Blue Jays scheduled to face former fan favourite when Cubs come to town
Currently tied with the Seattle Mariners in the second/third Wild Card spot, the Blue Jays will finish off their series today against the Angels and are set to face the Chicago Cubs starting Monday for three games before travelling to Pittsburgh after an off-day Thursday for a three-game series over the weekend. Following that is a boatload of AL East rivals to finish the season with a series against the Rangers and Phillies sprinkled in between.
Looking to the Cubs series, this is the first time the club has made the trip North of the border since 2014 and the first time the two sides have faced each other since Toronto got swept at Wrigley Field back in August of 2017. The Cubs are struggling this season, sitting at a 55-72 record, but one pitcher is sure to make headlines as he returns back to the club that drafted him out of Duke University back in 2012.
Right-hander Marcus Stroman is currently scheduled to face the Blue Jays on Tuesday if the Cubs keep a regular five-man rotation routine (and barring Stroman being unvaccinated and not entering Canada). When he was with the Jays over the course of six seasons, Stroman was electric and won a lot of fans over with his play on the field as well as his bulldog demeanour.
The Blue Jays welcome the Cubs for a three-game series tomorrow, with a former fan favourite scheduled to pitch on Tuesday.
For his Jays career, Stroman pitched to a 3.76 ERA through 789.2 innings of work, striking out batters at a 7.2 K/9 while also limiting the walks to just a 2.5 BB/9. He would make his debut in 2014, appearing in 26 games, but would be limited to the back half of the 2015 campaign after tearing his ACL on a bunting drill during Spring Training. While it is likely a season-ending injury to most, Stroman returned to Duke and obtained his degree while also rehabbing the injury, returning later in the year and starting four games for the Jays. He followed that by making two starts in the ALDS against the Rangers and one start in the ALCS against Cleveland, finding success against Texas to the tune of a 3.46 ERA through 13.0 innings combined before the Blue Jays were eliminated in the playoffs.
The 2017 season is where Stroman really shined, as he pitched to a 3.09 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and earned a gold glove for his work on the mound, as well as some Cy Young votes to finish eighth overall.
By the 2019 season, the writing was on the wall that the Blue Jays needed to make a decision: continue rebuilding and trade Stroman for prospects before he hits free agency in two seasons or attempt to extend the young star to a longer-term deal. Many of the players from the 2015 and 2016 playoff runs were long gone and Stroman and the Jays brass apparently did not get along, evident by the back and forth between the player and front office through media and social media (on Stroman’s end at least). The New York product was not afraid to speak his mind, both in person and on Twitter, and that rubbed some Jays fans the wrong way before and after he was traded.
The Jays would eventually move him at the deadline to the New York Mets in exchange for prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Kay is still in the organization but Woods-Richardson was part of the package to the Minnesota Twins for Jose Berrios last summer.
He finished out the 2019 campaign with the Mets but did not pitch in 2020, citing COVID concerns as well as a torn calf muscle that would have delayed his start to the season anyway. Stroman returned to the Mets in 2021 on a qualifying offer and pitched well, making 33 starts on his way to a 3.02 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and a 3.49 FIP.
He turned that strong campaign into a three-year contract with the Chicago Cubs this past offseason, worth $71 million and contains a player option following the second year of the deal. The right-hander has taken a bit of a step back this season, posting a 4.18 ERA through 18 starts and 96.2 innings of work but owns a strong 3.84 FIP and 1.221 WHIP. Interestingly enough, the Cubs have a 5-13 record when Stroman is on the mound though, and the club has lost four of his last five starts. Stroman also missed roughly a month of action earlier this season with shoulder inflammation.
If everything lines up as it should, this will be Stroman’s first time pitching against the Blue Jays and he will do so in front of the Rogers Centre, with fans most likely flocking to see the former top prospect and previous fan favourite. He owns a career 3.42 ERA through 72 appearances North of the border, so the Jays’ bats will need to find a rhythm before he steps on the mound on Tuesday.