TORONTO — Marcus Stroman’s feelings are on the record.
He doesn’t believe the Toronto Blue Jays front office is all that interested in keeping him around long term.
The 28-year-old right-hander said it back in February during the first week of spring training, and he doubled down this week when asked about the rumours that have started to ramp up once again as trade season approaches.
“They've been throwing my name around in trade talks all the time and it doesn't seem like I'm going to be signed here to a long-term deal, so it’s just something you kind of have to come to terms with,” Stroman said Tuesday night after another hard-luck loss in which he pitched into the seventh inning but didn’t get enough run support, a common theme when the Duke product has taken the mound this season.
Asked if he expects to be a Blue Jay after the July 31 trade deadline, Stroman gave another honest assessment.
“Seems like everybody’s saying I’m not going to be, so I don’t know,” he said. “I’m doing everything in my power to keep all that out of my head.”
Stroman isn’t wrong. His days in Toronto are numbered and there’s a handful of reasons it has reached this point.
At this time last year, it was hard to envision GM Ross Atkins finding the right deal for a struggling and injured Stroman at the July trade deadline, leaving them with no choice but to wait things out and hope the health and performance bounced back.
That’s exactly what’s happened this season, as Stroman is enjoying one of the best stretches of his career results-wise with a 3.23 ERA, and the eye test has backed those numbers up.
An underrated aspect of the skillset Stroman brings to the mound is his ability to make things up on the fly when he doesn’t have his best stuff on any given night.
The sinker is the bread and butter but the slider has been a weapon this year — he’s holding the opposition to a .194 batting average with it — and he can also mix in a changeup, cutter and a developing four-seamer when he needs to.
Stroman may never be the ace he claims to be, but every single contender is interested in what the diminutive righty actually is: A fiery and competitive mid-rotation starter who can consistently eat innings, while also being capable of flashes of brilliance like he did two years ago at the World Baseball Classic.
Add in the fact that any team acquiring Stroman would get him with another season of control in 2020, and he’s one of the best starting pitching options on the market, regardless of what veteran arms end up in the mix as teams fall out of contention over the next six weeks.
That may lead Atkins and Blue Jays decision-makers to trying to set the market sooner rather than later, instead of letting it come to them once other starters have been moved.
Many have wondered why the pitching-needy Jays would be so eager to deal their best starter.
It’s a fair question.
It’s mostly about asset allocation and the window of contention the Jays envision not really lining up with with, say, a three-year contract extension for Stroman, only to end up back in the same position two years from now with the Jays trying to flip him for future assets.
Jays president Mark Shapiro said back in December they hope that window opens back up in 2021, but even that is probably a best-case scenario when you look at how other rebuilds around baseball have gone over the last half decade or so.
Stroman’s trade value may never be higher than it is right now.
A controllable arm with another season of control should bring back an intriguing package of prospects that lines up better with the core that’s slowly arrived over the past calendar year.
In addition to those factors, there’s no doubt Stroman’s periodic shots at the front office and self-serving leadership style haven’t exactly endeared him to team brass lately.
When the Jays envision their rotation as a contender, they’re dreaming of Nate Pearson atop it, another pitcher or two they’ve developed in the middle, and a significant free-agent signing or two, which is going to have to happen eventually for this rebuild to work.
The next six weeks could be one of the turning points, in either direction, for the Atkins regime.
Cash in two of the better trade chips on the market in Stroman and closer Ken Giles correctly and it could add another wave of talent to a minor-league pipeline that was already considered one of the best in baseball prior to all of the promotions.
Strike out like they did last summer with the J.A. Happ and Josh Donaldson trades, and fans will continue to wonder what the future is really going to look like.
Which is exactly what Stroman is continually – and correctly – wondering aloud, as well.