2016 and look at Jordan Zimmerman‘s five-year, 110 million dollar deal, or maybe Johnny Cueto‘s six-year, 130 million dollar pact.

Zimmerman has been a disaster since joining the Tigers, but prior to that he was actually quite a bit better than Stroman. He averaged 2.8 bWAR in his seven years with Washington, and that includes the just 23 appearances he made in his first two seasons. Take those away and his average was 3.8. That said, he was also 30 when he signed that deal, and it took place three years ago now. Cueto was also 30, but he had been on another level earlier in his career with four seasons pitching below a 3.00 ERA with the Reds.

I’ll concede that baseball executives have become much more frugal over the last two years, and that’s not going to work in Stroman’s favour either. For that reason, I don’t think he can realistically chase something like Stephen Strasburg‘s seven-year, 175 million dollar deal, even if their production hasn’t been drastically different (look for yourselves, granted, due mostly to Strasburg’s injury problems), and Strasburg’s contract was signed back in 2016. I’m not saying that Stroman is on that level, but with big TV deals and natural inflation, that wouldn’t have seemed ridiculous a few years ago.

More likely, Stroman will have to settle for five or six years at most, and he might have a hard time getting 25 million a year. I don’t think that 20 million a season is out the question at all though, and maybe a little more. To me, the floor would be something like Rick Porcello‘s four-year, 82.5 million dollar deal, but I don’t think that quite gets it done, especially if it means Stroman is giving up the chance to be an unrestricted free agent.

Would matching Zimmerman’s five-year, 110 million dollar contract (22 million AAV) get it done? Would they have to go to six years, and maybe match Johnny Cueto’s 130 million? Would the Jays pay him that kind of money, or would they offer a Porcello type of contract and say they “tried to get it done”?

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There’s no question they’ll have the money to invest on their roster over the next few seasons, especially with so many young and dirt-cheap players kicking around these days. The only question is whether or not they want to spend that money on Stroman, or if they think they’re better off trading him this summer. My guess is we’ll know the answer either way before the July 31st trade deadline.