The Blue Jays had at least two options when it came to trading Marcus Stroman.
Marcus Stroman is no longer a Blue Jay, as leading up to the 2019 trade deadline he was traded to the New York Mets for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon-Woods Richardson. The front office could have traded him at another time though, before the 2019 season. There were rumours that Stroman would be traded to the Padres for pitching prospects Michael Baez and Logan Allen. Which return would have been better for the Jays?
New York Mets
When the Jays traded Stroman, he was doing well as he held a 2.96 E.R.A. and was named as an All-Star for the first time in his career. He also did well at limiting the long-ball, as in 124.2 innings, he only gave up 10 homers.
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In return, the Jays received Kay and Woods-Richardson, and while neither was a top 100 prospect, they were top 10 prospects in the Mets organization. Before the trade, Kay was struggling in AAA but just getting his foot in the door at the highest level in the minors. When he arrived at Buffalo, he made seven starts for the Bisons, recording a 2.50 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 36 innings. He was then called up to the big club where he struggled in three appearances.
Before being traded to the Jays, Woods-Richardson had 97 strikeouts in 78.1 innings with a 4.25 ERA. He did better with the Dunedin Blue Jays where in six starts, he posted a 2.54 ERA with an opponent average of .182. Woods-Richardson has since been named the 98th best prospect on the top 100 list according to mlb.com, but has some developing to do at the age of 19 as he’s only reached the A-Advanced level and has an ETA of 2021.
When the trade was done, Ross Atkins stated that he’s had his eyes on these two guys since their high school days and was ecstatic to bring them onto the Jays organization.
San Diego Padres
When rumours were swirling of a trade sending Stroman to the Padres, the right-hander was coming off an injury-riddled 2018 season where he posted career-worst numbers of a 5.54 ERA with an opponent average of .283. With his numbers not being great, he wasn’t as in demand as he was at the deadline last season.
In 2018 in the minors, Baez posted a 3.69 ERA at the A-Advanced and AA levels. In 15 starts at the AAA level last season, he posted a 2.00 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 27 innings for an opponent average of .216, and was eventually called up to the majors. Excluding one start, he made all his appearances out of the bullpen where he had a 3.03 ERA with an opponent average of .223 in 29.2 innings.
Meanwhile, Allen pitched fairly well in 2018 in AA and AAA as he had a 2.54 ERA with a 2.05 opponent average. 2019 in AAA was a different story though, as with San Diego and Cleveland’s AAA teams he combined for a 5.85 ERA with an ugly opponent average of .289. 2019 also saw him make his major league debut where in nine games (four starts), he had a 6.18 ERA with an opponent average of .330 (36 hits in 27.2 innings). He was traded to Cleveland as part of the three-team trade the Cincinnati Reds leading up to the trade deadline.
Which return is better?
The Jays ultimately held onto Stroman until the trade deadline and that was the right choice as he pitched better in 2019 and ultimately netted the Jays a better return.
Kay and Woods-Richardson is a better package than Baez and Allen. While Baez and Allen can compare with Kay, Woods-Richardson is the one who stands out and the front office knows this. Like Baez and Allen could, Kay can help us now, while being patient would allow Woods-Richardson to help the Jays rotation in the future when they plan on being competitive.
Woods-Richardson projects as a future second or third starter in the rotation, and if his development goes according to plan, he can be an important part of the Blue Jays rotation when they’re expected to be a really good team.