Finding a Match for Marcus Stroman: New York Yankees

The Toronto Blue Jays, who embarrassingly sit 26 games below .500 (39-65), have had a very disappointing season thus far, but that isn’t to say that there haven’t been any bright spots.

  • Minor league signing Eric Sogard has turned in a solid season. He leads all Toronto position players with 2.2 fWAR, hitting a robust .299/.363/.480. His ten home runs are a career high. He could be on the move.
  • Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has 18 HR and 44 RBI, having amassed 1.8 fWAR (in 2018, he was worth only 0.4 fWAR).
  • Ken Giles has rebuilt his trade value through dominating in the closer role (1.59 ERA, 1.54 FIP, 2.46 xFIP, and 15.35 K/9 in 34.0 IP)

Perhaps most impressive of all, pitcher Marcus Stroman has bounced back in a big way in 2019…

Jun 1, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) looks up during the first inning of game against the Colorado Rockies. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Stroman

20182019
IP102.1124.2
K/96.777.15
BB/93.172.53
ERA5.542.96
FIP3.913.52
xFIP3.844.05
SIERA4.044.39

Stroman’s success this season can be attributed to a number of things. For one, he’s throwing more sliders in favor of his sinker, which was hit extremely hard in 2018.

Graph: Brooks Baseball

This has subsequently improved the results for both pitches…

wRC+ (per FanGraphs)20182019
Sinker154121
Slider7619

Another reason Stroman’s sinker has been more effective is that it is generating an additional 1.3 inches of arm-side movement (according to Brooks Baseball), so it is moving further in on the hands of right-handed hitters and further away from left-handed batters. These two clips below illustrate the filthiness of the offering…

The other pitch Stroman has refined is his slider. It’s generating increased levels of spin this season. More spin means more movement, which can help explain why hitters have had such a hard time hitting his slider.

Stroman’s average spin rate percentiles

  • 2018: 89.3 (48th out of 449 pitchers to throw at least 250 pitches)
  • 2019: 95.6 (17th out of 390 pitchers to throw at least 250 pitches)

Marcus Stroman, despite being only 28 years old, does not fit into the plans of the Toronto Blue Jays moving forward. He’s seemingly reached his prime and he is due to become a free agent one year from now. As a result, Toronto has let teams around the league know that their front-of-the-rotation starter is available in trades talk. Many teams have expressed interest in Stroman, including the Twins, Braves and Yankees.

In my eyes, the most plausible fit for the Jays’ hurler is the New York Yankees, and Stroman has made it clear that New York appeals to him as a potential destination.

Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman likes pitching in the Bronx, and he’d love it even more if he wasn’t facing the Bombers.

Asked Monday at Yankee Stadium about trade speculation connecting him and New York, Stroman stopped short of saying he was hopeful for a deal but insisted he could handle the city’s notoriously tough stage.

“I love it, New York’s like the Mecca of the world,” Stroman said. “I love excitement. I love bright lights. I love competition. I love pressure.

“I’ve always loved pitching here, even though I haven’t always pitched fairly well here, I’ve always enjoyed it. Yankee lineups are brutal. They’re hard to kind of navigate. But yeah, I love the spotlight. The bigger the moment, that’s where I’ve always wanted to be,” he said.

JAKE SEINER, Associated Press

The Yankees rotation could really use a boost. Luis Severino remains on the 60-day injured list (lat), J.A. Happ has not pitched remotely close to the level the Yankees’ imagined when they signed him as a FA this past offseason (5.31 ERA), and James Paxton has been struggling recently (5.52 ERA since the start of June).

There’s a very convincing argument to be made that Stroman would immediately become the Yankees’ No. 1 pitcher until Severino returns.

One added benefit of trading for Stroman is that he is under contract for next season as well (final year of arbitration eligibility). The flip side of that is the cost to acquire him will be higher. His contract for next season will presumably land in the $10-14 million range (his salary for this season was $7.4 million).

Here’s what a possible deal could resemble…

New York Yankees trade RHP Deivi Garcia and CF Antonio Cabello to the Toronto Blue Jays in return for RHP Marcus Stroman and the remaining money on his contract for this season

Starting pitcher Deivi Garcia, who is ranked by FanGraphs as the 62nd best prospect in all of baseball, put up very impressive numbers this season as a youngster in double-AA ball (just turned 20 years old)…

  • IP: 51.0
  • GS: 10
  • K/9: 14.29
  • BB/9: 4.41
  • ERA: 3.00
  • FIP: 2.20
  • xFIP: 2.41

He was recently promoted to triple-A. Here’s what Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs have to say on him…

Garcia is a very good athlete, which is what allows him to repeat his delivery, throw so many strikes, and have at least average command despite a delivery that has crossfire, recoil, and effort at release. We’re hesitant to knock Garcia’s delivery simply because it’s unusual, or due to his size, because his performance at this age has also been remarkable. He has a rising fastball with which he operates up in the zone, and he knows exactly how to use his high spin curveball, which has been over 3000 rpm at times. A well-located fastball up, a high-spin curveball down, and a changeup down to keep hitters honest is a good combo, and Garcia knows how to use them in sequence to set up hitters. There’s some question about his approach being too simplistic to work at the big league level, but again, we would bet on Garcia figuring out how to make it work. 

Outfielder Antonio Cabello is the more raw of the two prospects. He’s struggled this season in 134 plate appearances at rookie ball (63 wRC+), but the raw tools are there (strong arm, good speed, and solid raw power). Here’s the report on him (once again by Eric and Kiley)…

Some scouts who had a one or two game look at this summer didn’t love Cabello’s non-projectable frame, and they rounded down if he didn’t hit in those short looks. But those who saw him for more than a few games saw the advanced bat amateur scouts saw.

One enthusiastic scout described Cabello’s running as plus, though he’s not the typically graceful, long striding plus runner. That scout he said had a “grinding gait, full effort, kicking up grass as he runs like the rooster tail of a speed boat.” In addition to potential plus hit and run tools, there’s above-average arm strength and raw power, and now the start of a strong statistical performance record. And if things go askew at the plate, the notion that Cabello could catch is interesting. One Yankee source described him as an 80 makeup guy, often a prerequisite to consider sending a player behind the plate. 

In trading for Marcus Stroman, the Yankees are getting their hands on a talent right-handed pitcher with playoff experience, while the Jays are bolstering their farm system with two talented prospects in Deivi Garcia and Antonio Cabello.

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