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Braves Trade Deadline Targets: Marcus Stroman

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Stroman has the track record and team control that will make him a desired target at the deadline.

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

In full disclosure, I might be a little biased when it comes to Marcus Stroman. He’s one of the most entertaining pitchers and personalities in baseball, in my opinion. He’s a tremendous athlete and competitor who plays with a lot of emotion. At only 5’8” and 180 pounds, Stroman is not your typical major league pitcher in any sense of the word. Due to his small frame, he won’t blow batters away with velocity. Therefore, he has a six-pitch arsenal and has only thrown his fastball 3.6% of the time, per Statcast. He will even change his delivery to disrupt a hitter’s timing.

It would be quality entertainment throwing Stroman onto a team with Ronald Acuña, Jr. and Ozzie Albies. However, the Braves don’t let me call the shots, for some reason. (To be fair, I would’ve wasted tons of their money on Jair Jurrjens if I were allowed to sign the checks, so I can understand.) So let’s look at what kind of fit Stroman might realistically be for the Braves.

2019 stats:

Marcus Stroman 2019 season

IP ERA FIP xFIP GB% K% BB% fWAR
IP ERA FIP xFIP GB% K% BB% fWAR
110.2 3.25 3.72 4.09 57.9% 19.1% 7.4% 2.3

Contract:

Stroman will be a free agent after the 2020 season. He is owed approximately $3.1 million for the remainder of the 2019 season and has one more year of arbitration left.

Why he will be traded:

The Blue Jays are not competitive this season in the brutal AL East and almost certainly won’t be in 2020, either. Toronto has some nice young players, particularly in Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Cavan Biggio. However, their window for potentially winning is not during the length of Stroman’s contract. While the Blue Jays could ultimately try to extend Stroman, there would be nothing stopping Stroman from walking and testing the free agent market. Additionally, he has had a great first half of the season which has driven his price up. In fact, many believe he is the best starting pitcher who will likely be available at the deadline. The Blue Jays could get a nice return package for him, especially if they package reliever Ken Giles with him, so I expect Stroman to be wearing another uniform come August.

Why the Braves need him:

Stroman’s 57.9% groundball rate is the second highest in baseball amongst qualified starters. Mike Soroka is ranked third and Max Fried sixth in the same category. Moreover, Dallas Keuchel has the highest of them all at 61.3% but has not pitched enough innings to qualify. Adding Stroman to the Braves’ rotation would mean the Braves have four pitchers who are some of the best in the game at inducing ground balls.

Why does that matter? With very good infield defense, Atlanta is clearly suited for ground ball pitchers, as Soroka’s and Keuchel’s numbers suggest. And in a season that is on pace to break the major league record for homeruns in a season, groundball pitchers are very valuable. (Stroman also ranks sixth in baseball in soft contact percentage.)

Additionally, ground ball pitchers tend to be more efficient and able to last longer during their starts, which reduces a team’s reliance and wear on its bullpen. Stroman has averaged a little less than six innings pitched per start this season, and moving from the AL to the NL, I would expect that number to increase. Since the Braves’ bullpen has thrown the third most innings in the NL, reducing the use of relievers down the stretch would be very beneficial.

Why the Braves aren’t a good fit:

Alex Anthopoulos was the Blue Jays’ General Manager from 2009 to 2015. Anthopoulos turned down a five-year extension from the Blue Jays in 2015, which surprised a lot of people. It has been speculated that Anthopoulos and Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro did not get along well, and Anthopoulos has made comments since he left Toronto that bolster that claim. There is some concern that Toronto would not want to deal with Anthopoulos. While one would hope that both sides would be professional enough to make a deal that would make their respective teams better, you never know when egos are involved. At the very least, the Braves likely won’t win in a tie of competing offers from other teams.

Another reason that Stroman might not end up in a Braves uniform is that he is a highly emotional pitcher. On the positive side, Stroman is a fiery competitor, and his competitiveness has undoubtedly propelled his 5’8” frame to success in the majors. However, I do wonder if the team’s experience with Mike Foltynewicz would give them pause about having another pitcher who wears his emotions on his sleeves. The Braves have seen with Foltynewicz that those emotions can be great when things are going well but can be detrimental when they aren’t. To be fair, Stroman has been quite consistent throughout his career (much more so than Foltynewicz), so perhaps the comparison is not fair. However, the market for Stroman will be very competitive, and if the Braves have any hesitation about him, they might not be willing to pony up an additional prospect to put their offer over the top.

Likely cost:

According to the Baseball Trade Values simulator, a fair trade for Stroman would be:

  • Braves get Stroman
  • Blue Jays get Kyle Wright and Kolby Allard

With the Braves also in the market for a closer, the Braves might also look to package Stroman with Blue Jays closer Ken Giles. The trade simulator suggests the following would be a fair trade:

  • Braves get Stroman and Giles
  • Blue Jays get Ian Anderson

I think that the first proposal would be fair, and that the Braves might be willing to make that deal. However, I don’t think that the Braves would be willing to part with one of their top three prospects (Cristian Pache, Drew Waters, or Anderson) in a deal for Stroman, even if Giles is included. I think Atlanta would be better off making a deal for Stroman alone and then trying to acquire a rental closer like the Giants’ Will Smith in a separate deal and thus avoid trading one of their top prospects.