The Stupidity of Suggesting to Trade Stroman & Sanchez, but the Strategy Behind Shipping Smoak South
Perhaps one of the worst-kept secrets in all of baseball this season has been the notion that the Jays will be trying to trade star pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez.
Thrown in this conversation is fellow veteran Justin Smoak, but that is a story for later, as that one actually makes sense for the Jays and their future.
Despite his polarizing figure in the media, and countless "haters" in the Toronto media, he is quite frankly the face of the organization, at least until Vladimir Guerrero Jr arrived last week.
The now 28 year old pitcher has always been a topic of discussion amongst baseball fans. Whether it be his activity on social media, his on-field antics and celebrations, or his confident and unfiltered responses in interviews; the older fans of baseball have always been against having Stroman in a Jays uniform.
There is no denying though, the fact that Stroman has been one of the best and most reliable arms in the AL, when healthy. His 2014 Rookie season was impressive, his injury shortened 2015 was absurd posting a 1.67 ERA in 4 starts plus his remarkable post-season victory, his 2017 was okay considering his blister struggles, and 2018 was a rough go but again in part due to blisters. However, Stroman has certainly returned to his healthy form in 2019, being nothing short of spectacular thus far.
Through 6 starts this season, Stroman boasts a 1-3 record due to the Jays absolute inability to provide run support for their ace, however has an AL best 1.43 ERA, has 36 K's in 37 innings, and has been the leader of youthful team both on and off the field.
Now that you know the stats and background information on Stroman's tenure, let's look at the arguments for trading him.
"He's getting older"
Yes, so is everyone. Stroman just turned 28 this week. He is one of the hardest working and physically fit pitchers in the game, and therefore long-term health should not be a concern. Bartolo Colon, RA Dickey, Fernando Rodney, Jason Grilli... all names who have recently pitched past 40 years of age. Will Stroman make it there? Who knows. But let's not act like 28 is "old."
"He is too old for the future core"
Is Stroman older than the likes of Vladdy Jr, Bichette, Biggio, Pearson, etc? Yes. But with every youthful team, you need good veteran presences, preferably people who can still play as well as Stroman. You know what happens when you don't have veteran leaders and try to build around just a young core? The Edmonton Oilers... that's what happens. You've all seen Vladdy Jr and the numbers that our prospects are posting in the minors, do you think they are going to take 5+ years to develop? Because I'd be willing to wager 33 year old Stroman is a lot better than some no-name prospects we currently have in Vladdy Jr's age range.
"Trade him for pitching prospects"
Yes, this would be nice. However, as good as Stroman is, he is not getting you a top tier prospect in return. Chris Sale, David Price, Zack Grienke... those are the pitchers who get you the top tier prospects. Best case, we get one great pitching prospect, who is ready in roughly 3 years, and his peak performance probably won't ever be as good as Stroman's. Sure, Stroman may decline before this point, but if he stays relatively consistent, he is better than any decent prospect or collection of lower tier prospects that we will receive in return for him.
"He needs to get paid after this year, he's going to ask for a lot"
This is fair, and maybe he is asking for a lot, but let's look at this from his perspective. As mentioned, he is the most well-known Blue Jay (aside from Vladdy Jr now) and he has been the face of growing youth baseball fans in Canada over the last handful of seasons. On top of this, we discussed his numbers, he's good at baseball folks, really good. He deserves to get paid. If he is asking for the world, send him packing, but realistically, he loves Toronto and Canada, and who would want to exit for free agency right as you battle through the tough years and now have young superstars like Vladdy Jr surrounding you.
Will he get traded? It seems more and more likely all the time. Is the the right move? Unless you somehow get a couple really good prospects or one sure-fire pitching prospect, no, it really doesn't make sense for a team that has repeatedly said they want to compete in 2021.
Enough about Marcus for now, let's look at the other half of Strochez duo.
Has Sanchez been great in recent memory? No. But let's not forget that he was the more highly thought of young pitcher between the two. His fastball velo, the effortless break on his fastball, and his plus off-speed mix looked to be very promising.
He arrived in Toronto the same time as Stroman in 2015, and had an equally impressive if not even better Rookie year, posting a 1.09 ERA in 33 innings. 2015 he continued his success, with 3.22 ERA in nearly 100 innings, split between the rotation and the pen. 2016 he really took off, winning the AL ERA Title, being named an All Star, and finishing with a 15-2 record with a 3.00 ERA. 2017 and 2018 were both injury filled, with several severe blisters and nail problems hindering his development.
Much like Stroman, he is back healthy and dominant again thus far in 2019. He's gotten much more run support than Marcus, leading to a 3-1 record with 2.32 ERA in his 31 inning sample. His fastball has as much bite as it used to, and his control has been better than the past few seasons.
A much more quiet and reserved personality than Stroman, he has still endeared himself with Jays fans, being here through thick and thin with regards to the team's success.
Again, let's look at some of the arguments for trading Sanchez.
"He is too old for the future core"
Again, yes he is older than the core. But Sanchez is only turning 27 this season. So, similar to the notions against trading Stroman due to age and the core, Sanchez is even younger.
"Trade him for pitching prospects"
Sanchez might be a more attractive pitcher to perspective teams, as he has an electric fastball, fits the bill for the physique of your typical starter, and doesn't have an off field personality like Stroman carries with him. Perhaps he receives more on the trade market than Stroman? But it still isn't a top tier pitcher in return. Maybe you could get a few really good pieces, but we all know how often baseall prospects pan out... there is no saying that their combined value a few years down the road is higher than what a healthy hard-throwing Sanchez could provide you.
"Trade him while he still has arbitration rights"
This is an argument I can understand. Players with arbitration rights have much more appeal to potential trade partners, as they cannot simply walk away to test free agency at the end of the year. Perhaps this could get them a larger return than on Stroman. However, I still do not feel that any return would make us better by 2021 as the organization is hoping for.
There is perhaps a better case to make for trading Sanchez than Stroman, however you can also make the case that it makes more sense to keep Sanchez since his value and potential ceiling may indeed be higher. Unless an absolute gift-horse of pitching prospects arises in a deal from a contending team, I do not think trading Sanchez is the best move.
Now, to prove I'm being somewhat rational towards the rebuild, trade Smoak. He is turning 33, much older than the others. He is a position player as opposed to pitcher, and we need pitchers more than anything. He is a soon to be free agent, with no arbitration rights due to his age. In all likelihood he will never return to 38 Homerun Smoak from 2017, and his best days are likely coming to an end. It is easy to draft or develop a 1st baseman prospect than a star pitcher, it is also easier to find a fill-in free agent at 1st a few years down the road than sign a star pitcher. Lastly, Rowdy Tellez has been fairly impressive with the bat early on in his career, so he should be seeing more time at 1st defensively in the near future, to see if he is a long term fit.
Get what you can for Smoak now, as most contending teams could likely use a switch-hitting power bat at 1st, and AL teams could hide him at DH for their post-season run. Even if you get a few good prospects or bullpen arms in return, cut your ties and take a step towards bettering yourself next year.