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Top 60 All-Time Blue Jays: #31 Marcus Stroman

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Cleveland Indians v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Marcus Earl Stroman | SP | 2014 - 2019

Marcus Stroman is one of those guys I never tired of watching play. There was always something new, a new arm angle, a hesitation in the middle of his windup, a fist pump on a strikeout, there was even a home run (and a double) in his 18 PA with the Blue Jays. He was interesting off the field too, how many players have their own catchphrase: Height doesn’t measure heart. He is brash, self-promoting, pretty sure of himself, and irritating to opponents (and I’d imagine irritating to his own teammates at times).

I often said that if I had to share a clubhouse or dugout with him, I likely wouldn’t be a fan (and I’m sure I’d invest in noise-canceling headphones), but, from a distance, I found him entertaining.

We picked Marcus Stroman in the first round of the 2012 draft, number #22, a compensation pick for because we were unable to sign Tyler Beede the year before. He had been an 18th round pick, by the Nationals, in 2009 but decided to go to Duke instead. The Blue Jays had a few first-round picks that year. We took:

  • D.J. Davis with the 17th pick.
  • Matt Smoral with the 50th pick (for the loss of Frank Francisco, why is it that I remember nothing about this guy?).
  • Mitch Nay with the 58th pick (for the loss of Jon Rauch).
  • Tyler Gonzales with the 60th pick (for the loss of Jose Molina).

So that’s 1 hit for 5 in first-round picks there (prove me wrong, DJ). Alex Anthopoulos was good at a lot of things. The draft maybe not so much. Smoral, Nay, and Gonzalez never made it to the majors. In fact, none of the three made it past A ball with the team.

Stroman rose quickly up the Jays minor league ladder. He made Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list twice. In 2013 he was 90th, and in 2014 he was 55th on their list.

Marcus was called up to the majors in early May of 2014. His first 5 appearances were in relief (he got a win in his second appearance). The fourth and fifth appearances weren’t good. He allowed 11 hits and 8 earned, which got him optioned back to Buffalo.

But he wasn’t down long. They called him to make the May 31st start. The back of the rotation was a bit of a mess. Dustin McGowan made 8 starts, but had a hard time getting to the 5th inning. Brandon Morrow made 6 starts before hitting the DL. And Liam Hendriks made 3 starts, but it wasn’t the Liam Hendriks we know now. So Stroman and J.A. Happ were given a shot.

Stroman won his first start, going 6 innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 earned, no walks with 6 strikeouts beating the Royals (it doesn’t seem like that should be seven years ago). From this start on, Marcus made 20 starts (and had a relief appearance) and went 10-6 with a save (4 inning save for Drew Hutchison) and a 3.17 ERA. In all, 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA, not a bad rookie season. His best start was a 3-hit shutout against the Cubs (on 93 pitches).

Not everything was great. Stroman got a five-game suspension for throwing behind the head of Caleb Joseph. How it all came about? From the recap:

With Jose Reyes on second base after being called safe on the first half of a double play attempt, Danny Valencia singled him home. The Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph decided to block the plate with his left foot like the good ole days when that was legal, which resulted in Reyes getting his hand spiked. Reyes didn’t enjoy this and decided to get a little angry which didn’t appear to be a big deal at the time.

Fast forward to the bottom of the sixth when Caleb Joseph came up for his first at-bat since the spiking incident. Stroman throws behind Joseph’s head and doesn’t exactly look sorry about it leading to the benches being warned.

Later in the game, we saw Mark Buerhle talking to Marcus on the bench, apparently letting him know that this isn’t how we do things. I appreciate that sort of veteran presence.

Anyway, we were looking forward to seeing what he could do in 2015.

Unfortunately, Marcus tore his ACL early in spring training and was expected to be out for the season. He used his downtime well, going back to Duke to finish his degree and, of course, rehabbing.

Surprisingly, he worked his way back to pitching, making three rehab starts, and making the September 12th start against the Yankees. He would make four starts down the stretch, picking up 4 wins with a 1.67 ERA, helping us to our first AL East title since Minor Leaguer was a toddler.

Marcus started game two of our ALDS series again, the Rangers, going 7 innings, giving up 3 earned, not getting the decision in our 6-4, 14 inning win. He also started the deciding game five, giving up 2 earned in 6 innings but coming out of the game before the very eventful 7th inning. And he started game three, getting one of our two wins that series, despite giving up 11 hits and 4 earned in 6.1 innings.

