Marcus Stroman Wins His Arbitration Case

Marcus Stroman
Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

According to a tweet from Jon Heyman, Marcus Stroman has come out victorious in his arbitration case with the Blue Jays, and will make $3.4 million in 2017, instead of the $3.1 million the Jays had filed at.

Cue utter fucking nitwits who don’t understand how the arbitration process works, or are simply dying to find a reason to shit down the throats of the Jays’ front office, no matter how ridiculous the reason!

Though, to be fair, the vast, vast majority of people seem to understand perfectly well that these are exactly the kind of numbers teams and players go to arbitration over, and that nobody is being especially cheap or classless or dangerous. The arbitration process ain’t what it used to be.

I’ve heard stories of how teams would go to just about any length to run down their own players — “anything but the wife and kids,” I’ve been told — in order to save a few bucks, but those days seem to be long over, and players today seem to understand the business of the game much better than maybe they used to. I don’t think someone as savvy as Marcus Stroman was going to be surprised by anything the Jays were going to bring up in their case — though I’m sure that wouldn’t have stopped some folks from fear-mongering regardless.

And lest anyone think that it’s “just $300,000” that the Blue Jays were fighting for, let’s remember that the arbitration system is based on precedents — meaning there is added incentive to keep all arbitration salaries as low as possible, even if the one-year dollar amount for this one player doesn’t seem like a whole lot to lawyer up over (at least if we’re talking in baseball dollars) — and that players almost never take pay cuts in arbitration. The $300,000 wasn’t just $300,000 for 2017, but $300,000 that’s now going to be carried over into Stroman’s next three passes through arbitration as well.

In other words: relax. Which… oh yeah, you already were.

Anywho… I wrote some things a couple weeks back, in the wake of Carlos Martinez’s extension with the Cardinals, about what extensions for Stroman and Aaron Sanchez might look like, and now seems like the time to revisit that:

Stroman and the Jays filed at $3.4 million and $3.1 million respectively this winter — lower numbers than Martinez and the Cardinals largely because Marcus lost almost all of his 2015 season to a knee injury, and the precedents-based arbitration system still rewards things like win totals, strikeout totals, innings totals (or maybe starts), etc. If all goes well, I’d guess he’s looking at something north of $7 million in his second year of arbitration, then $10 or $11 million when he’s Arb3, with that extra year potentially pushing his salary to something like $15 million in his walk year. Yeah, it’s a big if that he’ll stay healthy and productive enough to hit all of those marks — because of the nature of pitchers it’s, honestly, more likely than not that he won’t — but these are the sorts of calculations that need to be underway for the Jays (and which I’m sure already are).

In the above scenario, Stroman would make about $35 million over four seasons before getting really expensive in free agency. Maybe the Jays would gladly take that and move on, or at the very least put a decision off until later in his career. But $35 million in his arbitration years looks to me like a best case scenario for Stroman, and he could hedge against a dip in health or performance while getting a bunch of guaranteed money if he’d take something like $30 million over four years, perhaps with a couple of $10 million club options on there, too. Or how about $40 million over five, with a club option for a sixth?

I guess they didn’t quite see it that way. Though that doesn’t mean that the two sides couldn’t continue to explore an extension going forward, or — especially — next season. Stroman will still be a bargain in 2018, even if he truly puts it all together this year, so there’s really no need to rush into anything long-term for the Jays. A deal next winter would make more sense than one now, especially if he produces another year of durability (with respect to his arm, that is), and more pitching like we saw in the second half of 2016.

And while we’re talking about Stroman, something that I think gets a bit lost in his less-than-stellar 2016 numbers is the fact that he truly was sneaky good in the second half. He lowered his ERA by 1.2 runs compared to the first (from 4.89 to 3.68), and struck out exactly the same number of batters (83) in far fewer innings (116 in the first half, 88 in the second). 

Now with the contract issue resolved, Marcus can full-on put his focus where it needs to be: his new clothing line hyping his music career social media pitching.