One of the marquee starting pitchers is off the block as Blue Jays righthander Marcus Stroman was traded to the Mets on Sunday. Let's grade the surprising move for both New York and Toronto.
Mets acquire: Righthanded starting pitcher Marcus Stroman and cash considerations.
Blue Jays acquire: Lefthanded pitcher Anthony Kay and righty Simeon Woods-Richardson. According to MLB Pipeline, Kay ranked fourth in New York's farm system and Woods-Richardson sixth.
Grading the Mets' Side of the Deal
It’s a somewhat surprising move considering the Mets’ current place in the standings (six games out of the second wild-card) and rumored desire to trade away starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard and/or Zack Wheeler. For the Blue Jays, the deal is also a bit puzzling. They’re receiving two prospects who were ranked outside MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects.
Getting Stroman, a non-rental under contract through the 2020 season, also raises plenty of questions. Do the Mets plan to make a postseason push this year after adding him to their strong rotation? Or do they still plan to deal either Syndergaard or Wheeler? Were Kay and Woods-Richardson the best two prospects the Blue Jays could get for arguably the best player available in a trade market lacking pitching depth?
The Mets do deserve some credit for not selling—yet. In today’s game, teams on the fringe of contention for a wild-card bid tend to either hold or fold and set their sights on the following season. However, adding Stroman instead of acquiring much-needed bullpen reinforcements doesn’t make much sense. With reigning Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, veteran lefthander Jason Vargas and the inconsistent-but-promising Steven Matz—in addition to Syndergaard and Wheeler—the Mets don’t really need rotation help. Their problem has been maintaining leads once these starters leave the game. New York’s bullpen has blown a league-worst 21 saves; the league average is 15 blown saves.
Also, Stroman is a ground-ball pitcher (56.3% ground-ball rate) and statistically, the Mets have one of the worst defensive infields in the majors. Unless the Mets trade for a defensive wizard or two (unlikely) or Stroman’s current career-high 24.2% whiff-rate increases significantly in the remaining two months of the regular season (also unlikely), the 28-year-old righthander is far from an ideal fit for the Mets.
Defensive Runs Saved
Considering all this, it’s safe to assume the Mets will be making at least another move or two before the July 31 deadline. Depending on how GM Brodie Van Wagenen handles the next three days, adding Stroman and dealing two of their top 10 prospects in this deal could make a lot more sense for the Mets. Right now, it's a bizarre circumstance.
Mets' Grade: C (With the opportunity to improve their mark pending further moves before the trade deadline.)
Grading the Blue Jays' Side of the Deal
This much we know about the Blue Jays: They were going to trade Stroman before the deadline. They didn’t deal him to the Yankees and won’t be competing against him over the next year and a half. That’s a plus. They weren’t going to deal him to their division rival unless the Yankees gave them their top pitching prospect, righty Deivi García, in return. GM Brian Cashman was unwilling to part with García and Toronto wasn’t going to settle for less from them.
Instead, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins opted to deepen their minor-league pitching depth and acquired Kay and Woods-Richardson. Five of Toronto’s top 10 prospects are righthanded pitchers, per MLB Pipeline, and three of them aren’t expected to reach the big leagues until 2022. Kay, then, is a welcome addition to that group as a lefthander who should reach the majors next season, despite his struggles this year in Triple-A (6.61 ERA over 31 1/3 innings across seven starts).
The 18-year-old Woods-Richardson could be the better pitcher for the Blue Jays in the long run. He has 97 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings pitched, while allowing just five homers and 17 walks in Class A. At 6’ 3”, 210 pounds, Woods-Richardson has the classic pitcher’s body and has three plus-pitches. If Toronto’s window of contention is a few years away, it will come just in time for him to join the party.
Blue Jays' Grade: B+