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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

In defense of the Marcus Stroman trade

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.

  • Jeff2sayshi

    I’m still not in the corner of for this trade. I think management was hell bent on trading him, which almost puts you in a bad position.

    But, let’s look at some other trades the Jays were involved in that also included top level pitching:

    1. Roy Halladay for Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor (quickly flipped for Brett Wallace) and Travis d’Arnaud. Views on this at the time were largely positive for the Jays. Drabek was thought to have big potential. We all know how that worked out. The only one of those still in the bigs 10 years later is d’Arnaud, and he bounced around (more on him next).

    2. RA Dickey to the Jays for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud. Yes, this is the trade we always look back on and say what if. It was a win now move, and the prospect traded ended up being as good, if not better, than advertised.

    3. Troy Tulowitzki (and Latroy Hawkins) to the Jays for Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, Jesus Tinoco and Jose Reyes. I’m including this trade because even though the MLB name isn’t a pitcher, there was major consternation about giving up a “can’t miss” pitching prospect in Jeff Hoffman. Well, looking back, Hoffman has been unable to stick in the majors and is having a tough time in AAA.

    4. David Price for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt. It seemed at the time Daniel Norris was the big name, Matt Boyd was the warm body that could eat some MLB innings for a couple years and Labourt was the lottery ticket. Well, Labourt is out of baseball, Norris has been inconsistent at best, but Boyd is showing things.

    I guess my whole point on this is that even the trades that look good can turn bad (Halladay), and the ones where it seems like an overpay can end up being meh (Tulo).

    • Mose

      I agree – it’s very difficult and perhaps unreasonable to grade the success of a trade today, especially when younger players are involved.

      Respecting what seemed like a sizable gap between the value Stroman placed on himself vs. the value the Jays placed (we can probably assume the Jays fair market value assessment is more realistic), and the headaches Stroman has created for the front office every year he’s been with the org (beginning with suspension in A ball), I absolutely agree with trading him. Interesting and perhaps a coincidence that Bo doesn’t arrive until after Stroman leaves.

      I like the Jays traded him this year, perhaps a learned experience to protect against the injury plagued year Donaldson experienced in his walk year.

      I like the Jays secured two pitchers, one reasonably close to being MLB servicable and one with high upside, albeit further away. Seems volume is one of the best ways to build quality MLB pitching, because you can’t guarantee who will make it and/or whose arm implodes from injury (Eg. See above examples from Jeff)

      Time will tell… and these young Jays are becoming fun to watch again!

    • Mose

      I agree – it’s very difficult and perhaps unreasonable to grade the success of a trade today, especially when young players are involved.

      Respecting what seemed like a sizable gap between the value Stroman placed on himself vs. the value the Jays placed and the headaches/distractions Stroman has created every year he’s been with the org (beginning with A ball suspension), I agree with trading him and securing as much value as possible in return.

      Interesting and perhaps a coincidence that Bo doesn’t arrive until after Stroman leaves.

      Also interesting that the Jays arguably picked the best time to sell high on Stroman, yet the return is still being questioned. Perhaps Marcus places more value on self than what other MLB clubs see…

      I like the Jays traded him this year, perhaps a learned experience to protect against the injury plagued year Donaldson experienced in his walk year.

      I like the Jays secured two pitchers, one reasonably close to being MLB servicable and one with high upside, albeit further away. Seems volume is one of the best ways to build quality MLB pitching, because you can’t guarantee who will make it and/or whose arm implodes from injury (Eg. See above examples from Jeff)

      Time will tell… and these young Jays are becoming fun to watch again!

  • Chappy

    I disagree. They could/should have done better on the Stroman deal even if it was just for a single, better piece or, what would make a lot more sense, is identifying some of the best prospects (Garcia) or young players (Torres) and throwing whatever we have at them in a package to get them. The lottery ticket approach is pretty much useless, you might as well keep your chips and make your fans happy in the here and now, but putting a package of Stroman, Giles, Hudson, Galvis, etc to a team to get a pretty much guaranteed quality young controllable player would be a much better approach, now they are going to get a bunch of Kyle Drabeks for the pieces they have to trade and end up keeping some of them because they run out of time and opportunity.

