One of the more peculiar stories around Major League Baseball recently has been that former Miami Marlins players are performing quite well on various teams. Whether it is Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, J.T. Realmuto, Dee Gordon, or others, the marlins trades since 2017 have led them to become one of the worst teams in baseball for no apparent reason. The foundation of a good team was present, but a combination of cost cutting and a poor front office led them to trade these players away.
Of course, trading players isn’t a bad thing outright. Lots of trades occur where both parties are happy and walk away with better outcomes than they had going in to the trade. But in the case of the Marlins, what happened was that for some reason, ownership and the front office decided that they needed to trade all of these players, despite them being either solid major leaguers already or superstars that they could build a team around. This led the Marlins into making ill advised trades and settling for lackluster returns on some of the players. The consensus around baseball was that the Marlins didn’t get the best package on all of the returns because instead of waiting for a market to develop at the right time, they pushed themselves into a corner and took the best package available. They traded away the foundation of a contender and don’t even have a top five farm system to show for it.
This July, with Marcus Stroman on the market, the Blue Jays seem to be spiraling towards the same outcome the Marlins have had over the past two years. There is always a market for starting pitchers, especially those with 1.5 years of cheap control and the success of Stroman. However, with Stroman recently missing a start with a pec issue and pulling out of the All-Star game because of that same injury, teams might begin to get scared off and try to pay less than full value for him in a trade.
With Stroman as one of two (the other being Ken Giles) legit trade chips the team has, the Blue Jays can’t afford to not get a substantial haul for him. If the pec issue is holding teams back, the team has to call it quits, unlike the Marlins did, and just hold on to Stroman for the rest of the year. Then they could decide in the winter to either trade him, extend him, or have him play out the last season of his contract. I’m a big proponent of extending him, but obviously something between the two sides is stopping that from becoming a reality because every quote both Ross Atkins and Stroman give makes it seem like an impossible task.
It’s been pretty clear from watching the team play this year that the core of this team is going to be offense going forward. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, and Bo Bichette make up an enviable ensemble of hitting talent at premium positions that will allow Ross Atkins to fill in the remaining four positions with small role pieces rather than superstars. But on the pitching side, it’s the opposite, with the pitching coming in the form of Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki, two role pieces, but definitely no superstars. The return from a potential Stroman trade is supposed to be a catalyst for acquiring one of those pitchers that will hopefully turn into a great front of the rotation guy, but if that option is off the table, the team must fall back on actually using Stroman as that anchor of the next great Jays team!
Going into 2020 and 2021 with Thornton and Borucki as the only starters with successful big league experience is not a recipe for contention. The talent in the upper minors looks promising, with Nate Pearson, Patrick Murphy, Yennsy Diaz, and TJ Zeuch all viable options to make an impact in Toronto soon. But like Thornton and Borucki, they project more as mid-to-back of the rotation arms rather than top starters, with Pearson the lone exception. That continues to leave Stroman as the best option.
Last year, Tampa Bay was able to trade Chris Archer to Pittsburgh for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Shane Baz, three players who are/were all top-100 prospects within the past two years. But Archer had 3.5 years of control remaining, as opposed to Stoman’s 1.5. Talk of trading Stroman among the media usually begins with a top 100 prospect and then another two players who either were top 100 prospects but have fallen out of favor or lower level prospects that include more risk but are high reward types of players. If that is the return that is still on the table, the Blue Jays could trade Stroman and still escape from the situation in an okay position. But if the return has suddenly dropped, even by a small amount, because of this minor injury, then a trade shouldn’t be forced. It’s better for the team to pivot to other options rather than settle for less than Stroman is worth at full strength. If the Marlins current record and state of their farm system is any indication, waiting could sometimes be much smarter than forcing a deal when no deal is on the table.