Marcus Stroman has endeared himself to the Toronto Blue Jays fan base in more ways than one. When he takes the ball every five days, the ‘Stro Show’, as he is called, is just that: a show. Boasting an intense and emotional personality on the mound coupled with an equally electric fastball and strikeout stuff, Stroman has become a top end starter in the Blue Jays rotation. He also fits the underdog narrative exceptionally well, living by his personal ‘HDMH’ motto, standing for ‘height doesn’t measure heart’. But nothing captured the hearts of Blue Jay nation more than his 2016 article written for the Player’s Tribune detailing his affection for the city of Toronto.
All of that will make the following statement that much more difficult to read for those who have fallen in love with Stroman in recent years.
It’s time for the Jays to move on.
Time is Right for the Toronto Blue Jays to Trade Marcus Stroman
There are three reasons why this is the case; one of which Stroman has control over and two that he doesn’t. Let’s start with the two Stroman has no control over.
Stockpiling Prospects Must Be the Jays #1 Priority
The Blue Jays rapid demise from contention in the span of a year has led the organization to a crossroads in terms of direction. With Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and David Price all having departed, and Troy Tulowitzki struggling to stay on the field, what remains of the team’s core is bleak, to say the least. But the Blue Jays are fortunate to have two of the top prospects in all of baseball expected to arrive in the Majors within the next year in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette.
The problem is that two blue-chip prospects are not going to rebuild a franchise on their own. The Blue Jays need more, and trading some of their most valued assets like Stroman and Josh Donaldson is the best way to accomplish that. Last year’s World Series champion Houston Astros – and the Chicago Cubs before them – are living proof that stockpiling prospects pays off. It’s the new way to compete in Major League Baseball.
Stroman is in the prime of his career at 26 years of age, and his trade value will never be higher given that he is still under team control for another two seasons. Moreover, the Jays likely won’t be good again even if they play all their cards right until he is approaching his 30-year old season, which is generally believed to be the point where the vast majority of Major League starters begin to decline.
Height May Not Measure Heart, But it Can’t be Discounted
The other factor Stroman doesn’t have control over is his height. Contrary to his HDMH slogan, height does matter for Major League pitchers. A large factor in pitching effectively is the downward leverage created by a high release point, part of which is created by the elevated pitcher’s mound and part of which is created by the fact that the overwhelming majoring of Major League pitchers are tall. Really tall. Stroman, at 5’8”, will never have this advantage, which means two things. Number one, he has far less room for error than the average 6’3” pitcher in terms of command, and number two, when the day comes that he loses a couple ticks of velocity on the radar gun, the repercussions will be magnified.
It’s far easier for a hitter to crush a poorly located fastball coming at them on a level plain than one coming at a downward trajectory. As a result, Stroman’s ceiling is capped in the sense that he will most likely never become an undisputed ace and reach the most elite tier of starting pitchers in the game. His shelf life is also shorter than his taller counterparts who have comparable numbers. He must have pinpoint command, and he must have the velocity in the mid to upper 90s, otherwise big league hitters will catch onto him in a hurry.
Stroman’s Attitude and Ego are Getting Old, Fast
Rebuild and height aside, the biggest reason why it’s time for the Jays to move on from Stroman is entirely his own doing. Namely, going out of his way to make two uncalled-for comments regarding his arbitration hearing and those two aforementioned prospects, Guerrero and Bichette. Unfortunately, that same emotion and fire that motivates him to conquer the world on the mound doesn’t stay on the mound. It also shows up in the press room and on social media.
After losing his arbitration hearing on February 15th, Stroman took to Twitter to express his displeasure, stating that “the negative things that were said against me, by my own team, will never leave my mind.” He then followed this up with another bold statement on March 17th imploring that Guerrero and Bichette be included on the big league opening day roster.
The comments were completely unnecessary, and in both cases undermined the Blue Jays organization. First of all, what did Stroman expect to happen in arbitration? For the Jays to tell the arbitrator how great he is in the midst of arguing why their lower dollar figure for his 2018 salary is justified? For reference, Stroman’s number was $6.9 million. The arbitrator sided with the Blue Jays number at $6.5 million. And so Stroman felt it necessary to complain on Twitter about losing out on $400k and being told he wasn’t as good as he thought he was. Poor guy.
Furthermore, the Blue Jays have a plan for their two prized prospects, who must be brought along carefully and not rushed up to the big leagues just to satisfy the wishes of an outspoken veteran. Stroman is not qualified to chime in on player development, nor is it remotely close to his place to do so. It is his job to pitch and record outs, not to evaluate prospects and determine when they are ready for the big leagues.
Stroman would never stand up in front of a microphone and tell Russell Martin how to block a pitch in the dirt or critique Justin Smoak’s plate approach. Telling the Blue Jays front office and player development staff how to do their jobs is no different. Nothing good will come from adding needless pressure on these two kids and the organization to promote them. Rest assured, when Guerrero and Bichette are ready to be up in the big leagues, they will be up in the big leagues. And when that time comes, Stroman will be among the first to know.
Stroman has been in Toronto four years, posting an unspectacular 3.61 career ERA. That isn’t nearly enough time or dominance to earn him the same right Bautista had – as an all-time franchise great – to speak his mind on organizational decisions. In fact, Stroman is many years and multiple Cy Young nominations away from gaining that right.
And yet, Stroman is acting as though he thinks the Blue Jays are now his team. Stroman is a very good pitcher, but he isn’t good enough to make it worth President Mark Shaprio’s while to put up with this egocentric nonsense. Stroman has worn out his welcome in Toronto, and it also happens to be an opportune time for the Jays to show him the door.
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