Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman has been pushed into thinking differently

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23: Marcus Stroman #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 23, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23: Marcus Stroman #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 23, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

Marcus Stroman was quoted as saying he’s “built for New York” on Monday, which is sickening for Blue Jays’ fans to hear, even if we can’t blame him.

I know the Blue Jays are in a very early stage of their rebuilding process right now, but I can’t help but feel like the tenure of Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro could be judged on a few of the decisions they’re making this season.

One of the biggest choices they’re faced with is whether or not to trade their best starting pitcher in Marcus Stroman. The 28-year-old will be a free agent after the 2020 season, so the Blue Jays won’t have him under contract control when they’re ready to compete again unless they’re willing to sign him to an extension.

Despite the fact that he’s repeatedly expressed an interest in such an arrangement, we haven’t been given much indication that Atkins and Shapiro feel the same. And despite that, for the longest time Stroman has held steadfast in the message he sent to the fans, the media, and indirectly, to his bosses.

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That said, he’s been asked about some of the rumours that are flying around a lot lately, including potential interest from the New York Yankees. That same line of questioning came up after his big start against the Red Sox on the weekend, and he expressed confidence in his ability to pitch in a high-pressure environment, which was alluding to the Yankees’ interest without showing his hand about where he stands right now.

I’ll give him credit, because when he was directly asked about the potential of joining the Yankees he immediately went with “No comment”, which is the right answer to a tough question. However, I couldn’t help but notice that the theme of his words had changed from earlier in the year, and who could blame him at this point.

According to Dan Marti of the New York Post, Stroman was quoted as saying:

"“I’m built for this. Anybody can say whatever, but I’m built for the bright lights. I’m not scared of it. I’ve never been. I take that ball each and every time with the pressure on. I love it. New York is like the mecca of the world. I love the excitement, I love the bright lights, I love competition, I love pressure, so I’ve always loved pitching here. Even if I haven’t necessarily pitched fairly well here, I’ve always enjoyed it. … I love the spotlight. The bigger the moment, that’s kind of where I’ve always wanted to be.”"

That entire snippet has to have some Blue Jays fans feeling a little queezy, but I think it was the last sentence that really hammered things home for me. “that’s kind of where I’ve always wanted to be”. 

I won’t suggest for a moment that Stroman has been plotting to leave Toronto when the opportunity rolled around, as he’s never given us any reason to believe that. He’s even gone as far as tattooing the Toronto skyline on his body and starting multiple business partnerships in Canada, so the commitment has always been there on his side of things. He’s also correct that he’s never shied away from “bright lights” whether it was during the Blue Jays’ playoff runs in 2015 and 2016, or with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

But can we blame him if he’s starting to shift his thinking away from being in Toronto, and preparing for the idea that he’ll likely be wearing another uniform this season? As much as I despise hearing those words out of his mouth, I can’t fault him one bit.

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The reality is, if the front office was serious about extending him beyond the 1.5 years he has left on his current contract, those talks would have happened by now, or maybe even the deal would be done. According to Stroman’s recent comments, it doesn’t sound like that process has been initiated at all, and that sends a not so subtle message. No one can fault the New York native for seeing the writing on the wall.