The MLB trade deadline is still more than a month away, but teams are in process of making decisions based upon where they are in the standings. In other words, is the team going for it or not. The Milwaukee Brewers are solidly in the “go for it” category. With that in mind, what do the Brewers need to get into the playoffs and ultimately make a deep run? A starting pitcher, perhaps?
Could the answer be Marcus Stroman?
At the time of this post, the Toronto Blue Jays are 29-52. They are 23.5 games out in the American League East. This is a team that is going nowhere this season, but they are a team with a lot of young, high ceiling talent that will be looking to add more such talent to their system prior to July 31. Their biggest trade chip is Marcus Stroman.
Stroman has performed relatively well over his five-year MLB career. In both 2016 and 2017, he was able to pitch over 200 innings. In both of those seasons, he posted over 3 fWAR and had a ground ball percentage of over 60%. 2018 was an injury riddled season and one in which he struggled even when he did pitch. The Blue Jays decided not to sell low on him last year, and they have been rewarded for that patience.
In April, Stroman looked like the ace that some around baseball perceive him to be while posting a 1.76 ERA. May was not as kind as he gave up 15 earned runs in the month and put up a 4.31 ERA. So far in June, his ERA is 3.69. For the season, Stroman is 5-9 with a 3.04 ERA. Opponent batting average is .248. WHIP is 1.25, FIP is 3.71, xFIP is 4.12, hard hit percentage is 33.7%, and ground ball percentage is 58%. Overall his numbers are that of an innings-eating, middle-of-the-rotation starter (as has been the case throughout his career).
“His sinker is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has less armside run than typical and has some natural sinking action. His slider sweeps across the zone and has some two-plane movement. His cutter has well above average velo, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ cutters and has some natural sink. His change is slightly firmer than usual and has slight armside fade. His four-seam fastball is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ four-seamers, has some natural sinking action, has essentially average velo and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ four-seamers.”
Stroman’s results based on pitch type look like:
Marcus Stroman is a good pitcher. His enthusiasm and personality would likely fit well in the Brewers’ clubhouse. The question is, what would the Brewers have to give up to get him? To get an idea, let’s look at a few trades that went down last season prior to the deadline.
There were six starters traded prior to the July 31 deadline in 2018 that would fall somewhere near the level of pitcher Stroman is. Below is a breakdown.
Atlanta traded for Kevin Gausman, along with Darren O’Day
The Braves sent Evan Phillips, Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Bruce Zimmerman, and Brett Cumberland to Baltimore. To that point, Gausman had been a mediocre pitcher that flashed front-of-the-rotation stuff. He was controllable, and a team could still dream on him. The Brewers were even rumored to be in on him. In getting Gausman and O’Day, Baltimore received a pair of top-30 prospects in the Orioles system (Encarnacion, Cumberland) and a couple lottery tickets and international spending slots. In essence, this trade demonstrates a mediocre pitcher with upside would have to net a top-30 prospect, maybe two, plus more. Stroman is controllable through 2020, and he is a better pitcher than Gausman. This would constitute the low-end of a deal involving Stroman.
Chris Archer went to the Pirates in exchange for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and a PTBNL (Shane Baz)
All three pieces going to the Rays had at one time or another been top-100 MLB prospects. Tampa Bay, per usual, go the best of this trade. Tyler Glasnow was pitching at a Cy Young level prior to an injury. Austin Meadows is a finalist on the All-Star ballot. Shane Baz is ranked #93 on the MLB top-100 prospects. At the time Chris Archer was quality pitcher who possessed front-of-the-rotation stuff and probably just needed a change of scenery, and Glasnow and Meadows breakouts were yet to happen. Stroman is pitching better now than Archer was at the point of the trade in 2018. The Pirates did a classic overpay for Archer. The Jays will he seeking something in this neighborhood for Stroman and working back from there. If they get it, I would be surprised, and for the Brewers to get involved, the price would need to be significantly lower than this.
Lance Lynn and $2 million went to the Yankees for Tyler Austin and Luis Rijo
Lynn ended up pitching pretty well for New York, but that was not the case prior to the trade (although the thought was he was trending in a positive direction). Tyler Austin flashed some significant power in the big leagues, but Fangraphs rates his hit tool as a 35 with a future grade of 40. Luis Rijo was an 18 year old kid that slotted into the back end of the Twins top 30 prospect list. Stroman is better now than Lynn was at the time and controllable, which Lynn was not. While not a huge haul for Lynn, something more would have to be given up to get Stroman because of current performance and controllability.
Chicago traded for Cole Hamels as well as cash considerations (said to be about $8 million), sending Eddie Butler, Rollie Lacy, and a PTBNL (Alexander Ovalle)
Hamels has been good for Chicago since the trade. He was not as good for Texas, and he was seen as an aging pitcher. In retrospect, Texas should have gotten more. Again, Stroman is better than Hamels was at the time, and would require more in return.
The Yankees traded for J.A. Happ, sending Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney to the Blue Jays
Drury has posted some quality MLB service time and McKinney was seen as close to big league ready. This was not a lot to give up for the Yankees based on the contribution made by Happ down the stretch. Again, Stroman will cost more based on age and controllability.
The Red Sox traded for Nathan Eovaldi, sending Jalen Beeks to the Rays
Eovaldi was lights out for the Red Sox down the stretch. He was in his free agent walk year, so he was a rental at the trade deadline. The Rays were looking to get some level of quality for Eovaldi. Beeks may be just that as he is 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA for the Rays in 2019. At the time of the trade, he was just a guy with little prospect status that might slot into the back of a rotation. Again Stroman is under another year of control, do would require more than a major league ready back-of-the-rotation starter candidate, no matter the valuation by the trading partner.
What would the Brew Crew have to give up for a pitcher that is a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter that gets a lot of ground balls, eats innings, and is has a front-of-the-rotation brand. The Blue Jays will obviously ask for Keston Hiura plus more. I will offer my only opinion in this article now. David Stearns will obviously refuse the request.
If the Brewers were to approach a similar trade made between the Pirates and Rays for Chris Archer, the Brewers would have to offer something like Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and Brice Turang. On the lower end of what the Brewers would have to give up for Stroman, it would likely involve sending two 50+ grade prospects plus more to the Blue Jays to have a shot. Here are the Brewers’ prospects with a 50 prospect grade or higher that are not named Keston Hiura.
Brice Turang - Grade 55 and #92 on MLB prospect list
Corey Ray - Grade 50
Tristen Lutz - Grade 50
Mauricio Dubon - Grade 50
Zach Brown - Grade 50
Joe Gray - Grade 50
Lucas Erceg - Grade 50
Aaron Ashby - Grade 50
With the exception of Brandon Woodruff. Gio Gonzalez, and Zach Davies, starting pitchers for Milwaukee have rated somewhere between mediocre to awful. Just like last year, the Brewers’ front office wants to rely on their internal options.
David Stearns on the pitching staff and depth being tested: “Our answers need to come internally.”— Sophia Minnaert (@SophiaMinnaert) June 22, 2019
That may be just posturing or an honest assessment of what the Brewers are capable of acquiring in trade. If that is an honest assessment of what the Brewers can or are willing to do on the trade market, Marcus Stroman will not be a Milwaukee Brewer. Stroman is a front-of-the-rotation brand that is a mid-of-the-rotation performer. Which is his actual value in the marketplace? He is owed the remainder of his $7.4 million salary this year, and he will be in his fourth and final year of arbitration next season. His salary will increase in 2020. Do the Brewers have enough to make a trade for Stroman? Even if they do, would the cost be too much for Stearns and Company to swallow?
Baseball statistics and analysis courtesy of Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball