Needless to say, the Reds haven’t had the greatest stretch since the All Star Break. Dick Williams reluctant admission that the Reds would be “in the buyer category” seems months ago, not just ten days. But the Reds should still avoid the temptation to switch to the “seller” category. After all, one of the most enticing arms on the market is under contract next year and the Reds would be remiss not to get more pitching while they can.
Enter Marcus Stroman. The Blue Jays righty sports 3.06 ERA with a 3.61 FIP this season, worth 2.6 fWAR already. That’s tied with Sonny Gray and 0.2 more fWAR than Luis Castillo in 2019. His 7.11 K/9 is a bit low, but he does get 9.8% swinging strikes, only a single percentage point lower than 2019 MLB average for starters. Also, conveniently higher than both Tyler Mahle’s and Tanner Roark’s 2019 rate.
Most importantly, Stroman is under contract for 2020, entering his final year of arbitration. He’ll likely make in the range of $9 to $11 million dollars next season, placing him in the same category as Tanner Roark for this season. With Stroman in the front end of the rotation with Castillo and Gray, the Reds 2020 staff looks much more fearsome than their already formidable 2019 edition.
As for pitch mix, this is where things start to get enticing. Stroman relies predominantly on his sinker. According to Craig Edwards of FanGraphs:
“Stroman’s sinker moves down more than any other right-handed pitcher in baseball, which allows him to get a lot of groundballs on the pitch.”
I could have easily paraphrased that sentiment, but I wanted you all to read it from Craig for two reasons: 1) Click on that link and read the rest of the article, if only for the graphs, and 2) it introduces the idea of groundballs. No one here at Redleg Nation is dumb, so we all understand that groundball pitchers fare better in Great American’s smaller confines. The Reds two best pitchers, Castillo and Gray? They rank fourth and fifth among starters with 50 IP in the entire major leagues in groundball percentage, at 56.1% and 55.5% respectively.
Stroman ranks second in that group with a 57.1% groundball percentage. Even better, Stroman ranks 7th in HR/9 at 0.76, another area where Castillo (12th) and Gray (21st) succeed. It may be too simplistic a conclusion, but it the Reds want to get better for 2020, why not take what has gotten to the fringe of contention and then make it even better?
The remaining question then is the cost: Does it make sense to deal a hefty ransom for Stroman, potentially a full season rental like Tanner Roark?
Because the Reds aren’t buyers in the traditional sense, only MLBTradeRumors.com has linked the righty to the Redlegs, and even then, it was pretty dismissively:
Reds: Although Cincinnati can probably forget about a playoff spot for this year, Stroman would help replace impending free agents Tanner Roark and Alex Wood (who hasn’t even pitched this season) in 2020. That said, Stroman to Cincy seems like a long shot because playoff-caliber teams need him more right now and would likely outbid the Reds.
The Yankees (Clint Frazier+) or the Braves (Kyle Wright or Touki Touissant+) seem to be the consensus frontrunners for Stroman, and potentially the Padres if they decide to deal from their prospect depth to build for 2020. Taking a cue from those teams, it seems unavoidable that the Blue Jays would ask for Taylor Trammell plus a lesser prospect. Assuming the Reds make Trammell untouchable, there are at least a couple feasible workarounds.
First, a pitching package of Hunter Greene, Lyon Richardson, and a third player could get the job done. It would be a high ceiling, long-term move on the behalf of the Blue Jays, but not out of the realm of possibility. Both Greene and Richardson are still teenagers with high promise, and the two would become the Blue Jays 3rd and 8th ranked prospects according to FanGraphs Future Values system. It’s a deal that restocks the Blue Jays former MLB-leading system with some arms and helps the Reds current window.
If the Blue Jays fall into the “no such thing as a pitching project” camp, then there’s a second deal that might make sense for both teams: Jonathan India plus Mike Siani. It’s another big prospect package that mitigates some of the risk that arms like Greene and Richardson pose while keeping the top of the Reds system intact. India is blocked for the foreseeable future at the Major League level, and while the Reds can play Nick Senzel-like games with his positioning, he probably holds more value to the team as a trade chip. As for Siani, the Reds seem to be very high on him and got him for a steal, but he too finds himself behind Trammell and Jose Siri in terms of call-ups.
In the first, the Reds are definitely underselling the Blue Jays, and in the second, they’re overpaying. But in either scenario, the Reds are giving up some of their big name prospects but they are grabbing the best pitcher on the market this deadline.Stroman makes the most sense as a pitcher for Great American and upgrades the Reds rotation for 2019 given the impending losses of Roark and Alex Wood. Yes, the Reds will be bidding against the Yankees, but it’s a price worth paying. And who knows, maybe Stroman makes all the difference in 2019 as well.