Drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, Marcus Stroman was one of the top pitching prospects in the organization when he made his Major League debut in 2014.
As a member of the Blue Jays, Stroman quickly became a fan favourite and put up pretty solid numbers North of the border, pitching to a 3.76 ERA through 135 appearances (129 starts) and would rack up 635 strikeouts and 222 walks through 789.2 innings pitched.
His best season with the team came back in 2017, where Stroman would finish the year with a 3.09 ERA through 33 starts while also appearing in 201 innings, a team-high that season, and accumulating 164 strikeouts and winning a Gold Glove award for his athleticism and defensive play on the mound.
Another impressive feat for Stroman was his 2015 campaign, where a torn ACL in Spring Training seemed like a nail in the coffin for his sophomore season that year. What followed was an intense rehab that included him completing his degree at Duke University and saw him return late in September and go on to pitch in the playoffs, starting two games in the ALDS and one game in the ALCS before the Blue Jays lost to the Kansas City Royals, the eventual World Series champions.
With the club heading towards a rebuild between 2017 to 2019, almost all of the Blue Jays veterans slowly started to depart via trade and free agency. The Blue Jays went on to trade Stroman at the 2019 deadline in exchange for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson, putting an end to an intense period that saw quite a bit of drama unfold between the starting pitcher and the front office.
Since landing in New York, Stroman has pitched to a 3.21 ERA through 238.2 innings and one and a half seasons, deciding to sit out of the 2020 campaign due to COVID-19 concerns after beginning the season on the injured list with a calf tear.
With Marcus Stroman becoming a free agent this off-season, is a potential reunion between the Blue Jays and their former top arm a legit possibility?
The New York product has always been vocal about his opinions, a trait that some stand by and admire while others may find off-putting. He didn’t shy away about his opinions on the Blue Jays front office, especially Ross Atkins, at the time of the trade to the Mets, “I’ve made the all-star game. I had a gold glove. I threw back-to-back (seasons) of 200 innings and I never heard a word from any of those guys (in the front office),” as per Rob Longley.
He even had a few words for Atkins and co. this past off-season when the Blue Jays missed out on acquiring Francisco Lindor from Cleveland, stating that the Blue Jays front office would “never build the team they should around their unbelievable core of young players… It’s a travesty,” as per Laura Armstrong of the Toronto Star. Stroman wears his heart on his sleeve and has never been shy to express his opinion, an example being the rift that came to fruition last year between current Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk and Stro, with the two sides trading jabs on Twitter after being teammates for almost two seasons prior to the 2019 trade.
Fast forward to this past weekend and both the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays fell short of the postseason, with the Jays holding onto hope right until the very end. While many fans were situated watching the Wild Card scene unfold, Stroman was watching the games and interacting with fans on Twitter, making everyone aware that he was open to a reunion with the club that he spent seven seasons with prior to arriving in the Big Apple.
Looking ahead at the upcoming offseason, there are a few questions surrounding the starting rotation for the club, mostly having to do with whether the Blue Jays are going to be able to retain Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray when he hits the open market this Winter.
Fans were pretty impressed with how the southpaw did on the mound and many are hoping the Jays are able to bring him back. It will be tough to re-sign the left-hander given his strong performance and increased competition from other teams but the Jays do have the capital to get a deal done if the feelings are mutual.
If the Blue Jays cannot bring Ray back and want to improve their rotation via free agency, Stroman is one of the few names on the board the club could be interested in. Alongside Ray and Stroman will also be Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Noah Syndergaard, and Kevin Gausman (to name a few), with the Blue Jays possibly exploring another chance at signing the righty after they were unable to convince him to forego signing the qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants this past off-season.
This begs the question – is a reunion with the Blue Jays and Marcus Stroman an actual possibility?
Funny enough, this is a topic I tackled last off-season as well before Stroman decided to sign his qualifying offer from the Mets, as it appeared he could be a potential free agent after his one season (plus the COVID opt-out) with the franchise.
Stroman has been vocal on social media, recently stating that he is open to returning to the Blue Jays organization when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
Obviously there is always a chance that both sides could come to an agreement and when you look at his stats compared to the rest of the field, he does stand in the higher percentage of pitchers who would make an actual difference rather than being a veteran stopgap gamble like some of the other names on the free-agent board not mentioned above.
Having him alongside the likes of Alek Manoah, Jose Berrios, and Hyun Jin Ryu would make the rotation a lot stronger compared to other FA options and would create a pretty intense atmosphere, as I feel like Manoah and Stroman bring the same type of energy on the mound.
Prospect-wise, Nate Pearson should get another crack at the rotation in Spring Training but after him, the pitching depth is a bit thin at the higher levels of the Blue Jays farm system after Woods-Richardson was dealt to the Twins. There are options like Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay, and Trent Thornton at the club’s disposal but Stroman would be an improvement over all three in the rotation, no questions asked.
Financially, the Blue Jays should be able to afford to bring in the right-hander if they choose to, with Spotrac predicting Stroman to be worth around $21 million a year. This evaluation could be debated back and forth depending on who you ask but a pretty healthy pitcher with playoff experience and a career ERA at 3.63 will cost some serious coin, especially if multiple teams are looking for his services.
Looking at social media feeds, there are still quite a few Blue Jays fans who would welcome Stroman back after he was traded while others are still a bit cold on the idea of a potential reunion, which makes sense given the different crowds around baseball. The one thing you can’t deny is that when Stro is pitching well, a sub-4.00 ERA starter could go a really long way for the Blue Jays next season if they cannot bring back Ray and Stroman can find his groove at the Rogers Centre just like the good-old-days.
Could the past tension between Blue Jays management and the pending free agent create problems for a potential reunion? Sure, that is always a possibility, but relationships can also be mended behind closed doors if everyone can hash things out at the table, but in the same breath, relationships can be soured even more if the two sides cannot get along long enough to resolve any differences.
I will say that while Stroman is open to a reunion, that does not necessarily mean Atkins and the front office are keen on it as well, and considering the Blue Jays may take their “we are in on everybody approach” again this offseason, it will be interesting to see if these two sides gain any traction on a possible deal, of course depending on how the Ray situation unfolds.
At the end of the day, the option is there for a reunion between Marcus Stroman and the Toronto Blue Jays if the chips align and if Robbie Ray signs elsewhere, as I don’t believe the club would be willing to sign him and Stroman in the same timeframe and tie up roughly $70+ million in four starters (including Ryu and Berrios, who is in his third year of arbitration).
Fences would have to be mended and fans could be split down in the middle on the reunion idea, similar to the Berrios trade earlier this year, but looking strictly at the stats alone, Stroman is an improvement over the other Blue Jays options if Ray does leave. If he does choose to stay in Toronto, then the reunion most likely does not stand a chance, so it may be a wait-and-see game, especially if the free agency wheels don’t start turning until the new year.
Would you be open to a reunion between the former Blue Jays star and the club that drafted him back in 2012?