2016 was a healthier season for Stroman. He made 32 starts and set a career-high with 204 innings, but it wasn’t the season we expected, finishing 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA. But we did make the playoffs again.

Marcus got the start in our Wild Card game win over the Orioles, going 6 innings, allowing 2 earned, but he was out of the game when Edwin Encarnacion hit his walk-off home run. He didn’t make a start in our ALDS win over the Rangers. He took the loss in game three of the ALCS against Cleveland, giving up 4 earned in 5.1 innings (losing to his now Twitter advisory Trevor Bauer).

2017 was his best season with the Jays. He went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 33 starts, good for a 5.2 bWAR. And it was his best season with the bat as well. He hit a double against the Cardinals on April 25th and then a home run offJulio Teheran in Atlanta. Marcus won the Gold Glove and finished 8th in Cy Young voting.

After the season, Stroman and the Jays went to arbitration. Marcus wasn’t happy when he lost, but he was even less happy about sitting through the hearing and listening to the team make the case that he wasn’t worth what he was asking. The Blue Jays went for years without taking a player to arbitration, and I think that is a good plan. I think it is a bad idea to stand in front of an arbitrator and tell a player with charts and graphs that he isn’t as good as he thinks he is.

His best season was followed by his worst season. In 2018 he was 4-9 with a 5.54 ERA in 19 starts. The season started terribly. He was 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA after his start on May 8th. A couple of days later, he was put on the DL with shoulder fatigue. He didn’t pitch much during spring training. Maybe the team should have given him a couple of weeks on the DL at the start of the season to build up.

Later in the season, he left a couple of games early with blisters on his fingers and ended up on the DL again. He would come back for a start in early September and then went back on the DL, missing the rest of the season.

He pitched much better in 2019. After 21 starts, he had a 2.96 ERA, but the Jays weren’t scoring for him. He had a 4-9 record. But he made the All-Star team for the first time.

Then, on July 28th, the Jays traded Marcus to the Mets for Simeon Woods Richardson and Anthony Kay. Marcus was due to be a free agent after the 2020 season, and the Jays didn’t feel they were likely going to re-sign him and, perhaps learning a lesson from the mess they made with Josh Donaldson, decided to trade him the year before instead of taking the chance he might lose value that last year. A couple of days later, his former best friend, Aaron Sanchez, was traded. It seemed like an era was ending.

As much as I am a fan of Stroman, I really didn’t mind the trade. It seemed like we got good value for Marcus. I’ll also admit, I’m a bit worried about how Stroman will age. Smaller pitchers, as a whole, haven’t aged as well as bigger guys. I feel that he isn’t the type that will do as well in his 30s.

With Marcus, understandably, sitting out the 2020 season, the trade looks better. This off-season, he accepted the Mets’ qualifying offer of $18.9 million for 2021.

I get that we old baseball writers aren’t supposed to like his enthusiasm (for lack of a better word), but I love guys who show personality. Guys who show emotion, I’ve always liked them. It is a kids' game. Players should enjoy playing it. That doesn’t mean they all should be like Stroman, but we shouldn’t punish the ones that are. Baseball is doing the ‘let the kids play ads. The trouble is that the old writers, and the old school baseball people, aren’t getting the message.

The media doesn’t like him because he doesn’t enjoy talking to them. I get that. Marcus would rather speak directly through Twitter to us. And Marcus does seem to hold grudges against media members who speak against him. He’s not the first, nor will he be the last. The good part about doing a blog is that I don’t have to build relationships with players and then watch the relationship die with one sentence in a story.

I know some didn’t like him. I had people tell me he was a selfish player, which is one of those things I don’t get. Pitching is a one against one thing. If the pitch does well, the team does well. On the flip of that, he always seemed to be the first out of the dugout to congratulate a teammate who did well. And he always seemed to be talking to his teammates.

Baseball is entertainment, and Marcus was always entertaining. Baseball can use all the entertaining players it can get.

Marcus Stroman’s place among Blue Jays pitchers.

bWAR: 11th

ERA: 9th, 3.76

Wins: 15th, 47

Walks/9: 8th, 2.519

Innings pitched: 14th, 789.2

Strikeouts: 13th, 635

Games started: 12th, 129