      • Roy for the Hall

        I mean, it worked so well when they loaded up a package (of admittedly bottom-of-the-roster fodder) for Cody Rasmus!
        And trading Scott Rolen for lottery tickets was a total waste! Too bad that Encarnacion kid waited until the Jays waived him to get his game straightened out. (side note: how is it that ten years have passed since Rolen was a Blue Jay?)
        Really, the attrition rate of young pitching means that any deal for a pitcher is a lottery ticket. Sure, loading up Stroman and Giles for a highly rated pitching prospect like Touki Toussaint (as I saw someone suggest) might sound like the front office is trying to move the rebuild forward faster, but if both Toussaint’s and Kay’s recent struggles are the results of shoulder issues, then isn’t it better to have that extra depth SWR provides?

      • Chappy

        So let me get this straight. You would rather trade Stroman and the rest of ok players separately for a number of mediocre prospects like will very likely never do anything or be Brandon Drury or Aaron Loup, rather than selling them all for a Vlad Guerrero minor leaguer or Torres? That’s definitely smart asset management! When was the last time you saw stories of our teams trying to sell off arms at the deadline being angry with a team for selling way too low! Never. Thats how bad this trade was.

        • The Humungus

          This isn’t fucking MLB The Show, dude. A package of middling players is not getting back an elite prospect in 2019.

          https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/7/29/8934275/toronto-blue-jays-new-york-mets-simeon-woods-richardson-anthony-kay-marcus-stroman-trade-deadlne

          Read that. Simeon Woods-Richardson’s best comparable player in the last 24 years is Madison Bumgarner. People don’t do what he did in the Sally League without having pedigree.

          Just because he’s not the sexy prospect you heard of watching Sportsnet or listening to Jeff Blair doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a good trade. They got a guy who was a 1st round pick in 2016 and hasn’t done anything to lose his shine, and a guy they would have drafted last year had the Mets not snagged him 4 picks before them. Oh, and they still have Griffin Conine (whom they drafted after the Mets took SWR), which allowed them to not have to go over slot for their second pick, which gave them the ability to sign Kloffenstein.

          • Chappy

            Who the fuck are you anyway DUDE! If you have a comment then leave the fucking comment without the sarcasm! Somehow you have confused your scary mask and dumb-ass name with the reality that you are just another commenter. Stop trying to be Andrew Stoeten, just leave or reply without being an entertainer. I think it was a stupid trade and i am in great company, company that is getting stronger by the minute, especially with the Cleveland trade. I would take Austin meadows alone over Richardson/Kay let alone glasonw/baz, and yes, Archer had one more year of control, but thats about it. Rather than acting like writer’s personal body guards, how about you just leave a normal response like the rest of the group.

          • The Humungus

            Who the fuck am I? I can tell you who I’m not.

            I’m not a reactionary idiot who thinks you can group together all your teams bullshit to get an elite prospect. You can’t.

            The Cleveland trade? C’mon man. Franmil Reyes was a guy with no roster spot in San Diego! With the fucking Padres, who are still a year away from being good! Trammell is a guy who’s prospect stock has been dropping all season. Puig is basically Randall Grichuk with more flair. And the rest of the guys are warm bodies. It’s at least a comparable trade, and, for team that’s looking toward competing in 2021 and beyond, they got a guy who will start for them next year and a helium prospect who is in High A 2 months before his 19th birthday.

            It’s cool that you’re in the consensus of people who don’t read actual baseball writers and get their baseball commentary from shitty blogs and Sportsnet/TSN. Eno Sarris has heard people putting Woods-Richardson in the top 10 of the 2018 draft based on what he’s done so far in his minor league career. His closest comp for 18 year olds in the Sally League is MadBum. But yeah, you and all those other people are right, and the baseball lifers are wrong.

