The playoff hopes for the Milwaukee Brewers took a significant hit on Sunday when Brandon Woodruff went down with a strained oblique. After an MRI it was revealed that the club doesn’t expect him to return for six weeks, meaning he won’t be back in action until early September. The Brewers were already short on pitching depth before Woody’s injury; now the need to find not only a starter, but potentially an impact one, becomes amplified.
Rest assured, however, that David Stearns is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to improve the roster. His Cream City Nine has already been linked to a host of different hurlers believed to be available on the trade market. According to Jim Bowden of The Athletic, we can add one more name to that list, and a rather notable one:
The two starters who are most likely to be traded at this point appear to be the Toronto Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman and Rangers southpaw Mike Minor. The Yankees, Twins, Astros, Phillies, Athletics and Brewers have all at least inquired on both of them.
We already knew that Slingin’ Stearns had interest in Mike Minor, dating back to his attempts to acquire the current Ranger this past winter. But this is the first firm connection that has been made between the Brewers and Marcus Stroman, the diminutive right-hander playing north of the border in Toronto.
Stroman, who debuted back in 2014, has long been considered the “ace” of the Blue Jays staff, and his bottom-line results are in line with that this season — he owns a 3.06 ERA over 20 starts and 117.2 innings, giving him an earned run average that is 33% better than the league’s midpoint. His 67 ERA- is good for fourth-best in the American League.
Stroman doesn’t pitch like a typical “ace” however, at least not one that you see in 2019. He’s punching out a mere 7.11 batters per nine innings this year, ranking in only the 24th percentile in baseball, and that total isn’t far off from his career total of 7.23 K/9. He has a high-spin fastball but his average velocity of 93.4 MPH ranks only in the 40th percentile of the league this year. Stroman is good at keeping the ball in the park (0.76 HR/9) and slightly better the median at suppressing hard contact and limiting exit velocity, but his game is centered around generating ground balls (57.1% GB rate in 2019) and letting the defense behind him do the heavy lifting.
Zach Davies is a similar, if not more extreme, case of pitching to contact. Like Stroman, he’s having a tremendous season. But from Davies we have also seen the kind of volatility that this type of profile can lead to when command is not precise, and that is also quite like Stroman’s career. Including this year, he has thrice posted ERA’s below 3.70 during the five seasons in which he’s tossed at least 100 frames. But he also posted a 4.37 mark in 2016 and an ugly 5.54 ERA in 102.1 innings last season.
For his career, the 28 year old has worked to a 3.78 ERA with 7.23 K/9 and 2.53 BB/9 across 782.2 innings, covering 134 appearances. Estimators like FIP- (85) and DRA- (83) view the sinkerballer as a generally sturdy mid-rotation presence based on his peripherals. He is earning $7.4 mil in arbitration this season and is due one more raise through the process next year before becoming a free agent after the 2020 season.
The controllable Stroman may not exactly be the “ace” that his reputation states he is, but there is no doubt that he is one of the top starters available this summer on the trade market. There is obviously widespread interest in his services, meaning that offers figure to get pretty competitive. Can David Stearns put together a package enticing enough for Toronto to pull the trigger that does not include Keston Hiura? We’ll find out by the end of this month.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Savant, and Fangraphs