As the Toronto Blue Jays continue to go about their off-season business to prepare for what appears to be a rebuilding 2019 campaign, one of the most interesting assets at the team’s disposal is potentially 27-year-old starter Marcus Stroman.
For those who believe the Blue Jays could possibly extract some value out of the fiery Stroman, ESPN’s Jeff Passan published a report Wednesday that poured some cold water over this particular trade rumour.
“Interested teams simply aren’t offering packages commensurate with what the Blue Jays believe Stroman’s value to be , basing it off the expectation that he’ll return to 2017 form after a disastrous 2018,” Passan wrote, saying “the prospects of the Blue Jays moving Stroman have decreased in recent weeks.”
According to Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins, however, while Passan’s report is somewhat accurate in the sense of there not really being much of a market for Stroman, he says the reason for that is because he and his team haven’t actually gone out of their way yet to create one.
“We’re not proactively looking to move Marcus Stroman and we have not gotten to the point where we’ve entertained something serious with him,” Atkins said Wednesday on Prime Time Sports. “I think if a team did get serious and wants to make a push it’ll be clear that we do have to roll up our sleeves on a Marcus Stroman potential deal. But that has not presented itself.”
And in response to the notion that Stroman’s 2018 campaign hurt his trade value, while it’s true that after following up a strong 2017 with a career-worst, injury-riddled year, Atkins is very confident Stroman can get back to being the player he used to be.
“If [Stroman’s] healthy he’s going to be one of the better pitchers in the game,” said Atkins. “So, is there some accuracy to some of the things [Passan] was saying? Sure. But there’s just so much more to it and I find it very interesting that he would have that insight. I don’t know how he would have it. It’s not happening the way that that’s described.”
Stroman wasn’t the only topic Atkins discussed during his appearance Wednesday. Here are a few more highlights:
Tulowitzki to the Yankees
On Tuesday night it was reported that former Blue Jay Troy Tulowitzki was heading to the New York Yankees.
During the Winter Meetings, Atkins made the decision to release the veteran shortstop who played only 66 games over the past two seasons – missing all of 2018 – with an ankle injury.
By releasing Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays are also eating the $38 million that would’ve been still owed to him over the next three seasons, something that helped the Yankees to swoop in and sign him at the league minimum.
Despite letting him walk and seeing him land with a division rival Atkins wishes nothing but the best for Tulowitzki, hoping he can return to the five-time all-star calibre player he once was.
“First and foremost it’ll be his health and how often he’s on the field, and then it’ll come down to how productive he is as an offensive player and defensively,” said Atkins of Tulowitzki. “I will be pulling for him 100 per cent and I think it makes sense for a team that has that opportunity and wants to take a look at him.”
Managing attendance concerns heading into a rebuilding year
With World Series champion Boston Red Sox looking primed for a repeat, the reloaded Yankees still young and dangerous, and the emergent Tampa Bay Rays all occupying the American League East, 2019 doesn’t look like it’ll be the Blue Jays’ year.
Atkins somewhat acknowledges this fact, but believes the system he and the Blue Jays are building will pay dividends.
“But I get it man, the only thing that matters is winning and we are entirely focused on doing that and doing that in a way that is sustainable for some period of time and not just taking a chance at it here and there,” he said.
“That means having the discipline to understand that we’ve got to ensure that our players when they transition that they transition at their pace, and not at a pace that’s demanding them to come up to perform, to produce wins, not at a pace that’s unfair. And then, secondarily, we’ve got to make sure we have the opportunities for them so that when they do transition they’re not coming in as complementary pieces, and that’s a difficult balance. …
“So, to call it a developmental year, for us we’re not just signing up and saying, ‘OK, we’re going to have whatever number of losses this year.’ We’re going to go into it making the organization better every day in some way – which we’ve continued to do from Day 1 – and as that continues to happen at some point that’s going to turn into an organization that has a sustainable winning environment.”