Last week, Blue Jays Nation’s fearless leader Cam Lewis perfectly described the Blue Jays’ precarious situation with Marcus Stroman; it was the “boat versus the mystery box” dilemma. The Blue Jays had a boat in the form of Marcus Stroman, but they could trade him for a mystery box, which could have anything inside.
That’s what it’s like to trade veterans for prospects; exchanging a near sure thing for lottery tickets. In the short term, people are rightfully unhappy about losing a bonafide boat for two lottery tickets. That’s why some Blue Jays fans feel underwhelmed by the Marcus Stroman trade.
Those feelings are valid. But let’s state a case in defense of the Blue Jays for trading away their most valuable trade chip for two prospects outside most Top 100 prospects list (which is an arbitrary number anyway).
Despite the oddly timed rumour about the Blue Jays considering a contract extension for Stroman, I don’t believe this front office had any intention of re-upping him. Or at least, they didn’t have any serious intention of bringing him back. The Blue Jays had their chances at many junctures to re-sign Stroman and they didn’t.
It’s not like this regime is averse to handing out deals. Earlier this year, they extended Randal Grichuk (who is three months younger than Stroman) to a five-year contract extension at fair market value for an outfielder of his age and calibre.
Two logical opportunities for a contract extension were Stroman’s arbitration case last year and just prior to avoiding arbitration this past January. In one scenario, he exited arbitration and took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the process. Those instances would have been the prime opportunity to ink Stroman for another four of five years.
Over the last calendar year, we’ve heard a lot about how the club is trying to redefine the culture inside the organization. The Blue Jays want their next wave of players to be on the same page in terms of tone and expectations. Players like Danny Jansen, Bo Bichette, Ryan Borucki and Rowdy Tellez were all involved in the famous army base team-bonding exercise in Fort Bennington.
For better or worse, this organization has a vision of the player who should lead the next wave of this organization. I’m not saying it’s the right way to go about business, but it’s easy to understand how some players would fit that mould and others wouldn’t.
For all the quotes he provided writers and the entertaining antics he supplied on the mound, Stroman butted heads with the front office. With the Blue Jays trying to shift the tone of this team, it must be difficult to fight battles with your very own player personnel.
Stroman wisely used his social media and the Blue Jays fanbase to win the PR battle over the Blue Jays. His exit from Toronto looks like the Blue Jays made a heartless decision to trade away a player who had a strong devotion to Toronto. Stroman was cunning and controlled the message, especially this year. In doing so, he may have authored his exit from Toronto, but that was not the driving motivation for this transaction by the Blue Jays.
As adored as Stroman was by the Blue Jays fan base, he doesn’t exit with the overall pedigree of an all-time great within the Blue Jays organization. He only pitched five-and-a-half seasons in Toronto, but from an age curve and analytics standpoint, a case can be made that Stroman may be peering over the edge of the starting pitching bell curve at the age of 28.
Sure, he’s pitching well now, but what about next year and into his early 30s? The recency bias of his All-Star campaign skews his reputation, but the Blue Jays have reams of data — both of the public and proprietary variety — on Stroman. Maybe the Blue Jays didn’t extend him because of his off-field antics. Maybe they didn’t extend him because that’s not the bet they wanted to make.
Instead, they’re betting on two pitching prospects. One who could theoretically crack the starting rotation (Anthony Kay) and one who is likely three or four years away from impacting the big league roster (Simeon Woods-Richardson).
And to put ourselves in the shoes of a contending team, as great as a pitcher that Stroman is, would you give up one of your top prospects for a starter of his calibre? If teams are looking to push their teams over the top and they want elite talent, they’re going for Noah Syndergaard, Trevor Bauer and to a lesser degree, Madison Bumgarner.
The Blue Jays gave up a boatload of prospect capital to land David Price at the 2015 trade deadline, who was the number one starter on the market and one of the best pitchers in baseball back then. Stroman is a great pitcher, but hasn’t quite reached that echelon yet.
In reality, the Blue Jays wouldn’t get Gleyber Torres for Stroman, probably not even Miguel Andujar and to be honest, they wisely steered clear of Clint Frazier. As Ross Atkins said himself, the team took the best deal in front of them.
In a vacuum, this trade doesn’t look good for the Blue Jays. But over the next few days, we’ll see what players like Syndergaard, Bauer of Zack Wheeler could fetch at the trade deadline. It won’t be fair to grade this Stroman trade for at least another half decade, if not longer.
In the short term, if the Blue Jays didn’t see Stroman in Toronto beyond 2019. If he was a square peg in an organization filled with round holes, it made little sense to keep him around beyond the end of this year.
Stroman is one of the most entertaining figures the Blue Jays have ever had on their roster. Fans don’t have to love the trade that saw a mainstay in the starting rotation vanish for a pair of prospects. Given the player, the situation the front office was in and the needs in their organization, the Blue Jays made this deal to make their team better.
Not now. Maybe not next year. But three, four or five years down the road, they believe this was for the betterment of this organization. Let’s hope they’re right.