            Fuck you, man. You don’t get a pass on being an idiot because for having a shitty opinion with no basis in fact.

        • Dexxter

          If you can show me one example of a group of existing MLB players with very limited control being traded for literally the best prospect in baseball…. then I will start to consider that this was potentially an option for the Jays this year. Those guys don’t get traded for anything less than controllable superstars. Moncada for Sale as an example.

          Jesus Luzardo was the Nationals 26th ranked prospect when they traded him to Oakland as part of the return for Doolittle. Now he’s the top ranked LHP prospect in baseball.

          Drabek was listed by Fangraphs as the 25th best prospect in MLB after the Jays acquired him. Right behind him at 26th was Chris Sale.

          • Chappy

            Yes, Drabek was a bad example, he was a high level prospect. I would take half of what Tampa got for Archer, and a full year and half for Stroman/Giles is not really limited control, though we now know that Giles wasn’t available.

  • TomHorn

    Jays management asked for teams best prospects and not one team bit so they took the best deal out there. Why would management extend someone who hates them, of course they didnt re-sign him. And Stroman confirmed that with his usual pouting(putting it lightly) in the clubhouse after he was told he was traded. Time to bring in stand up men to cheer for on the Blue Jays, not these prima donnas who talk about themselves constantly.

    • Jeff2sayshi

      The thing is we will never ever know what was out there otherwise. It’s entirely possible something better was out there if they waited, but it’s also possible it wasn’t. And to say they got the best deal out there, it’s all subjective based on evaluation. But this is the deal that was out there.

    • The Humungus

      Look deeper into that return.

      San Diego is still not good and Reyes has been a guy they’ve been looking to dump all season.

      Trammell was the number 17 prospect on mlb pipeline at the end of last season, and now he’s number 30. Yes, I know he went to San Diego, but it’s part of the trade.

      Puig is Grichuk. Streaky, good defender, some power. He’s just flashier because his D value is that highlight arm, whereas Handsome Randy just plays competent CF.

      The rest of the guys are fringey at best.

      It’s a fine trade, but many bodies does not make a trade have a lot of future value.

      • Dexxter

        Reyes is a lot more valuable to the Indians because they can DH him. Not a big loss for the Padres as his bad defence was killing his good offense.

        Puig has value to the Indians this year… but realistically the Jays weren’t looking to add value like this… so when comparing the two trades he’s not that relevant. Logan Allen is near the bottom of most top 100s.

        Basically would you rather have Reyes, Allen and a couple real long shot prospects? Or Kay and Woods-Richardson? If I’m the Jays with Tellez coming up and DH being the easiest spot to fill… I’d probably take the two pitchers.

      • Chappy

        Just curious if we flipped up that mask would we find mr atkins under there? Are you pr misdirect because you seem to be th only idiot defending this deal, which makes me wonder how you will spin the rest of the deals. Maybe we could compare fisher to a young mike trout, as opposed to the failed fucking prospect that he is. But thats ok, we just gave up years of control on a decent reliever, sold rock bottom on a guy that lead the league in era couple years back and is in his prime and threw in a prospect that has as much upside as fisher currently has! When madbum is inducted maybe you can stand up and tell everbody how great kay was in his career, people (meaning you) will be in awe of your brilliance! Keep defending them asshole, your the only one on the planet, worst tradeline performance by a front office in history!

  • Kristen Sprague

    It’s telling that other teams are complaining about the Stroman deal in that the return is so light, it would affect the trade market for starting pitchers and torpedo their value

    • Dexxter

      I think the Jays really like Woods-Richardson. He’s a high upside guy that they must have a lot of faith in. Time will tell if they’re right… but tough to blame them for taking this deal without know what else was out there.

      Jays fans are excited to see Eric Pardinho grow and develop. Both these guys rank right around Pardinho on every list I’ve looked at. They’re certainly not nothing.