CLEVELAND — Marcus Stroman believes he’ll have a new address soon, and just about everyone around baseball feels the same way.
For a number of reasons, it’s been no secret that the first time all-star’s six-year tenure in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform has been on borrowed time, almost since this time last year.
With team control dwindling, the Jays rebuild continuing, and Stroman’s desire for a long-term contract extension obvious, the 28-year-old will be traded before the calendar flips to August.
“They haven’t had me in their plans for the future, and I’ve come to terms with it,” Stroman said in a dugout chat ahead of Tuesday’s 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field.
Stroman maintains the Blue Jays and GM Ross Atkins have never genuinely tabled any sort of extension offer or even expressed a desire to negotiate, a frustration he expressed publicly back in spring training.
Are these his final days as a Blue Jay?
“It seems that way,” Stroman said. “I try to keep it out of my mind because Toronto holds a really, really special place in my heart, as does the country of Canada. I truly love being there and everything about it, but it seems like it’s going towards that way where I’m not going to be a Blue Jay for the rest of my life, so mentally I just have to be prepared for that while always focusing on the moment.”
With a strong track record during the regular season — he’s thrown 200 innings in a season twice and is currently carrying a 3.18 ERA through 104.2 frames this year — and experience pitching in big postseason games, there will be no shortage of suitors.
The New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins have been hunting, but there isn’t a contender in baseball that isn’t looking to add to its rotation in one way or another.
Atkins’ asking price will be high, and who blinks first — and when — will be an interesting dynamic to watch.
Nursing a pec cramp issue that forced him out of his last start on June 29, Stroman expects to throw a bullpen Friday and, if all goes according to plan, start Sunday against none other than his hometown Yankees.
It already feels like Stroman is setting up a showcase start in front of Yankees GM Brian Cashman in the Bronx.
Deciding to sit out Tuesday’s all-star extravaganza in Ohio seems to be a case of knowing his bullets down the stretch are going to be worth a lot and he’s hoping to pitch into October.
We all know that won’t be with the Blue Jays.
“I definitely miss that spotlight, that energy, that pressure,” Stroman said of the postseason. “I miss that pressure. I like pressure of knowing you have to go out there and perform.”
Numerous run-ins with opponents and umpires over the years have left Stroman with an iffy rep around baseball.
At least it seems that way from outside clubhouse walls.
But when you observe Stroman interact with opponents turned teammates in a setting like this, his fiery attitude and penchant for dramatic moments in front of the media don’t seem to matter much.
Baseball players like winning baseball games and good baseball players as teammates help them do that.
There’s no doubting Stroman’s ability to throw a baseball would be an integral piece of a winner.
So what would the Yankees think of adding Stroman for a World Series run?
They love the idea.
“Somebody that’s definitely going to help a team win,” said CC Sabathia when asked what Stroman would bring to a contender. “Obviously, the stuff he’s got, he can go out and help a team win ballgames and a contending team could definitely use him. He’s one of those guys that is a front-of-the-rotation type of guy that’s available, so we’ll see what happens.”
But what about the swagger?
DJ LeMahieu doesn’t care.
“For me, that’s just who he is,” the Yankees third baseman said. “He’s been doing it his whole career, it’s not this thing that he’s trying to do out there. It’s just him being him. Yeah, it might rub some guys the wrong way, I’m sure, but I’m sure the guys in Toronto love having him on the team.
“I think he’s, obviously, a guy that competes really hard. He’s got good stuff. I think any team would be pretty happy to have him.”
One fellow all-star who has gotten to know Stroman personally is Kansas City Royals super-utility stud Whit Merrifield, who met him through Ryan Goins when the former Jays infielder and good friend of Stroman suited up in K.C. last season.
“I think anyone that gets him is going to be extremely fortunate and happy they picked him up,” Merrifield said inside the American League clubhouse on Tuesday.
“As soon as you get to know him, you realize how good of a guy he is. People show their competitiveness in different ways and that’s how he expresses himself. That’s how he gets the best out of himself and there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of times when that is what helps you get to your top level, it kind of rubs people the wrong way. I don’t think he cares and he shouldn’t care. That’s just who he is. His type of personality, it’s loud and in your face, but if you get to know him and he’s on your team, you love it.”
Even reigning MVP Mookie Betts wouldn’t mind seeing Stroman with the Yankees, a team his Red Sox are desperately trying to catch up to in the AL East race.
“I mean, whatever,” Betts deadpans. “That has nothing to do with the Red Sox. It’d be fun.”