For the second consecutive season, the Yankees could look within the division for some much-needed pitching help down the stretch. The Toronto Blue Jays sent J.A. Happ to the Yankees last July, and this year, there are a handful of possible pitchers the Yankees could target.
In 2019, the Bombers still need starting pitching help, and Marcus Stroman is the best starter on the Blue Jays. If the Yankees engage in some kind of trade with Toronto, it ought to be for Stroman.
There’s certainly a lot to like with Stroman. For one, he’s a young and cheap. If the Yankees added him today, only Chad Green, Stephen Tarpley, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Luis Cessa are younger than the just-turned-28-year-old Stroman. Additionally, he’s only owed about $7.4 million this year and has one more year of arbitration before he hits free agency. That means he could easily fill the hole in the rotation left by CC Sabathia’s retirement.
Perhaps the most important reason the Yankees should target Stroman is that, above all, he keeps the ball in the park. As a team, the Yankees surrender about 1.5 HR/9, the seventh-most in the majors. Stroman only gives up .86 HR/9, good for 16th around the league, but actually a tick higher than his career average.
It’s not just about limiting home runs though. Hitters don’t make a ton of quality contact against him. Stroman ranks 20th in xwOBA, a stat that measures expected performance based on quality of contact, walks, and strikeouts. No other definitely-on-the-market pitcher posts a better rate.
As expected, these numbers improve against right-handed hitting, an area where the Yankees could use some help.
Yankees starting pitchers have allowed a .320 wOBA against righthanded hitters this season. That’s 20th in MLB. Most of the likely playoff teams rank in the top 10. The trade target who would help the most in this area is Marcus Stroman, who has held righties to .248 wOBA.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) June 28, 2019
If the Yankees land Stroman, those numbers could do well when the team inevitably has to face J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and/or Jose Altuve.
Stroman is really the only option as far as starters go, and adding him makes the Yankees a better team. Rumors around the league indicate the Yankees might be competing with the Astros to land him too. If not for solely their own benefit, Brian Cashman should look to bring Stroman in just so Houston doesn’t.
Stroman is the only really obvious trade candidate in Toronto, but there are other, longer shots too. In the bullpen, Ken Giles is hands-down the most interesting option. Giles has had a bit of a renaissance after a brutal 2018 season. He’s already nearly doubled his fWAR total from last season, and his 15.75 K/9 rate is a career-best. It seems safe to say Giles is back to being one of the premier relievers in the league.
The Yankees did add Zack Britton last season, despite already having one of the league’s best bullpens, but adding Giles wouldn’t necessarily be the same type of move. Giles would come with one more year of control and is three years younger than Britton. Trading for Giles would almost certainly cost more than what the Yankees gave up for Britton last year. To be sure, it would be a surprise to see the Yankees target Giles, but given the team’s proclivity for acquiring dominant relievers, we can’t completely rule it out either.
As far as offensive players are concerned, the Blue Jays’ bats that might be available don’t necessarily fit on this Yankee team. The bats the Yankees would most certainly want aren’t likely to be available.
Justin Smoak seems the most likely available batter. The 32-year-old, switch-hitting first baseman is having a pretty typical year for himself. He’s knocked 14 homers while slashing .227/.361/.440/.801 with a 117 wRC+. The recent addition of Edwin Encarnacion probably stops the Yankees from really pursuing Smoak, but if Luke Voit stays sidelined with his abdominal injury, the Yankees might make a move.
Finally, there’s absolutely no way the Blue Jays part ways with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Lourdes Gurriel Jr. They might not even be comfortable dealing a lesser-rookie like Cavan Biggio. Yankee fans might covet them, especially the first two, but it ain’t gonna happen.
As far as what it might take to get any of these deals done, the Blue Jays lack any serious starting pitching prospects, and the Yankees currently have a plethora of pitching prospects. Should the Yankees target Stroman, Clint Frazier will likely have to be on the table too.
Overall, these two teams do have recent transactional history, despite being in the same division. Landing Stroman shouldn’t be a total impossibility because of that. If the Yankees want to take things in a different direction by trading for a reliever or position player, they could theoretically do that too. Make no mistake, Stroman should unquestionably be the target in Toronto.