Marcus Stroman has one more home start before the Major League Baseball trade deadline and we are fully into “hug watch” territory, where cameras are trained on dugouts in case a player is traded mid-game and walks up and down saying goodbye to his soon-to-be erstwhile teammates.
In their dreams, the Blue Jays envision a return for Stroman similar to what the Rays exacted from the Pirates for Chris Archer: flame-throwing (albeit now injured) starter Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Austin Meadows and player to be named later, pitcher Shane Baz, who was 19 at the time of the deal.
And in some ways, Stroman’s profile right now is better than Archer’s when the Rays/Pirates deal was made. Stroman’s a 14.3 career WAR pitcher (according to Fangraphs) compared to the 17.6 career WAR pitcher Archer was when he was traded but Stroman’s 2019 with the Jays is better than Archer’s 2018 with the Rays. Stroman is a 1.239 WHIP pitcher this season compared to Archer’s 1.385, but Archer had put up three consecutive 200-plus inning seasons, along with a fourth of 194. Stroman’s 2018 was limited to 102 1/3 innings because of injury but he carries a substantial surplus value at 2.6 WAR this season.
The biggest difference, however, was and is contractual: Stroman makes $7.4 million this year, has a history of being litigious in salary arbitration and has one more season left before becoming a free-agent. Archer’s salary at the time of the deal was $6.42 million and most importantly the Pirates knew in acquiring him he was still under contract through 2019 ($7.677 million) with a $9 million team option for 2020 and an $11 million team option for 2021 with modest buy-out provisions. Four pennant races at $11 million or less per, in other words.
You will hear some piffle in some parts about whether Stroman’s “attitude” might make him difficult to trade which — and I say this as no pal of his — is garbage. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that his frequent social media postings that range from passive-aggressive antipathy to management are more often than not a product of boredom. Or self-promotion. At most he’s been an annoyance. Besides, I’ve seen too many players burnish their reputations by performing in the post-season to write off Stroman. I’d have no problem having him on my team as a contender. Not one.
In the meantime, if you wondered whether the new rules that have actually turned the trade deadline into a bona fide deadline — players can still of course be waived after that period, but there will no longer be any waiver deals allowed — check out the Yankees’ acquisition of speedy outfielder Terrance Gore this week. That’s precisely the kind of depth acquisition teams would make in August under the old rules, and it might auger well for the Blue Jays if they want to get something in return for the likes of Eric Sogard or David Phelps.
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In which we offer some kudos to Tito… wonder just how hot the hermanos Gurriel can get this summer… salute Ken Holland for doing something the Oilers haven’t done enough of: add talent… get ready to lower the curtain on what’s left of the AL East race… and start worrying about the Jays relationship with Vladdy — and Bo’s not even here!
• Interesting discussion on Baseball Central with Calgary’s Mike Soroka, who says that quality pitches low in the zone remains a priority, even though four-seamers are all the rage. The Braves rookie has given up three earned runs just three times this season, albeit twice in his last three starts. #location
• The Indians are in town Monday for the first of a three-game series doing what they do under Terry Francona: win in the second half. Francona’s second half winning percentage since 2013 (.603, 261-172) leads the Majors. #clutch
• The Gurriel brothers are on a roll. Since June 23 the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel has hit .374 (34-for-91) with 13 home runs and 28 RBIs while his brother Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., of the Jays, was recalled from the minors on June 24 and is hitting .315 (63-for-200) since then with 18 homers and 37 RBIs. #hermanos
• Really like the James Neal deal for the Oilers: he’s already their best right winger. GM Ken Holland’s first big move restores a little balance to things and most importantly brings in more skill. #goodstart
• This is where the AL East is won: beginning Monday, the Red Sox play 14 consecutive games against the Rays and Yankees: six in Tampa and a pair of home and away four-game series against the Yankees, including a double-header in the Bronx. Their next off-day? Aug. 15. #dogdays
• Get ready for the drama this winter over whether Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. gets one of those early-career, long-term deals. I’m betting one of the conditions will be that he agrees to work out and live under the watchful eye in Dunedin and not go toodling off to the Dominican Republic. #cantgohome
• I remain unconvinced that the Lakers will be anything other than a train-wreck, especially when Anthony Davis gives interviews like this weekend’s where he mused to the Chicago Tribune about how swell it would be to come home and play with the Bulls next summer. #dysfunctional
This was a tough weekend for Roy Halladay’s legion of Blue Jays fans, not just because of the fact Doc himself wasn’t around for his Hall of Fame induction which left it up to his wife Brandy to make a remarkable, poignant and gently crafted speech that seemed aimed at bringing comfort while also celebrating her late husband’s achievements, but also because of revelations contained in a well-reported article by Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein that describe Halladay’s struggles with depression and addiction.
Told largely through Halladay’s family members, the story makes difficult reading for those of us who knew mostly the professional baseball player; who knew his redoubtable nature, and recognized the long shadow he cast when he stood on the mound and in front of his locker. He was the closest I’ve seen (or so I thought) to an indestructible athlete, which is why when word first came out that his plane had gone missing my response was immediate dismissal. Doc? No way he doesn’t land that puppy safely. No chance in hell.
As I’ve told anybody who would listen: the two most ‘perfect’ pitchers I have been privileged to cover on a daily basis are Halladay and Pedro Martinez and, in Doc’s case now, I wonder about the ultimate cost of that perfection and the kind of drive it took to maintain it. But know what? That’s OK. There’s not a damned thing wrong with coming to grips and maybe even taking lessons from the textured lives of folks we may have viewed as being beyond such mortal concerns. And my guess is as the years go by Halladay’s legacy as a pitcher will grow in much the same way as Nolan Ryan’s has.
Because they don’t make pitchers like Doc any more. Remember that.