Marcus Stroman made his MLB debut in 2014, but he arrived on the national baseball scene at the beginning of this year in the World Baseball Classic. The pitcher took a no-hitter into the 7th inning of the championship game and finished the night having allowed only one hit and one walk. He was, unsurprisingly, named the World Baseball Classic MVP.
Out of 26 appearances, Stroman made 20 starts in 2014, posting a record of 11-6. He posted an ERA of 3.65, but had a FIP of 2.84, suggesting better results to come. In early 2015, the righty tore his ACL and was expected to miss the entire season. However, he returned to make 4 starts, winning each of them and posting a 1.67 ERA over 27 innings. Although it was a small sample size, one things was clear—Stroman had the potential to be dominant.
He would come back the following year to pitch over 200 innings on his way to a 3.6 WAR season. For context, Carlos Martinez put up 3.3 WAR this year. In 2017, after dominating the World Baseball Classic, Stroman again pitched over 200 innings and accumulated 3.4 WAR. At just 26 years old, he has become a workhorse.
Our very own Craig Edwards wrote this article about Stroman in August, calling him “one of the very best pitchers in baseball.” The article describes how Stroman excels in inducing ground balls, but when he does get hit, he gets hit hard. At a young age, the pitcher still has room to develop, but is also somewhat of a proven commodity. And a very valuable commodity at that.
Due to his three remaining years of arbitration, Stroman will not be an unrestricted free agent until 2021, when he will be 30 years old.
Before setting out to acquire the pitcher, it would be prudent to examine where the Cardinals’s pitching staff currently stands. In 2018, Carlos Martinez will return as the ace and Luke Weaver will begin his first full year as a starter at the MLB level. From there, the Cardinals will go with Wacha and then, perhaps to the frustration of many fans, Wainwright. That leaves one open spot in the rotation for next year, assuming the Cardinals do not resign Lance Lynn.
It has been reported that Alex Reyes is on track to return for opening day in 2018. Once the first game of the season arrives, he will be more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Still, there has been speculation that the Cardinals would be hesitant to throw him into the rotation right away, leaving the fifth spot open for now.
Jack Flaherty is one option. He made 5 starts for the Cardinals this year at just 22 years old (his birthday was Sunday). It was clear that the potential is there, but he needs more time to develop. Again, this leaves the fifth spot in the rotation open.
A staff of Martinez-Stroman-Weaver-Wacha-Wainwright would be formidable if the Cardinals were able to put that roster together. Even as the Blue Jays look to rebuild, it is hard to imagine they would let Stroman go without receiving a considerable haul in return. Trading for Stroman would cost the Cardinals at least one of Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver, plus a couple other young, valuable pieces.
While the argument that the front office should go after star players to raise the Cardinals’s ceiling is logical, Stroman might not be the right fit. Especially considering there is only one open spot in the rotation for 2018. From there, Reyes should be a starter in 2019, leaving one open spot only if the Cardinals do nothing with Adam Wainwright.
Although Stroman is one of baseballs best young pitchers, his price tag is probably too high for the Cardinals to seriously pursue him. Given that their greatest need and primary focus should be on acquiring a big bat, going after Stroman is not the right move.