Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman injury scare could create trade urgency

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays speaks to the media before introducing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 before his MLB debut later tonight against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on April 26, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays speaks to the media before introducing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 before his MLB debut later tonight against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on April 26, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Marcus Stroman left his start early on Saturday afternoon, and thankfully he’s not seriously hurt. However, will the scare create trade urgency for the Blue Jays?

At the end of today there will be exactly one month left before MLB’s trade deadline is over, and chances are it’s going to be a very busy month for Ross Atkins and the rest of the Blue Jays’ front office.

With a record of 31-52, the Blue Jays are well out of the playoff race in their first real season of a rebuild, and the roster turnover is far from over at this stage. The Jays still several talented veterans that could prove useful in this season’s playoff race, and Atkins and company will look to capitalize on the chance to further bolster their system with talented young players who fit with this team’s hopeful timeline to contend.

With that in mind, it’s expected that the Blue Jays could make most, if not all of their veterans available in July, which would include expiring contracts like Justin Smoak and Clayton Richard, and others with an additional year of control like Marcus Stroman, Ken Giles, Freddy Galvis and more.

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Some trades are easier to make than others, and when it comes to the idea of dealing someone like Stroman or Giles, the Blue Jays have to make sure they maximize the return for their most valuable assets. They need a dance partner in order to do that of course, and the timing of how everything goes down is also a key variable. It’s also one that almost reminded the Blue Jays of an important lesson.

I’ll never blame a front office for pitting as many teams as possible against in each in trade talks to gain leverage and maximize the return, but the longer things drag out the more you risk the whole thing falling apart. That almost happened to the Blue Jays yesterday when Stroman had to leave his start early. Fortunately, it looks like he’s going to be okay and may even make his next start, but a serious injury would have been a devastating blow for the current roster, and also for what looks like Atkins’ plans.

The 28-year-old has been a popular subject of trade talks over the last month or more, and that speculation is only going to continue to ramp up. However, if the pectoral cramp that took him out of Saturday’s game had been a strain or even a tear, we’re now talking about a different situation. That would take away the front office’s leverage, and severely inhibited Stroman’s value to his new club this year if he were dealt.

An acquiring team might overpay if they believe they can rely on him for two playoff runs (this year and next), but he has to stay healthy in order for that to be the case. The same goes for guys like Giles and Smoak, who both recently returned from the IL, and have to stay on the field as well. In many cases, an interested team is looking to bolster their own lineup because of injury or depth issues, so questionable health from a new player isn’t that appealing.

I’m not suggesting that Atkins and Mark Shapiro should hit the panic button and take the first suitable trade offer that comes across their desk, but we don’t have to look any further than last season to find a player who they waited too long to deal.

Not that they could have predicted how long Josh Donaldson would have spent on the sidelines last year, but by the time he finally returned healthy enough to play (that was questionable too), the Blue Jays were in a situation where they had to take what they could get, rather than looking for a premium package for a former MVP. No disrespect intended to Julian Merryweather, who was the player they acquired in return from Cleveland, but trading Donaldson the winter before would have brought back a much bigger haul. In that case, they waited too long.

Personally, I’d prefer if the Blue Jays talked extension with Stroman and Giles rather than putting them on the market, but if you’re going to trade talented arms like that then you had better make sure you do it right. At this stage it feels like the Blue Jays have pushed Stroman to the point of having one foot out the door, as he’s even uncharacteristically starting talking about life outside of Toronto and Canada.

Trading him feels like a foregone conclusion, but the Blue Jays really can’t afford to just take “the best they can get” for him as they did with Donaldson. He could be a building block for this roster if he stayed, so trading him has to be a bigger step in that direction, and the Jays won’t be able to get that kind of value for him, or Giles, unless they’re healthy.

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I don’t know if Stroman’s injury scare will create a greater urgency for the front office, but I wouldn’t blame them if it did just that. Either way, it’s going to be an interesting July.

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