The San Diego Padres need starting pitching and Blue Jays’ right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman would make a solid addition to the team. Can the two sides agree to a deal and what would it take for Toronto to part with Stroman?
The biggest positional weakness for the Padres heading into the 2019 season was filled rather emphatically by the signing of Manny Machado to play third base.
The move represented a significant leap towards contention in 2019. However, the starting rotation also constitutes a clear weakness and remains unattended to about a month out from Opening Day. If Preller and company want to push towards a possible wild card spot this season without sacrificing too much of the future, a trade for Toronto’s Marcus Stroman makes a ton of sense.
Stroman has recently expressed his displeasure with the Blue Jays’ organization over the lack of a long-term contract offer: “Mentally, I’m ready to perform, wherever it may be. I want to play here. I’ve been wanting to play here for a long time. I’ve been waiting to sign a long-term deal. I’ve been offered nothing.”
So while it certainly appears Stroman enjoys Toronto and wants to get a long-term deal done with the organization, the feeling may not be mutual. If Toronto has no interest in locking him up long term, the next logical step would be to find a trade before he hits the open market in 2021. The Blue Jays aren’t set up to contend in a loaded AL East this year or next anyway, so Stroman’s days as a Blue Jay may be numbered. Insert the San Diego Padres.
Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer look to be the only two starters with a sure rotation spot heading into 2019. Robbie Erlin, Jacob Nix, Bryan Mitchell and maybe Matt Strahm are the most likely options to fill out the rest as it stands right now. Dinelson Lamet is still a way out from his return from Tommy John. Chris Paddack may or may not break camp with the big club. Any way you slice it, though, a playoff-caliber starting rotation is not in the cards with this current group.
Why would Stroman be a good fit?
Well, he’s only 27 years old with two years before he hits free agency. He doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment if the club doesn’t view him as such, but hypothetically, he’d spend enough time in San Diego to pitch for a contending team. Whether he pitches well or not, the team will be able to reassess his situation just before he hits the dreaded age of 30 and make a decision from there.
In 2017, he posted a 3.09-ERA, 201-inning season that netted him an eighth-place finish in the AL Cy Young voting. Additionally, for whatever it’s worth, he won MVP honors of the 2017 World Baseball Classic for Team USA, a team that also included current Padres Eric Hosmer and Ian Kinsler. He did struggle in 2018, throwing just 102.1 innings en route to a 5.54 ERA, but that could actually work in the Padres favor. His value on the trade market is lower now than it probably has ever been and he’s proven to be better than what he showed last season, so with San Diego desperate for an established starter without a hefty price tag, Stroman could be the perfect move at the perfect time.
Stroman would also be moving from the notoriously offense-heavy AL East to the much more pitcher-friendly NL West, which would increase the chances of a bounce-back year in 2019. One last thing, something that is a bit unconventional, certainly intangible, and yet very much a factor in today’s game: marketability. He’s got the it-factor that nobody else in the Padres rotation has. That translates to ticket sales, jersey sales, and just a general buzz around the team every fifth day he takes the mound. Don’t believe that holds value? Just look at the ongoing Bryce Harper contract negotiations. Based purely on numbers, Manny Machado was the far superior player last year and has been for most of the last five years. Both are 26 years old. But all indications are that Harper is going to land the bigger contract. Harper is a brand as much as he is a ballplayer, and teams are willing to invest heavily in that because he’ll essentially pay for himself. Stroman obviously isn’t on the same level as Harper in that department, but that stuff matters.
So, what would a potential Stroman-to-San Diego deal look like?
The outfield logjam has been well documented in offseason talks, and much like the starting rotation remains unresolved. Wil Myers, Manny Margot, Franchy Cordero, Franmil Reyes, and Hunter Renfroe all have legitimate cases to start every day. With only three spots to go around, it would make sense to pull from the outfield surplus as the centerpiece of the deal. Myers is the most established of the group, but his contract is bordering on untradeable and would only ever get done with a significant sweetener added from the Padres’ prized farm system. Margot and Cordero would both have value, but the Padres would be best served to give them more consistent opportunities before moving them in a trade. Reyes was the team’s best hitter for a decent portion of last season and has not yet logged a full season in the majors. He certainly comes with defensive limitations and hasn’t produced in a large sample size, but you have to believe the organization values him highly moving forward.
So that leaves Renfroe. Back-to-back 26-homer seasons, the latter which came with significant improvements in nearly every other offensive category, could be enough to represent the centerpiece of a deal. He’s got raw power that could produce 40-plus homers one day, and while he has to rein it in at times, he has a prototypical right fielder’s cannon. He may be squeezed in San Diego, but it’s hard to not see him being a very valuable player for a long time elsewhere. So, a deal of Renfroe and maybe a second-tier minor-league arm like a Michel Baez or Adrian Morejon might get it done. Someone like Josh Naylor could make sense too if Toronto’s asking price is higher. He’s almost big-league ready with the bat, but defensive liabilities project him much better as a DH in the American League, so that would make sense.
My official proposal? Hunter Renfroe, Michel Baez and Josh Naylor for Marcus Stroman.
I think that gets it done.
The Padres don’t need to make this trade right now. If they want to lay back and let their ridiculously talented minor league arms take the wheel in 2020, the team is still going to be in great shape. It’s certainly a risk to trade prospects before showing signs of contending, but the Hosmer signing last year and the Machado signing this year certainly indicate the team is ready to make a push sooner rather than later. If the Padres acquire Marcus Stroman, that could be as soon as 2019.