Garcia, Stroman Keep It Lively

Two pitchers dominate the Blue Jays news this week, for two different reasons. One adds to the team’s depth and chances of contending this year; the other was already considered a vital part of any plan for respectability.

The former is Jaime Garcia, the veteran who’ll be turning 32 around the time of the Mid-summer Classic. Best known as a middle of the rotation guy for the Cards, including the 2011 World Championship team, Jaime was signed by the Blue Jays yesterday to a one year guaranteed deal with an option for 2019. Last year was his first outside of St. Louis, he bounced around between Atlanta , Minnesota (where he only pitched once but got a win out of it) and New York where he finished with the Yankees. combined, he was a lacklustre 5-10, with a 4.41 ERA. His final year with the Redbirds wasn’t mind-blowing either; 10-13 with a 4.67 ERA. However, he’s logged over 1000 innings on his career and has a 67-55 record and hihgly respectable 3.69 ERA. Twice he won 13 games, and although his innings peak was 195 in the World Series season, with 25 more in that post-season. Cumulatively, he’s got more experience in the playoffs than most Jays pitchers, posting a once again respectable 3.62 ERA in 8 games.

While Garcia may be past his prime, he seems a good addition nonetheless. He’s not old, he’s not overpowering (thus not likely to lose it all quickly if his velocity dips a bit like some power pitchers see happen) and has a very good career record of keeping the ball low and eliciting ground balls 1.9 grounders per flyball. The importance of that can’t be overestimated in this division with its small parks and sluggers like Judge, Davis and Stanton waiting to bop them out of there.And he’s a lefty to boot. I wouldn’t bet a dime on him winning a Cy Young with the team, but that’s ok- all he really needs do is be a solid #5 starter, and toss some innings., two things he seems well capable of. I like the move, it makes a reasonably good staff better (and should mean Joe Biagini will either be in the ‘pen or Buffalo, learning more, instead of in the starting rote where he looked out of place last year) and it shows Ross Atkins is somewhat aware of the team’s shortcomings and has an interest in October baseball.

The other pitcher all over the news for Toronto yesterday was the ergo “Ace”, Marcus Stroman. For the second year in a row, the team went to arbitration with him and for the second year in a row, he lost. Faster than you can say “Donald Trump”

, he took to Twitter to voice his anger at the team and his displeasure at being stuck earning $6.5 M in 2018. “The negative things that were said against me, by my own team, will never leave my mind” he warned, although he also suggested that “I’m thick-skinned so it will only fuel the fire.” He also described himself as having a “Work ethic beyond elite.” To be fair, he later tweeted that he “can’t wait to be back in Toronto, dealing on my mound. For the entire country of Canada.”

I have mixed thoughts about this. Perhaps that’s not surprising, because I’m always a little ambivialent about Stroman.

Is Marcus worth the $6.9M he asked for , or just the $6.5M the team offered and the arbitrator accepted? I don’t know, it’s hard to tell. Two of the closest comparisons one could come to in similar pitchers are the Mets Jacob DeGrom and Robbie Ray of Arizona. DeGrom has more or less 4 full seasons behind him; Ray and Stroman both a bit over 3 years. The latter two both have started 89 regular season games, DeGrom, 107. Career ERAs? DeGrom a flashy 2.98; Ray 4.07, Stroman 3.61. All 3 had good 2017’s, but DeGrom (unlike the other two) fell of a bit to 15-10, 3.53. Ray had a stellar 2.89 ERA but only 162 innings pitched; Stroman was somewhere in between as we know with 13-9, 3.09 and just a fastball or two past 200 innings. Which brings us to money. DeGrom is signed for $7.4M this year, after making $4M give or take last year. Ray will make just shy of $4M this year. Which makes either price bandied about for Stroman seem inline with what’s going on elsewhere in the game.

And that’s rather the problem. In today’s big league sports, $400 000 isn’t a big deal, one way or the other. The Jays will likely have a player payroll of over $160 million, so an extra half a million or less wouldn’t have broken the budget. That said, Stroman can hardly be pitied and is still getting his pay nearly doubled from last year. One wonders if they couldn’t have avoided this whole mess by splitting the difference and signing him for $6.7M.

Neither “won” this case. The Blue JAys come off looking petty in it, which isn’t an image you want to project to all the other players in the league who might be in position to sign with them next year, or veto a trade north this year. Yet Stroman also comes across looking juvenile and like a pampered brat fans just hate. He pouts about making more money in one year than most of his fans will see in a lifetime, he insults his employer while noting how “thick-skinned” he is. Something most sports journalists seem to refute.

I don’t know Stroman personally, so I can’t ascribe a personality to him with accuracy. All I have to go on is reports I read from sports scribes who do have access to the clubhouse- and they seem to be quite negative about the guy’s makeup and attitude, partiucularly those from the Toronto Sun. they paint a picture of a surly man-boy quick to carry a grudge, reluctant to interact with the media or fans but desiring rock-star like adoration. Something his own tweets seem to bear witness to as much as newspaper columns from the likes of Steve Buffery do.

I’d add to Marcus, he might be well-advised to listen to Darren Daulton who said his Philadelphia teammate Roy Halladay was so admired because you don’t get respect by “saying” you’re going to work harder than anyone else; you get respect by doing that. So leave it to the media and fans to tell people your work ethic is “beyond elite.”

It’s sad. It’s a curious case of people coming out looking like jackasses by causing other people to look like jackasses as well. Here’s hoping come Opening Day, Marcus will give us all- his employers and his fans- something more positive to talk about.

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