Daily Duce: Marcus Stroman manipulates his own service time, MLB considers a bubble for playoffs, and more!


The big news this week is that Marcus Stroman became the second Met — along with Yoenis Cespedes — to opt-out of the 2020 season.

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Stroman, who had yet to make a start this season for the Mets as he’s been rehabbing a left calf tear, stated that his decision ultimately came down to ensuring the health and safety of his family.

“It ended up being a collective family decision for me, something that has been weighing on me daily,” Stroman said. “I ended up sitting with my family and assessing the possibilities and realizing there’s just too many uncertainties, too many unknowns right now to go out there. It’s really putting the health for my family and myself first and foremost.”

Just like with every other player who has opted out thus far, you really can’t blame Stroman at all. I mean, take a look at Eduardo Rodriguez, who is now suffering from a heart condition due to complications from COVID-19. And given how we’ve seen teams like the Marlins and Cardinals not take the pandemic seriously at all, players absolutely have a right to be concerned.

But, why now? Why did it take Stroman into August to decide he wasn’t comfortable with playing? It’s service time manipulation, but, this time, it’s a player doing the manipulating.

Back in 2014, Stroman made his Major League debut with the Blue Jays in May as a reliever, got optioned down to the minors, and came back up after a couple of weeks as a starter. Given all of that, Stroman didn’t accrue a full season worth of service time that year, and, had he opted out of the 2020 season right off the hop, he wouldn’t have reached the requisite six years of MLB service time needed to become a free agent.

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You might read this and think ‘wow, what a weasel Stroman is for screwing the Mets like that.’ I mean, I’m sure that we would all be a little choked if he was still a Blue Jay and this happened. But teams have been screwing players on the service time manipulation thing for years now and Stroman is completely in his right to use this strange situation to ensure that he gets to go into free agency at full health.

Honestly, it’s pretty refreshing seeing a player finally stick it to the owners. If Stroman were to play this year and get sick or re-aggravate his calf or something and perform poorly, are the Mets — ran by the notoriously cheap Wilpons — going to ensure he doesn’t lose out on a bunch of money in free agency? Of course not. So Stroman is right in looking out for himself at an important stage in his career.

Anyways, shifting to a Blue Jays’ perspective, it’s amazing how much the narrative around this trade has changed in just a little over a year.

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This time last year, people were livid that the Blue Jays threw away Marcus Stroman for nothing, a pair of minor-league arms who weren’t even on Top-100 prospect lists. Slowly but surely, though, the trade started to look better and better.

Simeon Woods Richardson put up amazing numbers in Single-A for his age and has shown legitimate front-of-the-rotation upside. Anthony Kay has been stellar in the bullpen for the Jays this season and it looks like even if he never makes it as a starter, he can be a really effectively multi-inning arm. And then, of course, there was the Hyun Jin Ryu signing that proved that dealing Stroman wasn’t just about being cheap.

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All in all, it was a masterclass in asset management. The Blue Jays won the Stroman trade, but it isn’t because he chose to opt-out after making just a handful of starts with the Mets. It’s because the Jays identified two quality arms in New York’s system, managed to get them in return for Stroman, and then immediately filled the hole in the rotation with a quality veteran starter.

The most important aspect of finding success in a trade is getting what you needed out of the deal. For example, think about the R.A. Dickey trade in 2013. Did the Mets win that deal because Dickey wasn’t a Cy Young pitcher in Toronto? Or did they win the deal because they were a rebuilding team that identified and acquired a quality player (Noah Syndergaard) in Toronto’s system that could help them win down the road?

If we’re sitting here cheering and jumping up and down and calling ourselves the winners of the trade because, due to a pandemic, Marcus Stroman only made 11 starts as a Met, it means we aren’t saying much about the talent that came back. What Stroman did in New York is pretty much moot. I mean, sure, at the surface level, him starting just 11 games due to a global pandemic is some pretty LOL METS stuff and it does make it look like they got fleeced, but it’s what Kay and Woods Richardson (and Ryu, to an extent) do as members of the Blue Jays that matters the most here.

Anyways, enough rambling about that. In other news, according to Jeff Passan, MLB is considering having the playoffs played in a bubble, like the NHL and the NBA are doing right now…

This would surely make sense for MLB to do. So far, the Marlins having a COVID outbreak derailed the scheduled of multiple AL/NL East teams (including the Blue Jays) while the Cardinals have played only five games this season while two of their division rivals have played 16.

Having an outbreak in the post-season would be absolutely catastrophic for the league. Imagine being in the World Series and having to delay games while teams quarantined due to players testing positive for the virus? Woof.

The plan seems to indicate hosting the playoffs in Southern California, as Dodgers Stadium, Angels Stadium, and Petco Park are all within a fairly close vicinity.

  • The three-game National League wild-card round, played in three days, would stage the No. 1 seed vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7 and No. 3 vs. No. 6 at Dodger Stadium. The same American League seeds would play at Angel Stadium, about 30 miles southeast in Anaheim. The Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in both leagues would face off at Petco Park in San Diego.
  • The NL Division Series would hold two games per day at Dodger Stadium and the ALDS two games per day at Angel Stadium.
  • The NLCS would be held at Dodger Stadium and the ALCS at Angel Stadium, or both would be played at a single site.
  • The World Series would be held at a single site or perhaps both.

Having seen how great of a job the NHL and NBA have done at executing their playoffs in a bubble, this really seems like the logical option for baseball.

Another interesting note, this time from FanGraphs, is that Adam Kloffenstein, one of Toronto’s young pitching prospects, is pitching in independent ball in Texas this summer…

Kloffenstein, whom Toronto took in the third round of the 2018 draft, is toeing the rubber for the Sugar Land Skeeters, who, with the Atlantic League on hiatus due to the coronavirus, are competing in the four-team Constellation League. Kim, who at the time we spoke couldn’t give me the exact number of Blue Jays farmhands currently playing indie ball — “It’s not a ton.” — said that his staff had received assurances from Sugar Land that proper protocols would be followed, and that a pitching workload was agreed upon for the 6-foot-5, 245-pound right-hander.

“He’s one of our most intellectual pitchers,” said Kim, who shared that the Jays are receiving TrackMan data from Kloffenstein’s starts. “He’s always thinking about the game and analyzing different factors. We’re excited about Kloff. We’ve seen an increase in his fastball velocity to where he’s sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, and right now he’s focusing on executing his sinker and his slider in game action. He’s taken advantage of his time very well. Phil Cundari, who is our pitching coach in [Low-A] Lansing, and Kloff would routinely exchange video of his bullpen sessions, as well as Rapsodo data.”

Meanwhile, two of Toronto’s other top pitching prospects, Simeon Woods Richardson and Kendall Williams (who are discussed in the piece), aren’t playing competitive ball this summer.

Woods Richardson, of course, is on Toronto’s 60-man player pool and is thus working at the team’s alternate training site. Williams is at his home in Mississippi throwing side sessions using a Rapsodo machine in place of opposing batters. It’s an interesting peek inside how the Blue Jays are navigating having no minor-league ball to develop prospects this summer.