Brian Cashman's comments on Marcus Stroman are a puzzler

The New York Yankees seemed to underestimate Marcus Stroman's value. (Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
The New York Yankees seemed to underestimate Marcus Stroman's value. (Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

When the Toronto Blue Jays traded Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets in July, they took significant flak for the return they received.

Although that deal actually looks a little better today than when it was completed, it’s clear Stroman wasn’t valued as highly around the league as many Blue Jays fans suspected.

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New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman provided more evidence for that notion in a piece by Yahoo Sports’ Wallace Matthews on Monday. The longtime GM said the following about his team’s interest in the right-hander:

“We were interested in Stroman but we didn’t think he would be a difference-maker. We felt he would be in our bullpen in the postseason.”

It’s probably true that Stroman has been overrated at times. His big personality, quick-pitch hijinks, and consistent insistence that he’s an ace have granted him a spotlight that can extend beyond his production on the field. Stroman is a walking brand, and branding can be more about perception than reality.

That said, Cashman’s remarks are well off-base. Stroman may not be an ace, but he’s worthy of a spot in even a championship contender’s playoff rotation. At the time of the trade deadline the Yankees had two pitchers who would rightfully slot above Stroman: James Paxton and Luis Severino - whose return was on the horizon at the MLB trade deadline. Both of those players carry health question marks, but they have more dynamic stuff and better recent track records than the former Blue Jays starter. That still leaves two spots in a hypothetical Yankees playoff rotation.

For Cashman’s statement to ring true he would have to believe Stroman is a worse option than J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka, and Domingo German (plus CC Sabathia, although that goes without saying due to the 39-year-old’s steep decline this season). German is gone for the year due to a domestic violence suspension, but it seems fair to assume Cashman saw him as a piece of the puzzle back in July. The problem with the Yankees GM’s line of thinking is that it’s hard to justify the opinion that any of those guys are better than Stroman.

Here’s a comparison between the former Blue Jays all-star and the Yankees’ alternatives on the day Stroman was traded:

Via FanGraphs
Via FanGraphs

You could have made an argument for German’s swing-and-miss stuff and upside, but it would require pretty tortured logic to not rank Stroman as the best of this bunch. Even if you go back to the beginning of 2018 and include a career-worst year from the right-hander he still tops this group:

Via FanGraphs
Via FanGraphs

If you wind the clock back another year, Stroman’s lead expands again. It’s an exercise you can keep doing until you run into Tanaka’s elite 2016 season, which doesn’t seem particularly relevant right now. Long story short, Stroman has been the best of this group of pitchers for a while now.

Cashman and the Yankees would be fortunate to have him in board, especially in German’s absence. There may come a time in October when the Yankees GM wishes he’d invested in the 28-year-old instead of overvaluing the cards he was already holding.

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