MLBTradeRumors reported today that the Astros are still actively interesting in Marcus Stroman and that they had put almost as much work into acquiring him as they did Justin Verlander.
You may remember I wrote an article last year His name is Stroman ... How Could we NOT Trade for him?. Which gave a pretty good background on Stroman’s history, pedigree, and potential fit with the Astros. At the time, I was proud of the article at the time, and although the trade value looks off now due to the break-out years and the trade valuation now utilizing $9 Mil/WAR vs $10. I think the majority of the evaluation still stands.
From a precursory glance, Stroman seems to have rebounded from a perception standpoint as his ERA dropped from a painful 5.54 to a sparkling 3.04 ERA, averaging just under 6 IP per start. It’s amazing how much the ERA component will drive the perspective, as his xFIP (4.12 vs 3.84) and SIERA (4.42 vs 4.04) are actually worse this year than last year. (Although his xwOBA is better). His ERA was artificially inflated last year due to an incredibly LOB% and high BABIP & HR/FB numbers.
Last year, when I profiled Stroman, I noted that Stroman has elite spin rates. His arsenal works extremely well with the Strom Magic Model. Currently, his pitching style focuses heavily on his Sinker which drives well above average ground ball results and limits his strikeouts.
Here is his Arsenal in 2019 from Statcast:
Although he does not have the elite velocity of a Gerrit Cole, the Bauer Units on his fastball are one of the best in baseball. (Yes I hate the name too). Additionally, the spin rate on his slider is elite, and a different pitching approach could truly evolve him as a pitcher much as it had with Gerrit Cole.
Since the off-season, Stroman noted a different grip that he has been using for his change-up.
Marcus Stroman, Filthy Changeups...and K Strut.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 17, 2019
Hey @MStrooo6, looks like you figured it out! https://t.co/mdVBeppGCkhttps://t.co/BelDHNqWfchttps://t.co/DyJXmPm6rk pic.twitter.com/UqcBE1W1G1
Interestingly, from a statcast perspective, the pitch does not move as much, nor has the same separation in velocity but has been far more effective so far this year, actually ranking the best of all his pitches although with limited usage.
What would it cost?
During the off-season, I put together estimates using Fangraphs Prospect Valuaton (and values outside of the top 100) to use compared to the excess value on his contract. Obviously, there is only a year and a half remaining on his contract vs 2. I utilized 2.7 WAR per year for his projections, since then Fangraphs has basically changed all projections for pitchers to only be ~100 innings. I will use 2.7 WAR for next year, and 1.3 WAR remaining in this year, which I think is roughly fair but am open to discussion on that.
From an arbitration perspective, Stroman edged out my forecast getting $7.4 Mil instead of $7.2. With that said we will use $3.7 in remaining salary for this year and an estimated $12.8 Mil in salary next year.
1.3 WAR (2019) + 2.7 WAR (2020) = 4.0 WAR * $9 Mil / WAR = $36 Million in Value.
$3.7 Mil (2019) + $12.8 Mil (2020) = $16.5 Mil in Cost.
Total Excess Value = $19.5 Million
$19.5 Million in WAR is significant, but not a monumental package to overcome - and despite his “rebound” this year, he will have 25% less playing time with his new team (and still the full salary next year), which reduces the overall cost to acquire him.
Here is the Astros trade pieces and Fangraphs valuations based on FV
Obviously, all of the rankings and FV listed above are from pre-season, so the results from this year will have an impact, but it gives us a general guideline.
I’m still a fan of the idea of having Stroman in our uniform. I truly do believe that Strom could maximize the value from him given his spin rates and current pitch usage. Him being controlled for an additional year, his relationship with McCullers, and his organization for undersized players all seem like a fit with the Astros organization. His trade vakue does not seem like it would be overly prohibitive or a deal breaker and given the Blue Jays emergence of recent prospects, I could see them as a potential fit for some of the players dying for playing time on the Astros.
The challenge that I see comes down to payroll. Although Stroman is a cost controlled asset, his final year of arbitration will still be a significant chunk of money. I recently did an article on the competitive tax threshold and how it effects the Astros, whichcame to the conclusion that the Astros will have roughly $14 Million dollars to utilize to re-sign or replace 7 players (Cole, McHugh, Miley, Chirinos, Rondon, Smith, and Harris). Adding Stroman’s ~$13 Million without either salary relief from the Blue Jays or trading away a player with a hefty salary before next year seems impossible if we’re to hold true to Jim Crane’s statements about not exceeding the threshold.
“certainly we’re not going over [the luxury-tax threshold] -- but we could move closer to that,” Crane said. “We were pretty high up in the food chain last year. A lot of teams realize the penalty is pretty severe if you go over. We’ll stay within the strike zone.”
What are your thoughts? Would you want us to trade for Stroman? If so, what would your projected trade package look like?
Would you want the Astros to trade for Stroman?
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